Milan and Paris, From a Distance

A whirlwind tour of the European collections

Phew!

After not attending the fashion shows in Milan and Paris, we are so not exhausted! No rushing from Malpensa to Charles de Gaulle for us, our little faces buried under a mountain of swag. No desperately searching the luggage carousel, seeking our monogrammed Vuitton satchel in a sea of identical duffels.

We prefer to visit the European catwalks from our own comfy perch, one bejeweled finger happily clicking through the files on style.com. (Which is a good thing, since nobody offered to send us to Europe this season.) This way, we're always in the front row. Sometimes we sit near the models' entrance (a fun spot where you can glimpse the last minute preparation backstage—we once watched Donatella dandling Lourdes Ciccone all through the Versace show.) Or we'll occupy an even more popular spot, nearest the exit, so we can run like bats out of hell the minute the show is over.

Since of course we're invited to everything, we have to pick and choose. Here is what we never miss when we're not covering the European collections:

In Italy, we always make sure we are front and center at the Prada show. We are sorry to report that though we dearly loved Miuccia's granny looks of six months ago—glittery brooches, dowdy cardigans—we are less impressed with this season's rather stumpy silhouettes decorated in some cases with appliquéd birds. At Dolce & Gabbana, the animal of choice is the python: real snake on their runway, but you can just bet it'll show up shortly on printed synthetics at places like Tar-jay. (Full disclosure: we almost always think animal prints, fake or real, are a little sleazy.) In any case, we much preferred D&G 10 years ago when they were doing their Italian widow homage.

We are surprised at how much we like the floaty, ruffly chiffon confections at Roberto Cavalli, a man notorious for his rather antiquated views about women. (One sometimes gets the impression he thinks we should all be sex slaves.) Closer to our hearts are the gossamer frocks from Anna Molinari, so sheer your bra and panties—if you elect to wear them—are clearly visible beneath. (We'll be wearing this stuff over full union suits, but maybe that's just us.)

We've barely recovered from imaginary jet lag and it's time to move on to Paris! At Comme des Garçons we're in love with the oversized motorcycle jackets (easy find at your local thrift shop) paired with tutus (equally available at a dance store). The usual tough chic at Alexander McQueen has been tempered with teacup shaped skirts that have scalloped hems, an excursion into the pretty-pretty Candyland currently mesmerizing designers on both sides of the Atlantic.

The slender silhouettes and puffy sleeves at Louis Vuitton are a whole lot harder to wear—for this label, maybe stick to the much-vaunted purses, preferably the excellent fakes sold from blankets uptown on Madison Avenue. (Stop in to the Vuitton flagship at 57th and 5th before buying so you can compare.)

Our last stop in the city of light is the Lanvin show. Lanvin's current designer, Alber Elbaz, began his tenure without any of the buzz attending other designers who have taken the reigns at other venerated houses. In Elbaz's case, the acclaim grew quietly, and, wonder of wonders, was not based on the designer's personal sex appeal but rather on the allure of the clothes, which this season includes Easter egg lavender silk suits with—yes!—poufy sirts. (Beware: a lot of these Lanvin's clothes appear to be sized for the Japanese market. We tried on some heavily discounted Lanvin at Saks a few seasons ago, and it was a pretty sad spectacle.)

But the most fun we have on our non-visit to the shows is at Dries Van Noten, where a banquet table long enough to accommodate 500 people is set up, and a three-course meal is served to the editors, buyers, and other special guests in attendance. Instead of a runway, the models walk the table between entrée and desert, and of course everyone, including us, thinks the clothes look scrumptious.

So delicious, in fact, that we jump up from the computer, open the fridge, and pop a Lean Cuisine in the oven.

 
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