Some Paris designers have taken a great leap into the 1980s after taking a backward glace at the 1960s.
What they have come up with for the opening ready-to-wear showings of 1980s hot weather fashions are skinny miniskirts and other styles spun off from the 1960s fashions of Courreges, Rudi Grenreich and Paco Rabanne.
The only problem, of course, is that women have changed since the 1960s -- what they want is clothes for the boardroom, not clothes for the playroom.
Still, the miniskirt influence marked the start of a week-long marathon of almost 100 designer fashion representations for spring. The exaggerated look here signals a shortening of length for spring in Washington -- to about the knee.
The 1960s fever is not only big on the runway but in the discos here, particularly Le Bain Douches, the popular new gay disco, where recycled clothes of the 1960s -- such as minidresses, wraparound Harlequin glasses and Courreges-style boots are worn as a spoof.
There are clearly fewer buyers here this round. The most of coming and the slow season in clothing sales have slimmed the numbers.
But that has hardly curbed the crowds. There were more than 1,000 enthusiasts pushing against the service entrance of the Salon Gabriel before the France Andrevie show yesterday. All the door were kept shut until the crowd, the pushing and the tension had built sufficiently. Once inside, the scramble was such that there was no point in trying to find assigned seats.
Like last year, most French designers are using three large tents set in the area of Les Halles, once the wholesale food market now turned into a deluxe shopping area.
But the designer Kenzo, who once did the most frenzied shows of all, continues to show to small groups of buyers and press in his showroom as he did six months ago. "We did the first histrionics. Now that is out of fashion," says Gilles Raysse, Kenzo's business partner responsible for manufacturing and selling clothes. "We are in the business of making clothes, not making histrionics."
Kenzo, who cares little if he sells to the United States or not because his business in Europe and Japan is huge, has come up with the best styles shown so far for American. He has tapped a lot of ideas he has used before -- baggy pants, which he showed first in 1972; tunics and nifty knits in slim short shapes, and bare tops worn with full skirts -- all worn with flat shoes that often look like Daniel Green Slippers. But the styles end up looking little like those Kenzo has shown before because of colors and fabrics or some addition such as padding or some shoulder detail, such as stitching or big sleeves or fabric worked to extend the shoulder line.
But what makes the Kenzo styles appealing as much as their special look is their price tag. The knits, with their Kenzo color sense and shape (to say nothing of the label), will sell for little more that the Seventh Avenue variety. And the most expensive thing in the line, a beautifully made linen pantsuit, should sell for $250 in Washington.
"I suicided myself on the prices," said Raysse after yesterday morning's show. He has sought out the best manufacturing facilities all over the world and has settled on a smaller profit. But the clincher is that he now is turning out a volume of about 250,000 pieces each season, which lets him chip away at the prices, bringing them down to what must be the lowest in Paris.
The Kenzo shows are so low key -- there wil be 21 of them before the week is out -- that he's even passed up an international crop of models in the city and is using some of the women from his offices to model the clothes. "There are store buyers in this room with better figures," teased one buyer. But it made little difference. The clothes were neither pompously styled nor pompously priced to look out of place on an average customer.
France Andrevie, who must have researched the short-cropped, tube-shaped dresses of Rudi Gernreich, the minis of Courreges and the vinyl and metallic hinged designs of Paco Rabanne, did much better when she forgot the 1960s. Andrevie has tamed the huge shoulders of a season back and put them in long comfortable jackets that are best over jumpsuits or slim dresses. A large part of the collection looks as if it belongs over bikinis for the beach, but by the time she accommodates buyers by lengthening hems a bit more those clothes will make sense for American stores, too.
But Gilles Raysse has about given up on the American. "All they want is Calvin Klein jeans and Halston cashmere from Scotland. They don't want fashion," with the current collection he may prove himself wrong.