On the edge of the city, in an area that was once mainly slaughterhouses, 100 models, friends and staff of designer Jean-Paul Gaultier walked down and back on a U-shaped runway at least the length of a basketball court to a cheering crowd of 3,000 buyers, reporters and groupies. At one end of the runway, still in view of the audience, was a gigantic catwalk where the models and others partied in their Gaultier attire, some of which had bold Russian lettering decorating the sleeves.
At the Thierry Mugler show in a tent in the courtyard of the Louvre, models wearing clothes the designer dubbed "Sputnik style, Eiffel tartare and mini-czaress," marched to rousing Russian music on a smoke-clouded stage set with huge icebergs. In one sequence models were pulled down the runway on sleds drawn by uppity huskies that wanted to stop midway and needed to be coaxed to finish their trip.
This is showtime in Paris, and while for most French and visitors here that means the new hit tap dance show "Black and Blue," several of the designers besides Gaultier and Mugler have done lavish presentations of their collections of fall clothes.
But part of the drama this week is off the runways. After the bombing Thursday evening in an arcade on the Champs Elyse'es, security was heightened around the three tents. Friday morning, when buyers and the press returned to the Louvre area, a section that until recently housed the ministry of finance, they found that section's gate partially closed. It had been wide open the day before.
And instead of one security man barely glancing at invitations, there were two checkpoints where invitations were looked over before one could enter. (Though the check was stricter, anyone could have shown an invitation from any of the days and passed through.) Inside, tents were inspected before each show to assure that there were no bombs.
For some, the big, elaborate show was a pleasant distraction from clothes that were too similar to the broad-shouldered jump suits and other styles Mugler always shows. This time the clothes were a bit more fitted -- a popular theme in every show, and often with more draping than in other collections he has done; but there was little that the designer showed that looked irresistibly refreshing. Consistent with his theme of Russia and Siberia -- perhaps a salute to the visit of Raisa Gorbachev to France -- Mugler decorated some suede jackets with what looked like plastic ice cubes and he used lots of icy pastel shades.
On the other hand, Gaultier's unique staging served brilliantly to show off his tamer collection that stretched many familiar styles into a new dimension. He showed A-line tunics, for example, over short skirts that were quilted or looked inflated because of the way they were constructed.
"It was fabulous. He is easing everyone into a new, more fitted shape using familiar elements like the A-line but doing it a new way, using a long top over a short skirt," said Bernie Ozer, fashion director for Associated Merchandising Corp., the largest buying office in the world.
Gaultier used the Cyrillic alphabet to decorate sleek jersey tops, and showed many of his superbly cut coats and jackets, always with his signature hanging hook on the outside rather than inside the jacket. The outrageous things in his collection, including pants that were webbed between the legs like a duck's foot, he saved for the men in the show.
And the histrionics he usually has in his show he reserved for others to do as a curtain raiser. Following a mini "happening" -- including a woman stripping and dressing again on stage -- he showed one design from each of three young designers he claimed were upcoming talents. To say that two of the three costumes had tails is a sufficient clue to the seriousness of these talents.
In spite of his dramatic presentation, this time with the booming operatic voice of German singer Nina Hagen as background, it was easy to see and admire the new streamlined shapes of designer Claude Montana. A number of his fresh styles started in a familiar way and took on a variation that made it look new. Short jackets were given a draping at the back that gave roominess and newness. Even better were his jackets, sleek and fitted in the front and flyaway in the back.
Montana leads the way for others in color. He ensured the acceptance of green as the key color for next fall with his forest-green-and-black sweaters. And he established gray as the important neutral for the season ahead, through his coats and his jersey knits. The gray jersey evening dresses that looked pasted onto the very good bodies of the models were the hit of the collection.
Karl Lagerfeld needed no fancy staging to show off his strong collection of knits, suits and coats. He is a master of clothes with volume, and in this season of many long skirts and long coats, his are certainly among the best.
Most of his long things are anchored with a belt at the waistline that dips a bit in the front. His nifty new jacket has a stand-up collar and is turned up in front at the hem to give a cutaway effect. His long skirts are extremely fluid; his jackets and coat are easy and unconstricting.
In fact, movement is the theme of the collection. "What I had in mind all the time was the dance. Dance is all about movement," said Lagerfeld before the show.
Dance was also the theme of Lagerfeld's embroideries on his evening clothes, many of them black and draped with a ballerina embroidered on the bodice. For fun, two models wore hats shaped as ballerinas with big tutus.
Lagerfeld saluted the dance as well the night before his collection. To introduce his new men's fragrance he invited 1,000 people, the hotsy-totsy socialites of Paris, a few special chums like Paloma Picasso and Catherine Deneuve, plus Danielle Mitterrand, wife of the president of France; Monique Lang, wife of the former minister of culture; and Princess Caroline of Monaco, to Versailles. The evening began with a performance by the ballet company of Monte Carlo in the rarely used gem of a theater built for Louis XV, and was followed by a tour of the cha teau, fireworks and dinner.
"It wasn't my choice to have it the evening before the opening, but that was the only time Princess Caroline could make it," said Lagerfeld, who has a house right next to the royal palace in Monte Carlo. With a few glitches in the performace -- including a 15-minute delay between the overture and start of one of the numbers, and shouts from the stagehands from behind the curtain -- the performance ended at midnight and dinner was served about 1:30 a.m. Guests left Versailles after 3 a.m.
Lagerfeld put on his fashion show not many hours later. In that way he was the best showman of them all.