Winter yet again, but designers upbeat

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With a long, grueling winter barely over, it is hard to drum up enthusiasm yet for fashion for next autumn.

Mercifully the designers showing on the first full day of Paris ready-to-wear week for winter 2011 on Wednesday were in upbeat mood, with injections of color and touches of frivolity to lift the spirits.

Dutch designer Dries Van Noten cleverly combined feminine, retro chic with an edgy, more masculine modernity, sent out to the soundtrack of Hitchcock s Vertigo reworked by punk pioneer Malcom McLaren.

A favorite shape was the ultra-full 1950s circle skirt, which he made up in felted wool, one version adorned with buttons like the front of a double-breasted jacket.

Close-fitting coats and jackets were sculpted to the body with darts, while his preferred pants were jodhpurs, sexily buttoned up from ankle to calf and tucked into ankle boots.

All this might have looked austere in his palette of sludge green, navy, prune and brick red, if he hadn t also taken a big fancy to fake leopardskin.

Leopard-printed rabbit mufflers and body-warmers, vests and cozy jackets abounded, as did accessories like big tote bags in mock croc.

Then he further lightened up the collection with brilliant hand-painted prints in shiny duchesse satin, whether bold abstract brushstrokes in midnight blue, peacock or lime, or daubed florals on a white ground.

Slinky satin print pant suits, frocks with flashes of metallic embroidery and skinny skirts in glittery fabrics offered plenty of options for after dark.

Marco Zannini for Rochas, who worked with Donatella Versace, went for a higher octane glamour. All his models sported bouffant hairdos and shades a la Sophia Loren.

He also had a penchant for a leopardskin print, which turned up on footwear from flat knee-high boots to mules and on a ponyskin car coat. Even more attention grabbing were stack-heeled shoes encrusted with rhinestones.

At the core of the collection were skintight leather pants, classic coats in camel and cream boucle, and cardies with gold leather elbow patches, gilt buttons and narrow gilt belts.

His frilled scarlet velvet two-piece top and skirt, and tunic and pants suit with a gilt leaf design, were pure 1960s Hollywood.

Limi Feu, daughter of veteran Japanese designer Yoji Yamamoto, shared Van Noten s enthusiasm for jodhpurs as the next season s shape for pants.

Hers were often very full indeed, with high drawstring waists, paired with a big white blouse or a fur jacket with a wide patent belt and tucked into ankle-high biker s boots with straps.

Exaggerated dimensions were a strong feature of the collection, as much as black was the default color.

A leather biker s jacket had a big double peplum behind, a mini cape was superimposed on a maxi cape, a giant cowl collar poked out from a coat with a cape dipping behind. Outsize lapels were all that was left of a jacket, from which the sleeves had been pared away and see-through black chiffon panels inserted at the sides.

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