Gaultier channels Bond at Paris menswear shows

PARIS, Robert MacPherson- Jean Paul Gaultier channeled James Bond on Thursday, the first full day of the Paris fall-winter menswear shows, with a gender-bending collection that explored 007's feminine side.
Masked ninja acrobats somersaulted down the runway to a pumped-up soundtrack of Bond theme songs before making way for often-androgynous models in "James Blonde" outfits that alluded at times to bullet-proof vests and diving suits.

One defining look was positively amphibious: a neoprene wetsuit peeled back to reveal a sharp tuxedo, perfect for the man of action emerging by stealth from the Mediterranean to take his place at a roulette table in Monte Carlo.
"I wanted to show a male sex object, starting from Sean Connery, the archetype of total masculine elegance, while also showing a more feminine side," Gaultier explained backstage.
Several outfits were built around calf-length kilts, black was the dominant colour, and the role of femme fatale was played by an androgynous male model with long blonde hair, strutting confidently in high-heeled ankle boots.
Earlier in the day, Louis Vuitton sent out a more grounded collection inspired by what its men's studio director Paul Helbers called the innocence of film-maker David Lynch and the simplicity of the Amish farmers of Pennsylvania.
In homage to the Amish and their preference for plain dress, buttons made way for hook-and-eye closures, and sleeves featured back pleats. Fabrics were firmly on the soft side with no shortage of cashmere.
"I was very definitely inspired by the very pure side of the Amish," Dutch-born Helbers told AFP backstage, where illustrated posters helpfully explained "how to knot the Amish scarf" and "how to wear a man bag".
"What I try to do for Louis Vuitton is more for a cross-section of men who are interested in looking good and elegant," he said, preferably with a Louis Vuitton leather keepall, travel bag or computer sleeve.
"Louis Vuitton is a company that makes bags and luggage," acknowledged its creative director Marc Jacobs backstage. "If we didn't heritage that, that would be it."
California-born, Paris-based designer Rick Owens sent out a severe collection in a barren concrete-floored cavern under the stands at Bercy stadium that was as black as the designs themselves.
While the haircuts were streamlined, styled to create alien-like winglets at the back of the head, the clothes themselves suggested medieval monks or, in a few cases, fur-clad cavemen in Ugg-like boots.
South Korean designer Juun.J, who relishes applying women's silhouettes to menswear, pursued his exploration of structure with a collection that asked the question: Why one coat when two will do?
In a playful experiment, Juun considered the futuristic possibilities of joining two coats at the hem, so that a man could wear one while, for instance, carrying the other over his arm.
The result was not practical, or easy to describe for that matter, but it was as visually provocative as Juun's outsized black berets -- bordering on flying saucers -- and brogues with angular rubber soles.

Thursday, January 20th 2011
Robert MacPherson

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