Yesterday Chinese Communist Party Chairman Hua Guofeng arrived by helicopter at Les Invalides. The most comprehensive exhibit of the works of Picasso and the treasures of the Kremlin opened for the first full week at the Grand Palais. And Karl Lagerfeld, who designs for Chloe, showed the shortest miniskirts of the French fashion shows.
The Lagerfeld minis got the coolest reception.
Fashion buyers proved to be quite blase about Lagerfeld's micro-minis at mega-bucks. In the past week of showings of ready-to-wear for next spring, they had seen lots of short, short skirts. Now they were seeing them presented by big leaguers such as Sonia Rykiel and Lagerfeld.
They took them in stride -- as long as the minis were used as tops over pants or with their hems let out.
But Lagerfeld pushed the mini to new heights and many didn't like what they saw.
Still, what makes the current crop of minis different from the variety of 10 years or more ago is that no one is saying that they must be worn the way they are shown.
And even the way they are shown is different, since the fabrics are soft and fluid rather than rigidly seamed and architectural as they were in the '60s. Sonia Rykiel's minis in knit, for example, were often slit almost to the waist and flipped away from the body to reveal almost all of the sparkly pantyhose worn underneath.
Lagerfeld is serious about the mini. "First, there is a new generation that has never worn the mini," he said a day before his show. "And they are fun for dancing, and right for when it is hot. But rules about hems no longer exist."
And his minis with padded shoulders and pompadour hairdos are a breed apart from the '60s, Lagerfeld insists.
It was Lagerfeld who led the swing to light, layered clothing several years back, then pulled in to a tight and shapely silhouette which others have been following. He says it is his responsibility to come up with changes. "It is not amusing not to change. it is the beginning of retirement."
When Lagerfeld offers a change, he offers endless variation. His minis, for example, were served up in three categories: a single layer that barely covered the fanny, and double-tiered and triple-tiered skirts that still stopped above the knee. Virtually all that he showed stopped at the knee or above.
"He offers so many variations, from the silly to the sane to the sensational," says Henri Bendel's president, Gerry Stutz, "that you begin to believe him after a while."
The buyers who didn't believe in Lagerfeld's mini could find much more in the collection for big-spending customers. Val Cook, of Saks-Jan-del, liked the "easy, clean cut of the suits" and the "total lack of tricky clothes throughout." Sonja Caproni, of I. Magnin, liked the ease of jackets with no collars or buttons and the jewelled evening dresses. And Ellen Saltzman, of Saks Fifth Avenue, the fishtail dresses for evenings and marked four stars in her notebook for the basic gray flannel suits and coats, big blouson sweaters in gold.
But if buyers were hard at work culling wearable styles from the more than 250-piece showing that lasted for well over 90 minutes, Lagerfeld clearly was having a good time spoofing it up backstage.
There was the hat that looked like a vintage model airplane, irridescent balls for jewelry that looked like soap bubbles and Saran Wrap tied everyplace, including on one model's shoe as though she had stepped on it and couldn't shake it off.