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Paris Fashion Week: Can't beat it -- Balmain's military styles march to a Michael Jackson theme

October 2, 2009 |  9:00 am
Balmain Looks like Balmainia is going to continue for at least another season. Christophe Decarnin's flashy, trashy glamour has been driving the fashion world of late, and there's no stopping him now. For spring, the Balmain designer turned to the military look, with coppery metal mesh as the main stylistic element in his raucous show set to 1980s party anthem "Rapper's Delight."

A lot of designers this season are streaming their shows live on the Internet (Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana in Milan, Alexander McQueen this coming Tuesday at 11:10 a.m. PST from Paris), and this certainly would have been a candidate. It had all the sizzle of a Hollywood event, and Decarnin certainly has his finger on the pulse of celebrity culture.

If there is someone who has inadvertently benefited from Michael Jackson's death, it is Decarnin. (Jackson had even wore a few of his jackets.) The designer continued to hark back to the King of Pop with extreme shoulder lines, fringed epaulets and military badges. The 1980s flashback might have started to wear a bit thin, if it were not done so darn well. Coppery mesh was inset into bullet holes on military green tailcoats and destroyed T-shirts, worn over skintight laced leather leggings, and draped into warrior princess mini-dresses cinched with wide crocodile bullet-studded belts that are sure to become cult items.

It's not as if these clothes are new, but their brash sexiness is what's resonating now with Rihanna (sitting front row), Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow and others. It is unapologetically in-your-face, look-at-me fashion.

Balmain's prices are sky-high (think $5,000 for a jacket), which makes it out of reach for almost everyone (aforementioned celebrities not withstanding). And that is certainly part of the allure. But when you look at who is influencing the mass market right now, it's Decarnin -- the sequins, the stripes, the holey jeans and fringed booties. Zara and H&M should be thankful for another hot show to pluck from.

--Booth Moore

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Photo: Balmain's spring-summer 2010 runway. Credit: Peter Stigter and Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times

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