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Lanvin’s Montana Wins Golden Thimble; Haute Couture Flourishes

January 31, 1991

PARIS (AP) _ Claude Montana, couturier for Lanvin, received the prestigious Golden Thimble Award Thursday, capping a week of opulent high fashion shows for summer.

Montana’s second consecutive Golden Thimble, for his third Lanvin couture collection, was a remarkable tour de force for the 40-year-old designer whose Lanvin debut last year was panned by many press and fashion observers.

At the award ceremony in the Hotel de Ville, Paris’ baroque Town Hall, Bernadette Chirac, wife of Mayor Jacques Chirac, praised all the couturiers and their staffs.

″In spite of these difficult times, we must admire the efforts of these designers and all their artisans for contributing their best work to create a spirit of serenity, peace and joie de vivre,″ she said.

Montana’s dressy outfits won acclaim for their futuristic direction in magical renderings of narrow-waisted and full-skirted silhouettes. They were shown in glossy, light fabrics such as shiny organza and linen-like gazar.

″His cantilevered couture - looking as supple as an Alexander Calder mobile - would have the original Jeanne Lanvin turning in her sepulchre,″ said Percy Savage, a fashion historian and former textile designer who once worked for the house of Lanvin. ″But they were also totally perfect.″

A year ago, Montana drew criticisim for his debut show at Lanvin with couture that looked like low-keyed ready-to-wear. But he redeemed himself at subsequent shows.

The Valentino fashion house closed the couture week late Wednesday with a worthy show of his art at the Louvre’s Decorative Arts Museum wing.

In his feminine silhouettes on show in Paris, Valentino sometimes used pretty detail so lavishly that outfits evoked the image of an expensive Barbie doll clad in scallops or dainty lace.

(Valentino, whose real name is Valentino Garavani, is not Mario Valentino, the Italian shoe designer who died of cancer Thursday at age 63 in Naples.)

During the week, the couturiers offered an array of choices, with an emphasis on curvaceous feminine silhouettes, new sobriety and lightness of fabric, cut and details - honed in the best collections to fit the mood of the times.

The hemline battle is past, though outfits shown by couture are largely still very young and short. Longer lengths are creeping in, mainly at Ungaro and Saint Laurent, who dropped skirts from mini to just-above-the-knee.

In coats, choices ranged from sharply-fitted redingote or princess cuts to flyaway models, trapeze styles and boxy outlines in three-quarter lengths.

Suits are topped with varied jackets, from very long and fitted to shorties with full backs or boleros.

Dresses came out in sleeveless, slim lines in looks made famous by Audrey Hepburn films, or full-skirted in lampshade or bell shapes, also echoing the 1960s, a nostalgia that probably won’t win out on the streets.

Tiny waists, in an hourglass look, are in. Shoulders are usually still shaped with minimal padding, especially at Saint Laurent and Givenchy, but less at Lacroix, who always liked the slope-shoulder, big-collared look.

Fabrics for summer are lighter than ever, and evanescent in evening wear. Daytime spring suits and coats came out in the lightest of wools and gabardine. The quilted, embossed or pique cottons for couture were extraordinary, sometimes threaded with touches of gold on white.

Even more opulent were the slubbed or shantung silks, the airy organzas, the evanescent chiffons, heavy-textured or light linens. Slightly stiffer gazar was used by all the couturiers to shape many late-day clothes, though still with a light effect.

Prints were usually in extraordinary flowers, on satin, organza or chiffon.

Favorite color schemes for spring were based on strong navy, black and creamy white for daytime. The subtle neutrals, from beige and sandy desert tones to ruddy rust, added sobriety to these expensive collections.

But soft pastels popped up along with stronger shades like flame red, shocking pink or bright apple green.

If elaborate couture outfits are just dreams for most women, they are expensive showcases for the big couture houses, who may lose money making clothes that look like museum pieces.

But the publicity generated by these shows does help to sell ready-to-wear, accessories and perfume and keep the French luxury fashion industry in business.

Jacques Mouclier, president of the French fashion association, the Chambre Syndicale, said: ″Even if there’s a war on in the Persian Gulf, we’ve got to go on. We can’t cancel out 40,000 people working in the couture industry.″

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