So how's it going in Paris in the fashion scene these days? Well, Karl Lagerfield has, hands down, the most prophetic collection - the one that will spin-off into the mainstream with a thousand ideas in the next year or so. Straplessness, peplums, clear prints like a child's cutouts, some actually Matisse cutouts, hourglass shaping, clipped sweaters that are like summer furs, sunshade hats and huge plastic cutout pins as a takeoff on junk jewelry.
In the pretty-clothes department, Yves Saint Laurent is a winner. So are Valentino and Givenchy. There were nifty Knitty Foyle-like dresses at Givenchy that nevertheless inspired Bunny Mellon to say, "They are completely moodern and full of joy."
Sonia Rykiel is in super form with the best and brighest knits around. Her color blocks, her shapes, the knee pants - all are easy and fresh. "She's back to being queen of the cardigan," says Geraldine Stutz of Henri Bendel. "Those cardigans who tank tops are super." Rykiel goes off into a group of silk prints that are far less successful, but so what. The knits are super and that's what counts.
Neiman-Marcus representatives are so high on Jean Louis Scherrer that they plan to bring the collection and the designer and his wife to Washington. Scherrer's couture clothes are among the best in Paris and now it is true of his boutique clothes as well," says Benita Downing of Neiman-Marcus.
The prints this season are as clear as the colors and just as bold. Dots with dash are everywhere. (Nancy Chistolini of Woodies says call them "dots," not polka dots. "At those prices, we can't call them polka dots.") Among the best of them - givenchy, Valentino, Tarlazzi, Emanuelle Khanh and lots of others. Also fun were the Baskin-Robbin prints at Dior.
Straws in the wind department. After all the red, white and blue, and the Crayola colors, the gray looks very fresh. Gray suits at France Andrevie, gray at YSL,Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler. Also on the horizon, draping for evening. Karl Lagerfield, YSL with sarongs, and others give a clue to draping. But that's still in the future.
It is a bang-up season for accessories. The clothes are basically good simple structure, in lots of solud colors and small prints, making it open season for decorating them. So bring on the hats(lacquered straw, gob hats, coolie hats, Empress Eugenie hats), the huge earrings (Chloe, YSL,Dior, really everywhere, in simple, sharp shapes like stars, crescents), the pearls (Chloe), the gloves (short, long, white, colors), shoes (classic pumps and at Chloe, pumps in bright-colored satin with blackseamed stockings), the big shoe at Sacha this time has a big cowboy toe and heel, pins large and small (because of wide-shoulder proportion) and scarves and shawls for the same reason. Small shoulder bags on long straps, narrow eyeglasses.
And maybe most essential of all, the belts, all shapes, from wide belts to cummerbunds, to cinch belts, narrow belts, patents belts - when in doubt , belt it.
And from the 1950s - would you believe charm bracelets, bangs, short white gloves, ballet slippers, brass buttons, chunky chain-link bracelets.
In the France Andrevie collection, buyers who were around for the original run of 1950s fashion had a laugh at the handsome suits with wide shoulders and belted waistlines in iridescent shantung. It was a fabric used in the '50s for dresses in half sizes.
Also on the rerun circuit - fishnet hose, perhaps more comfortable to wear since Dior puts anklets over them.
A favorite decorative theme of a couple of designers - the big eagle. Montana uses it on white to mark a salute to Napoleon, Kansai Yamamoto uses to decorate a padded-shoulder jacket.
Everyone is buying underwear, the best of it from Italy. And they are showing it off. Camisoles, lace-edged bodysuits in silk and cotton and pure wool show up as blouses under a suit. They look right under sheer blouses as well.
Remember on the beaded evening sweater from Hong Kong? Start embroidering. Says Sol Kent of Rich's Atlanta, "It has to happen. All of the embroideries at Chloe last season, the glitter this year, it all makes the season right for those sweaters. In a new way, of course. Beading a la art deco might be one."
The street vendors peddling disco bags, puka shells and bonbons have a bit of competition this week. At several busy corners entrepreneurs have set up tables selling garbage bags of all sizes and that's where a lot of the business is.The garbage strike goes on and on and now even the cool (but not cold) weather can't inhibit the perfume. Another Paris jolly this week has been the little "manifestations," strikes by working groups that completely tie up traffic. Buyers have abandoned taxis and gone underground after impossible delays.
Charlotte Ford has shown up a lot of the shows "by invite of the designers." After the Channel show, which was about as classic as they come, Ford said, "It's all very interesting, but it won't influence my designs. Paris clothes are just too advanced for my customers."
Bloomies promoted India and France, Garfinckel's promoted Ireland, so who is being promoted by Galleries Lafayette, the top department store in Paris? They're touting France, of course, and doing it well. More designer boutiques (Cacharel is still the most popular, followed by Dior knitwear), a range of 200 or more cheeses, pastries from Le Notre, a solar house, a Cousteau submarine, meals by top French chefs and more. The expo has been viewed by virtually all of the American store buyers at the current showings.
Karl Lagerfield has invented a new place to hang his glasses - it's on his glasses. He's made a lapel pin in gold of his glass frames and slips his glasses through them when they are not on his nose. "I can always find them this way," says Lagerfield. "Otherwise I often lose them, or even sit on them."
Kathleen Sterrit must have the hardest job in Paris this week. She's the advance person for Harper's Bazzar, and her job, among others is to get to each show early and stake out six seats for the Bazzar group. That may sound easy, but with the push and shove attitude at some of the shows, it has sometimes taken more than harsh words, sometimes even stretching out over six chairs, as at the Mugler show.
The big hustle in this town is not only on the runway. A number of buyers and editors have lost their bags in a pretty professional dance performed by kids, teenagers as well as adults. Here is how it works. They move in teams, to distract, jostle, annoy, then viola, the bag or wallet is gone. Shoulder bags have been sniped off, removed from the back of fancy restaurant chairs or slipped away from where they've been tucked next to the seat of buyers in fancy hotels. The lines at the shows and the push to get in provide a natural setting for pickpockets. Police are sympathetic, but they've heard it all before.
The menswear message. The YSL suits almost looked fit for the operating room surgeon - pure white suits, white shirts with a black tie and dark pocket hankie. At Georges Rech, the menswear was shown, without exception, with white socks and black loafers. Very John Travolta.