Paris falls head over eels for British fashion

Fiachra GIBBONS
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Voyage into the future: Models walk the catwalk in British designer Craig Brown's debut Paris show

Voyage into the future: Models walk the catwalk in British designer Craig Brown's debut Paris show (AFP Photo/FRANCOIS GUILLOT)

Paris (AFP) - Eels were once a staple dish for working-class Londoners.

Now dandies everywhere will be queueing up to wear them after Dunhill's Paris men's fashion week show Sunday went off the scales.

Mark Weston -- who is known for his cleverly engineered clothes -- lit up the catwalk with the ingeniously chic way he used the skin of the sea's most slithery customer.

With British designers dominating the final day of the men's show in the French capital, Weston gave an unexpectedly sensual allure to the most unlikely of luxury materials.

In a sleek collection of shimmering and silky blacks and reds inspired by the 1980s New Romantic movement, and The Blitz nightclub in London in particular, the designer gave a dashing new dynamism to the heritage English label.

With the rock star sheen he gave it, there is nothing fishy about eel skin, Weston told AFP afterwards.

"It is super-fine and delicate to work with and can be a bit papery to start with. But Dunhill is a leather house so we have these capabilities to experiment," he said.

"We gave it a bit of a sheen and it takes colours so beautifully and naturally," he said of his suddenly fashionable fish pelts, which had critics and fashion buyers reaching out to touch them.

- Eat then wear -

"And it's natural," Weston added. "People eat eels all over the world so it's a natural byproduct. I love the fact that they are being repurposed like this."

Dunhill was the second major weekend show to channel the New Romantic movement, with Dior paying tribute to the late Judy Blame -- the one-time Duran Duran stylist -- in a collection of bravura aristocratic elegance on Friday.

While the British veteran Paul Smith must be pleased to see fashion return to the tailoring he has so long championed, the loudest cheer for a Brit was for Paris newbie Craig Green, who at 33 is 40 years Smith's junior.

Three times London menswear designer of the year, Green arrived trailing quite a reputation, and the youthful avant-gardist made no compromises with an out-there show based around intimacy and the "packaging of the body and of people".

Using a type of polythene and leather for future survival clothes that could have come from Ridley Scott's "Alien: Covenant", for which he designed the costumes, they are unlikely to trouble the high street.

- Romancing the Hadids -

Yet there was an undeniable poetry and thoughtfulness about the way he transformed throwaway materials like the rubbery meshes used to wrap fruit.

And there was a reflective quality too about his closing looks that used colourful blinds as a metaphor for peering out windows, even if the models rather looked like they had been hit by kites.

While the debate rages over whether Green is the "true genius" of London hype, Lanvin's even younger star Bruno Sialelli is already clearly the "full package".

His joyously romantic collection was based on Corto Maltese, the dashing and erudite naval officer who was the hero of Hugo Pratt's cult graphic novel series.

Having already paid homage to Babar the Elephant in a previous collection for the revived French house, 31-year-old Sialelli again plundered his childhood comic books for his youthful nostalgic vibe, with jackets modelled after Corto's officer's coat.

With the Hadid sisters Bella and Gigi also walking the co-ed show alongside South Sudanese supermodel Adut Akech, there were plenty of echos too of the glamorous women Corto romanced on his swashbuckling adventures around the globe.