If ever proof were needed that the world is about to become a more colourful place, it could be seen in Paris yesterday in the form of Helmut Lang's spring/summer 2004 collection. Lang is, after all, a designer for whom even navy at times seems racy. True, he has experimented with flashes of fluorescent flame and even pink before - although the latter mostly for men - but always against a black background or, at a push, embellishing white.
Next season, though, Lang devotees - and they are among the best-dressed fashion followers on the planet - can look forward to something rather more extreme than that. Mustard and purple; pea green and rust; plum and ultraviolet graced everything from little dresses to metallic cardigans worn as skirts. In Lang's hands even such violent colourways appeared suddenly to make sense of a trend for rainbow hues which has been seen all over the catwalks and which all too often looks dated.
The clothing was, as always, body-conscious but still forgiving. Lang has always used less conventional models of varying age and size alongside more well-known faces as if to prove that anyone can wear his clothes. It's a question of attitude. Layered vests and stretch minidresses, bright white narrow knee-length coats and drainpipe jeans all looked as modern as ever: these appear every season, subtly updated.
Soft bondage straps and peephole cut-outs - at the side of the breast, underneath the buttocks - added the requisite sexual charge for which Lang is famous. And despite the fact that he has been showing for more than 20 years, he continues to push forward and is a committed modernist. "Fashion has the incredible chance right now to respond to a new code," he said recently. "That is only possible when society is shifting. That means, actually, for a commercially difficult time, it is a really good moment for creativity and integrity."
Nothing quite so thought provoking was to be seen at Emanuel Ungaro. The two labels couldn't be more different, although here again colour was key. On a bright turquoise catwalk, models paraded in the brightest hues imaginable: fuchsia, lime, lilac and peach. True, these were not clothes that are going to take fashion anywhere it hasn't been before, but they did adhere to the house's history and will suit any Oscar nominee with an eye for a pretty frock down to the ground.
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