Reptilian rock slides onto Paris catwalks

Gold bangles twirled lizard-like up calves at Manish Arora Thursday, while at Balenciaga a star-studded Paris fashion crowd was served up "children of punk", clad in reptilian python and biker jackets.

Sleeveless leathers, studded belts and clumpy boots set the tone for Nicolas Ghesquiere's spring-summer look for Balenciaga.

"They are the children of punk," the designer told AFP backstage after the show, which opened with a leather overcoat in a red-and-black houndstooth pattern, glowing under the chandeliers of the capital's Crillon Hotel.

Rocker leathers of blue crocodile or python followed, worn over black pants cropped at mid-calf and pinned at the waist with a simple buckle, paired with blouses patterned with large round white discs.

Ghesquiere told AFP he went looking for "a real masculine influence."

But femininity got a look in too, with translucent skirts layered over short ivory petticoats, worn with black sweaters of mohair and fine wool, embroidered like lace.

Just as delicate were shimmering toga-dresses, pinched in at the waist with subtle draping and leaving one shoulder bare.

Balenciaga's hotly-awaited show packed a punch in terms of star power, with paparazzis swarming afterwards around Hollywood heartthrob Orlando Bloom and his wife Miranda Kerr, who is pregnant with their first child.

The Grande Dame of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve, was there too, as was Salma Hayek - who is married to luxury tycoon Francois-Henri Pinault, the owner of Balenciaga - and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who modelled its new perfume.

Ghesquiere scouted the streets for many of his models, sending them down the catwalk alongside top-models like Denmark's tattoo-sporting Freja Beha.

"There is a tendency to clone women and erase their personality," he said. "I want to stress their individuality."

India's Arora also took Paris on a highly individual glam-rock journey from Saint Petersburg to Miami, via the deserts of Rajasthan, melding baroque influences with India's traditional jewelry and 1960s pop painting.

"I thought it could be nice to make sort of a beach baroque," the designer said backstage.

The result? Gold did battle with raspberry pink, pastel purple and jade, as models walked out on gravity-defying stilettos, in legging-and-dress sets embossed with ornate, sculpted breast plates and geometric motifs.

Gold was everywhere, in scales and twists that defined ankles, bulked out shoulders, circled necks or the small of the back, creating reptilian body armour, like shoulder-to-wrist armbands of spiked gold worn by one model.

"The bangles are from Rajasthan - but the inspiration was baroque," the designer explained. "I was travelling in Saint Petersburg, and happened to see how they used light pastel colours with gold on it. That really attracted me."

For the show Arora unearthed a rare motion-sensitive 1920s electronic instrument called the theremin, backed by a rock outfit that roared out electro updates of James Bond theme tunes of anthems like the Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black."

"I thought the rock element added a nice twist," he said.

He also drew ideas from a 1960s Japanese artist - whose pastel-hued paintings of Miami beach-and-palm-tree sunsets he faithfully embroidered onto a series of short, body-hugging dresses.

Painted bar codes adorned the models' foreheads, while hair was pulled up into palm-tree ponytails.

Gold-smithery aside, Arora said the collection was deceptively simple - replete with hidden structure.

"All are corseted from the inside. I'm known to do complicated clothes with lots of embellishment, but the styles have never been so fitted, so sculptured.

"It was time to make woman look sexy."