Jan 20, 2009
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Crisis or creativity at men's fashion shows?

Jan 20, 2009

PARIS, Jan 20, 2009 (AFP) - As the male fashion spotlight readies to shift from Milan to Paris this week, the question on all lips is whether the world's economic doldrums will dampen the usual exuberance of the twice-yearly men's shows.

Paris's four-day whirl of 2009/2010 autumn/winter men's fashion kicks off on Thursday, bringing planeloads of fashion buyers, spotters and critics from a gruelling 40-odd catwalk shows in Italy, where the mood has been mixed.

In France, despite the economic crisis, there will be more catwalk presentations than ever, a total 46 in all, including some high-profile newcomers -- Germany's Hugo Boss, Britain's Gareth Pugh and US designer Rick Owens.

And a further 20-odd houses are organising showroom presentations.

"The schedule has rarely, or even never, been busier, which is a little unexpected given the crisis," said the head of France's powerful couture federation Didier Grumbach.

"You can feel the crisis but it has not yet hit" in France, he told AFP. "We may see problems next July or January", when the next rounds of seasonal fashion presentations take place.

In Milan, there was a hint of economic gloom when diva Miuccia Prada, known for keeping her nose close to the ground, threw out a bold but dark collection featuring long coats as well as shirts sprinkled with studs, and black leather T-shirts.

But other big names went for the wild and quirky, with punk queen Vivienne Westwood turning out a gardening-inspired collection, Marni parading cashmere leggings for men, and Dolce&Gabanna offering satin-pointed slipper-moccasins in fuchsia, violet and red.

Colour, said the mens' designer at French luxury house Hermes, was vital in times of gloom. "Things won't get better if everyone dresses in black and grey," Veronique Nichanian told AFP. "Beauty will save the world."

Ungaro men's fashion stylist Franck Boclet was similarly inclined. "It's in times of crisis that the wildest ideas come to the surface," he said. "We need to be more creative than ever now."

Milan was a perfect example of the belief that creativity surfaces in times of crisis. The house of Gucci stuck to it rock'n'roll style, throwing out a red shirt with pink collar under a polka-dot suit, while Versace's manly man sported a turquoise leather jacket.

In Paris all eyes for the season's trends will be on big brands Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Jean Paul Gaultier, Yohji Yamamoto, Givenchy, John Galliano, Kenzo, Ungaro, Hermes and Dior.

But Pugh, who at only 27 has designed Kylie Minogue's costumes, is expected to get a good turnout for his first mens' show after wowing Paris last year with a black-and-white space-age womens' collection.

And fashionistas are also eagerly awaiting 46-year-old Owens, a favourite with Madonna and Courtney Love often described as the champion of "grunge glamour".by Claire Rosemberg

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