It's in the bag - Louis Vuitton air their laundry

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The Independent Online

On the last day of Paris fashion week yesterday, Louis Vuitton unveiled their most absurd handbag design to date: a laminated laundry bag, the checked variety that can be bought on a market stall for a couple of pounds, stamped with the brand's aspirational logo.

If the thinking behind this handbag owes something to Marcel Duchamp, that will titillate not only a certain type of oh-so-knowing consumer of luxury goods, but also accords with the cultural programme being rolled out by executives at LVMH Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy.

Before yesterday's catwalk show, guests were invited to view an architectural model of Frank Gehry's glass-covered design for the conglomerate's new private art foundation. The ambitious museum, which will house 20th-century and contemporary art, will open in Paris in 2010.

For next spring, meanwhile, Louis Vuitton designer Marc Jacobs remained in the romantic frame of mind that characterised his signature collection shown last month in New York. This time, though, a softly layered effect was achieved not by putting jackets over dresses over trousers, but by patching together chalky-coloured pieces of tulle, organza and Liberty lawn prints, to make frilly, asymmetric dresses with lingerie details.

Sticking to palest putty, pink and pale grey this was a sweet and innocent collection of clothes and, for that, contrasted with the not-so-naïve status symbols that dangled from each model's hand.

Small denim bags were patchworked together to make big shopping bags; giant purple satin totes were sequinned with the word "LoVe". Yet more styles were dotted with coloured buttons. They, and the checked plastic laundry bags, were the stars of this show. No wonder: in the modern fashion system, handbag sales bankroll everything else, including private art foundations.

At Lanvin, which also showed yesterday, it is designer Alber Elbaz's seductive way with the building blocks of the French fashion tradition - dresses and trench coats - that has made his show one of the biggest tickets in Paris. He can pull in the Hollywood admirers - Janet Jackson, Demi Moore and Natalie Portman all sat front-row - but there is nothing overstated about these clothes.

Founded by Jeanne Lanvin, the Paris house had its heyday in the 1920s but until it was purchased in 2001 by Shaw-Lan Wang, a Taiwanese media baroness, it was a name mostly known for its fragrances. Since then its chief designer, Elbaz, has established recognisable codes for the house, such the long-exposed zipper on his silk faille dresses, or thick bands of crystals encrusting the neckline of a satin dress that are a recurrent motif.

His spring/summer show picked up the sporty trend by using parachute silk for cowl-necked tunics or high-performance fabrics for racer-back flippy dresses. But Elbaz is not easy to categorise by trend, and sportiness aside his toga-style liquid satin dresses were perfect for their simplicity and lightness of touch.

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