Paris catwalk dazzles as Balmain leads charge of flash brigade


Paris (AFP)

Paris fashion got flashy Friday with an explosion of retina-burning reflective fabrics hitting the catwalk expressly designed to light up the red carpet.

Three days before the biggest glitz fest of the year at the Oscars, Balmain took bling to the edge of space with mirrored and hologram trouser suits that caught every photon in the room.

The massive 90-look collection from the young French designer Olivier Rousteing, whose uber sexy and often borderline tacky aesthetic is beloved of pop divas like Beyonce, Taylor Swift as well as the Kardashian clan, came with its own Snapchat lens, all the better to share on social media.

Rousteing claimed it was "the world's first digital accessory", although his flashy fabrics did not have the same technological edge as equally eye-catching futuristic clothes shown earlier in Paris fashion week by Margiela and the avant-garde Japanese label Anrealage.

Margiela's John Galliano caused a sensation when he used new shimmering fluorescent materials in a co-ed Paris show in January, with fashionistas thrilled by how colours and patterns visible to the naked eye changed when seen through the lens of a smartphone.

Many took it as a wry commentary on a snap-happy society caught in a social media hall of mirrors.

The British designer further refined his use of the Mylar-like materials in his space-themed women's show on Wednesday, using them for sweet-wrapper suits and raincoats, as well as under transparent macks.

Anrealage has experimented with similar techniques, but used them sparingly in their poetically minimalist show on Tuesday.

- Dazzling silver and Day-Glo -

Off-White's Virgil Abloh went straight for the wow factor Thursday with an off-the-shoulder silver mini-dress, while Paco Rabanne had earlier sent out a squadron of shiny clinking chainmail dresses that played subtle tribute to the brand's heritage.

Rousteing, however, prefers the big gesture.

He calls himself a "maximalist", and drew plaudits from many critics Friday for reining himself and avoiding the extravagant showgirl "vulgarity" of some previous shows.

There was even a pleasing touch of restraint about the wave after wave of vivid and glow-in-the-dark outfits he sent out. And his shiny shot silk, organza and vinyl creations dazzled in a good way.

But old habits die hard. Vanessa Friedman, of the New York Times could hardly believe her eyes at a striped black and white top and trousers and a bandolier mini combo fashioned from the "Balmain Paris" logo.

"It takes logo mania to a new level," she tweeted.

She described a couple of striking tops as having "Komodo dragon" frills, while Hollywood Reporter style editor Booth Moore said she "appreciated Rousteing's casual looks" yet could not help gaping at a pair of spectacular black stilettos that looked like they had been made from an exotic bird.

Rousteing has built up a "Balmain Army" of 4.7 million followers on Snapchat's rival social network, Instagram, with the help of celebrity friends like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus.

But the creator criticised the platform Friday, telling the Wall Street Journal that it was losing credibility by allowing brands to pay social media influencers to flaunt their products in their posts.

"Five years ago, there was an authenticity, where no one was paid to post a product. Everybody was posting what they believe in," he said.

"Instagram is not what it used to be."