Summer comes to Paris with Ungaro garden party

Summer came to town on Monday as Emanuel Ungaro's new British designer threw a garden party in Paris, showcasing a high-society look that was all flowers, glitter and delicate lacework.

Giles Deacon skipped the catwalk in favour of a live display, with models sipping champagne around a montage of flower-covered old cars - Beetles and a yellow camper van - with giant butterflies poking out the top.

A whiff of the 1920s filled the vast glass venue, as models showed off black cocktail dresses of see-thru lace embroidery, with dangling crystal earrings and hair in a single rolled plait over the forehead.

Shiny black tweed shorts were paired with a longer jacket and sparkling black heels, while a statuesque toga dress in ice blue left one shoulder bare.

Day-side, there were short, embroidered dresses in pastel salmon or turquoise.

Fish-net tights for all, flower patterned or polka-dotted stilettos, puffed-out ostrich feathers on a head-dress, skirt or jacket, and the occasional pair of outsized, ornamental sunglasses finished off the look.

For his first ready-to-wear line for the Paris fashion house, where he took over this summer, Deacon said he wanted to "reinterpret the sensuous, soft, vivaciousness that Mr Ungaro was known for."

Intricate lace-work and embroidery - "beautiful things that are synomymous with Ungaro" - provided the starting point, the designer said.

And the garden party setting was a way to let "people see the workmanship, up front and close."

"I wanted it to be good fun, colourful - something a bit quirky," he added.

In an extra twist, Deacon had career and non-professional models of different ages mingling on the indoor lawn - chatting to guests and plucking the odd macaroon from trays passed around the room.

"I design for women. I'm not intent on designing for infants," explained the designer, who called on personal friends including the fashion director of Vogue Japan, Anna Dello Russo, to model for him.

Deacon's offbeat casting was the latest example of a trend seen at Balenciaga where Nicolas Ghesquiere hired non-professionals and a pregnant Miranda Kerr, and at Jean Paul Gaultier who used plus-sized models.

Dello Russo - who carried a toy, pink lamb with polka-dotted hooves and scarf hooked under her arm as an accessory - told AFP she "accepted to play, to pretend to be a model for a day - because why not?"

At Stella McCartney, it was the British designer herself - heavily pregnant with her fourth child - who set the tone for a line based on denim and citrus prints, blowing a summery breeze through what was a wet, rainy day outside.

A denim effect was tailored into bermuda shorts, polo shirts and wide pants that fell below the knee, while a bright-coloured fruit print was splashed into a long, white pleated silk skirt.

For the office there were pastel suits that paired high-waisted pants with little polo tops, and for summer weekends McCartney offered roomy, navy silk trousers that created the illusion of denim.

Waistcoats covered the chest entirely, but left the back nude for what the designer dubbed an "understated sexiness".

And for cocktail time, modelled to a pumping Britpop soundtrack, there were slinky silk all-in-ones that ended in a pleated skirt, or ample trousers slit right up the thigh.

McCartney's summery citrus prints found an echo at French house Leonard where an elegant floral print theme was spelled out again and again on flowing dresses and skirts in pink, turqoise and yellow against navy or cream.

Sleeveless silk or jersey all-in-ones had deep V-necks at front and back, flowing into wide pants that swished on the floor, with maxi-dresses offering a variation on the look, over suede wedges or caramel-and-white flat sandals.

Slinky, kimono-style navy pants were paired with silk cream tops, while a sand-coloured raffia jacket was cinched at the waist with a rope belt, over a cream pencil skirt for a more urban look.

Suede tassels down seams and off shoulders completed the relaxed, seaside look that was cosy through till nighttime - one model even stepping out in a white terry-cloth jacket that suggested a deep, comfy dressing-gown.

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