Fashionistas, rejoice!

By SHARON STEEL  |  November 9, 2006

In displaying 10 full looks by 10 designers — a mix of French-born and foreign, couture and ready-to-wear — “Fashion Show” deals in restraint when it could have saturated, with a layout that resembles a sequence of store windows instead of an installation. And yet, how often do you go to Paris to gape at a Karl Lagerfeld suit that took 780 hours to embroider? Short of jumping into one of his tailored Chanel outfits and pulling on a pair of his two-toned lambskin boots, it’s unlikely that the experience could get much more personal than this.

If you’ve ever watched a couture runway show on the Style network or heard supermodel Tyra Banks bellowing at her charges on America’sNext Top Model about the importance about being able to wear couture properly, then you know that couture fashions aren’t conventionally appealing. The pieces are about the finishing, the detailing, the embellishment, and the balls-out glamor. And though no contemporary high-fashion designer would state that his or her work can be appreciated only by the wealthy and the beautiful, there’s always been a disappointing gap between the idea and the execution of egalitarian couture.

But the fashion world is experiencing something of a cultural revolution of late, thanks to the success of Bravo’s Project Runway and its behind-the-scenes glimpse into garment and runway production, not to mention the cult-of-personality crossover between celebrity image and design talent. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have had a kids’ line since they were kids, and Jennifer Lopez, P. Diddy, Gwen Stefani, Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake — the list goes on — have followed, clamoring for a chance to force-feed their fashion sense on Macy’s junior departments and the general public. Two of the designers chosen to be in “Fashion Show” on the strength of their influence have also signed contracts with H&M. The first to do so was Lagerfeld, who became the head designer for Chanel after Coco’s death in 1971; the latest line, which is available in H&M stores today (November 9), was created by the Dutch team Viktor & Rolf. The most extensive of the guest collections thus far, it includes everything from a pair of high-heeled shoes to a $349 demurely ruffled wedding gown.


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