African sun warms Paris men's fashion week

PARIS, Claire Rosemberg - Explorers in wide rumpled trousers hauling oversized bags sent the crowds of fashion buyers and critics at Paris Men's Fashion Week travelling from the banks of the Seine to those of the Congo on Saturday.
Like other designers at the five-day whirl of catwalk presentations, Kenzo's Antonio Marras drew his inspiration for the 2010 spring-summer collections from Africa -- in his case from 19th-century Italian explorer Pierre de Brazza.

African sun warms Paris men's fashion week
"He was an extraordinary man, he was ethical and respected Africans," he told AFP, referring to the man "with a big heart" who explored the Congo river and fought colonial exploitation.
And as his 42 explorer-types marched in single file in shorts and hats under an imaginary sun in a disused early 20th century warehouse, Marras added a touch of Africa with scores of giant bottles hanging overhead tipping fountains of sand at the models' feet.
Kenzo's show, featuring a loose-fitting silhouette of comfortable shorts and pants and crumpled suits in dusty hues with cleverly subtle floral prints, drew acclaim from the crowd.
"My explorer is a bit of a dandy," he said. "I used crumpled fabrics, denim that looks as if it has been stained in sand, and beige, white, khaki and camouflage."
Even more powerful, and almost hysterically acclaimed, was another highly theatrical catwalk show with an Africa touch -- John Galliano's Napoleon Bonaparte-inspired collection.
Staged in a derelict indoor swimming pool, the legendary British designer's latest offerings evoke Bonaparte's journeys through southern Europe, north Africa and the Middle East, with Lawrence of Arabia-like models in turbans or sporting flowing long voile shirts slung across hips like Asia sarongs.
Cargo shorts, tanks and waistcoats came coloured in terracotta, ochre and chocolate, with rich military-style embroidery, lots of dusty suede and a host of references to Bonaparte's Egypt campaign.
North Africa, as well as the loose pyjama-like trousers and tunics worn in South Asia -- the shalwar kameez -- helped inspire star Belgian designer Kris van Assche, who is also the men's designer for the house of Dior.
Sticking to sober blacks, whites and greys, he went for a fluid layered silhouette all in featherweight fabrics and light see-through knits.
Calf-skimming shorts and bermudas were thrown over leggings, with ultra-thin sleeveless vests layered over long tank tops. Black tunics came with see-through black shirts and delicately structured jackets to offer a soft elegance the designer titled "dissonance".
Among the new names on the Paris catwalks for this round of the twice-yearly shows are US designer Tim Hamilton, recently honoured by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, South Korea's Song Zio and Khalid Al Qasimi from the United Arab Emirates.
Among the biggest names showing on Sunday are Lanvin, Dior and Paul Smith. Winding up on Monday is Smalto.

Sunday, June 28th 2009
Claire Rosemberg

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