"I'm bloody but unbowed," said Val Cook, fashion head of Saks/Jandel in Washington, as she thrust one leg over a temporary barricade to find a free seat at the Kenzo show last night.
Twice she had been shoved roughly aside by a young man at the entrance to the show, although she had the required invitation. Finally she caught the eye of a Kenzo/JAP salesman who had helped her select merchandise for her store that morning, and he ushered her through the gate.
It is ready-to-wear time here and even buyers who place orders have had no priority at the jam-packed fashion shows.
By the time most of the buyers arrived from the Sonia Rykiel show several Metro stops away and were greeted by the oom-pah-pah music of the Beaux Arts band yesterday, the first 10 or so rows assigned to them near the runway had been taken over by Kenzo's pals and groupies and the scurry for the remaining seats was near bedlam.
And the Kenzo flare-up was not the first. There have been reports of quarrels and fist fights elsewhere. One woman's hair was reportedly set on fire by a cigarette and another wowman was said to have suffered a broken nose and jaw.
"Coming from Texas, I know all about cattle herding," Walter Richardson of Neiman-Marcus was quoted as saying.
But if getting into the Kenzo show was like an unfunny carnival scene, the cheerful circus spirit of the presentation and the clothes were roundly cheered.
Kenzo has traded in last season's pirates and India colonialists or clerics, queens and captains. He plays around with church robes, flashing bright colors underall the black for amusing country-parson looks, and some enchanting embroidered convent-school coats and clerical collar dresses. A girl in one of his dresses - what looked like a choir robe - heads down the runway on rollerskates. Lots of the outfits are topped with black, brimmed, French country priests hats.
His royalty is just as storybook with tiaras and crowns, irridescent taffeta dresses and velvet pageboy outfits. His military looks are like tin soldiers missing only the pinked cheeks. And there was a prince on a white charger (for real) led down the runway by a man in a white suit.
This exaggerated showmanship is clearly meant to draw attention and has little to do with wearable clothes. Only a fraction of the styles on the runway are for serious consideration, and buyers put in their orders for these in behind-the-scenes quiet on a computerized setup.
There is no fanfare for this year's prices, either, which are up from 15 to 30 percent generally and may be higher, depending on the value of the dollar, when the clothes are in American stores next fall.
Everything will be narrower, Kenzo is reported to have said before the show, but since big full dresses in rainbow colors are fun and wearable he included them as well. What's wearable, too, says Robert Sakowtiz of the Sakowtiz stores, are his riding capes, sweaters with military touches and all the pants and skirts to go with them, classic tweeds, scaled down a bit from last time and always brightened with rainbow-colored accessories, and his coats and jackets.
At the Chloe shows yesterday, American model Pat Cleveland, swinging a huge key ring like a jailer, released Karl Lagerfeld's new look for fall 1978 from behind iron bars set up on one end of the runway at the Palais de Chaillot, where many shows have taken place this week.
His message is clear. He likes structured clothes with big shoulders, small waists, usually rounded a bit over the hips and tapered to the hem. Skirt hemlines are often at the knee.
Lagerfeld put the clothes in the mood of Germany in the mid '30s, with "Three Penny Opera" and other German favorites for background. He is thinking very specifically, he says about creating abstract curves, angles and shapes in the mood of Oskar Schlemmer drawings for the German Bauhaus.
It works well when he does short-jacket suits, often belted, with pleated front pants or skirts or black coats or one in tweeds. And his big sweaters carry the mood into knits. Where he shocks us with some of his dresses, some very open in front, others hiked up gracelessly in the rear.
Sonia Rykiel is one designer who is always true to the kind of clothes she believes in and that's not easy for her this season. She was the first to have totally unconstructed knits, seams worn on the outside and hemmed edges, so in a season that is putting a lot of shape into clothes, she has a problem.
Her coats and jackets are superb, but when it comes to doing dresses that fill the current style, she's in trouble. There are few styles, maybe only three and the major one with an extended shoulder that she did in an endless array of silk prints.
Marc Bohan of Christian Dior always gets the top-ranking retailers to his show and yesterday was no exception - at least 12 American store presidents in the front row.
The top brass and others come because Bohan touches on endless fashion points. For Philip Miller, Neiman-Marcus president, the strong suit is the evening dresses. For Janet Wallach of Garfinckel's, the silk dresses are stand-outs.
Meanwhile, Bohan isn't saying what it will look like, but he has landed the all-important assignment this spring - he says he has been asked to do the wedding dress for Princess Caroline, the daugher of Grace Kelly.