Feb 28, 2008
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Valentino still Valentino without Valentino

Feb 28, 2008

PARIS, Feb 28, 2008 (AFP) - All eyes were on Alessandra Facchinetti on Thursday for her debut collection at Valentino, the first in the Italian fashion house's history not designed by its founder and the most keenly anticipated show in Paris fashion week.

Creation by Alessandra Facchinetti for Valentino during the fall-winter 2008/2009 ready-to-wear collection show in Paris - Photo : Pierre Verdy/AFP

While not according the 35-year-old designer a standing ovation, the audience's applause when she appeared on the runway at the end reflected the general consensus that this was a very promising start.

Speaking after the show she said: "Elegance, femininity, that's what it is all about. The style of Valentino is the basis of my work, that cannot be changed. But the proportion is more updated."

Valentino afficionados detected and approved her modernising touch. "It was very airy, more modern, not just younger. Also extremely feminine and subtle," one loyal customer commented to AFP.

There was definitely a different feel about the tailoring and the silhouette in Facchinetti's lines for next autumn-winter. Coats were gently gathered from high collars or yokes, softening the shoulders and giving extra fullness at the back. A swathe of mock smocking round the neck of a taupe coat looked like a mini-cape.

Flat matt belts with a prominent gilt buckle cinched the waistlines of silk chiffon blouses and frocks. Some asymmetric, dipping hems were a new departure.

Stand-out pieces included a midnight blue cocoon coat encrusted with embroidery and pearls and lots of frocks with stocking-sheer backs in dusty pastels with ruffled laser-cut lace sleeves, ruffling being a Facchinetti specialty.

After Valentino's swansong with an entire sequence of his hallmark red, Facchinetti restricted herself to just two evening gowns.

Front-row celebrities included Winona Ryder, Marisa Berenson and Rebecca Romijn of "Ugly Betty" fame.

Thursday's show was perhaps even more nerve-wracking for Facchinetti after her false start at Gucci, where she replaced the charismatic Tom Ford, but parted company after "managerial disagreements" only days after presenting her second collection.

But as one insider put it: "Just because she didn't fit at Gucci doesn't mean she won't work out here. Valentino is closer to her personal aesthetic."

Ivana Omariz sent out an edgy, urban collection for Celine, designed for "big city life," according to the programme notes and reinforced by the soundtrack to the show.

A sizeable chunk was given over to sporty outerwear, which was quirky as well as practical. Numerous takes on the traditional trenchcoat included a glamorous version in teal blue duchesse satin as well as the more obvious techno black gabardine.

Parkas, zippered and hooded jackets in gleaming platinum wool were shown with the de-luxe accessory of a designer backpack tucked at the back, over slim, boyish stretch wool pants with ankle tabs.

Stiff skirts, layered like petals, with drooping hemlines were more romantic, while evening gowns had the monopoly on colour in a collection uniformly in gradations of grey and black.

At Leonard, Veronique Leroy favoured the easy kaftan shape in all lengths from mini to floor-sweeping for the house's signature prints.

Her palette ran the gamut from autumnal shades of rust, chocolate and saffron, to hot combinations of scarlet, violet and cyclamen pink.

Geometric and floral prints were jumbled together, picked out with lurex, satin ribbons or strips of shiny plastic, with contrasting bands edging elbow-length sleeves, waists and hemlines.

Eye-catching stand-alone prints included a black and white floral splashed with fuschia and fan motifs.by Sarah Shard

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