Paris menswear plays with pants

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Short, flared, skinny and large: designers played a variation on pants at the crammed four-day whirl of 42 Paris Men's autumn/winter catwalk shows that wound up on Sunday.

As buyers and other fashion types scurried under grey skies and rain to catch shows in museums, luxury hotels and underground garages, paparazzi stuck close to US rapper Kanye West and glam girlfriend Amber Rose, whose get-ups at a score of collections included a tiny striped see-through dress over a minuscule body.

"I won't talk to the press," West said repeatedly when asked for comment on the shows.

In times of crisis, casual comfort seemed the dominant sartorial theme for next autumn/winter, and a winner on the catwalks was onetime cold weather underwear favourite, the longjohn, even seen at top-end luxury houses Louis Vuitton, Cerruti and Dunhill.

It featured in one of the top shows for performance value, a boxing-inspired collection by Jean Paul Gaultier who sent out swaggering macho models in hoodie jackets and coats resembling a boxer's robe.

Variations on women's leggings - known in fashion fusion confusion as jeggings (skinnier than skinny jeans), meggings (men and leggings) or treggings (thick leggings) - also surfaced at edgy Dries Van Noten, whose short pants showing lots of ankle "are very dynamic," he told AFP.

With the trend to lazy wearable dressing here to stay in the lingering economic freeze, there were few suits and ties or elegant evening wear on view.

"Perhaps," opined nymag.com, "yoga-obsessed designers are just tired of having to change before class."

But style-setters Dior and Lanvin said comfortable everyday clothes were what fashion was about. Dior's Kris Van Assche said his collection was about "clothes to live in" and Lanvin's Alber Elbaz told AFP his were inspired "not in exotic places but in the street."

Socks and shoe manufacturers look set to have a field day, however.

With longjohns and sweatpants uncovering feet, and pants creeping well up above the ankle at many houses, or shown tucked into boots, there was a heavy accent on footwear and even socks, notably at Kenzo.

But pants also came wide and flowing at influential Raf Simons and Korea's Songzio, one of several Korean and Japanese designers showing in Paris.

Meanwhile Croatia's Damir Doma, upcoming star of the Paris men's scene, wowed the crowd with big gathered mujik-style trousers while Yves Saint Laurent went for drop-crotched harem pants.

And the shows also witnessed the return of the 80s bumbag - notably at Korean designer Juun J.

Retro-mania is constantly at play in fahsion as designers seek inspiration from history, and this week saw Kenzo borrow his collection from Oscar-winning film-maker Jacques Tati's eccentric character "Monsieur Hulot", while John Galliano went to Sherlock Holmes.

"Men's fashion currently is moving faster than women's," said the head of France's Couture Federation, Didier Grumbach.

Not only was menswear doing better on the economic front than women's in these times of crisis, he told AFP, but it was also opening up on the creative front, probably due to globalisation.

"There is a new creativity out there, a break with traditional male style that is virile and is not just a feminine touch."

Other strong trends at the Paris shows, said Jean Paul Cauvin, senior editor at Fashion Daily News, were shorter jackets and draped and cowl-shaped collars.

"Grey may be taking over from black as the new colour. And tartan prints in dark colours that are discreet seem to be here to stay," Cauvin added.

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