Paris couturiers court Hollywood stars

Updated: 2007-07-05 15:38

PARIS - Paris designers looked to Hollywood on Wednesday with elaborate creations that will vie for "best dressed" on the red carpet.

Cate Blanchett lit up the front row at Giorgio Armani's show, held on the third day of the autumn-winter haute couture collections. And French actress Catherine Deneuve and Spanish director Pedro Almodovar showed their support for Jean Paul Gaultier.

A model presents a creation by Italian designer Giorgio Armani for his Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2007/2008 fashion collection, in Paris, Wednesday, July 4, 2007. [AP]

London-based designer Roland Mouret made his Paris debut after launching a joint venture with Simon Fuller, creator of "American Idol."

Armani sent out models in crystal-studded dresses and brightly hued feather shrugs in his Prive Collection, which was aimed at a younger customer.

The designer, who will turn 73 this month, said he wanted to blow the dust off haute couture, which provides made-to-measure clothes to a handful of wealthy clients.

"The world has changed, including for rich people," Armani told reporters. "I want .these clothes to sell."

For the day, he sent out a chalk-striped fitted jacket with an elegant black satin tulip skirt. For the night, there was a fuchsia pink gown with a stiff folded satin train.

Armani has long been an industry favorite, dressing stars and creating costumes for films. In recent months, Blanchett has become an unofficial ambassador for his brand, wearing Prive to the Oscars and other award ceremonies.

The relationship between designers and stars goes back more than a century, when actress Sarah Bernhardt stepped on stage in a costume designed by Paul Poiret.

What started off as a meeting of creator and muse has turned into big business, with some stars rumored to receive large checks in exchange for wearing a designer's creations at high-profile events.

"Some of the celebrity dressing and branding is like fashion payola, like we have in the music industry," said Cameron Silver, owner of the Los Angeles vintage boutique Decades.

"You can tell the difference when an actress is in a dress that she loves or a dress that's paying the mortgage."

Mouret does not have the clout of a global fashion brand, but his sensual designs have drawn actresses such as Scarlett Johansson and Demi Moore.

"It's because they are people I love as women," the French-born designer told The Associated Press.

He showed a capsule collection of 21 outfits featuring the deft draping and bold volumes which have become his trademark. Although shown alongside couture, the ready-to-wear outfits will be available through luxury online fashion retailer

Gaultier banished the hoi polloi with velvet suits and ceremonial robes inspired by crowned heads.

He poached from men's wardrobes, pairing military-flavored tailcoats with skintight leggings and thigh-high boots. But there was plenty of evening glamor too, as models with hair braided into crowns swept past in rippling gowns with lavish embroidered details.

Gaultier has designed tour outfits for pop star Madonna and costumes for filmmakers like Peter Greenaway, Luc Besson and Almodovar, with whom he worked on "Kika" and "Bad Education."

"He has enormous qualities as a human being and an absolutely extraordinary talent for designing," Almodovar told the AP.

Paris couture week was to continue Thursday with displays by lesser-known designers. But many fashion editors planned to leave early for Rome, where Italian designer Valentino has planned three days of events to celebrate the 45th anniversary of his fashion house.

German designer Karl Lagerfeld gave them a glittering send-off, hosting a soiree at his palatial Paris home, where he unveiled a new advertising campaign he shot for champagne maker Dom Perignon starring former Chanel muse Claudia Schiffer.

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