Fashion stalwarts, rookie designers mix in Paris

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PARIS, Oct 8 (Reuters) Autumn leaves from the Tuileries gardens wafted over Olivier Theyskens' catwalk as the young designer presented nature-inspired, silky dresses in his second collection for fashion label Nina Ricci.

Theyskens, 30, who came from fashion house Rochas after the label stopped its fashion business last year, paraded out models wearing light, pastel-coloured dresses and large woollen cardigans as they walked through an open tent in the Tuileries.

Taking over at an established label is a tricky task for designers who need to prove their own style while respecting the history of a house.

Sweden's Paulo Melim Andersson faced the same challenge at Chloe, where he rolled out his second collection on Saturday, presenting dungaree-style dresses worn with transparent tops and slim, shimmering trousers.

At Ricci, Theyskens has had a good start, said Mario Grauso, president of the Puig fashion group to which the label belongs, adding the response from retailers to the first collection had been very strong.

''It's been a real pleasure to work with Olivier. I'm even more upbeat now after almost a year,'' he told reporters. ''It's very exciting and the clothes are selling beautifully.'' Theyskens paraded out models in shimmering dresses, worn with short jackets with wide slits in the back. The show closed with high-waisted white gowns with long, voluminous trains.

''For me, the theme was girls coming back from a ball who you would find on the side of the street in the early morning,'' the soft-spoken Theyskens yesterday said backstage.

''I wanted to finish on a pure Ricci note. And to me that pure Ricci note are the white dresses at the end,'' he said.

NEW AND OLD FACES The Nina Ricci show was one of the last presentations in a fashion marathon that has taken editors and buyers from New York to London, Milan and Paris in the past few weeks.

In Paris, fashion stalwarts such as Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino presented their collections alongside a series of new faces, including Indian designers Manish Arora and Anamika.

Japan's Limi Feu also showed in Paris for the first time as her father, established designer Yohji Yamamoto, watched on.

''I'm very nervous,'' Yamamoto told Reuters before the show on Saturday, in which his daughter turned out sharply tailored black jackets, worn over long white shirts with floating lapels.

Vivid colours dominated the runway this week, as Italy's Valentino rolled out long gowns in his signature red in his last ready-to-wear show, and sequins sparkled on sleek dresses at Kenzo, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.

''It's certainly a season where colours seem to be an overriding message on every runway,'' said Ken Downing, fashion director at upmarket US store Neiman Marcus. ''Even designers of whom you don't particularly think of doing colours have made really bold statements, with hot turquoises and hot pinks.'' REUTERS ARB RN0840

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