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PARIS Spring 2004

The House of Givenchy has recently been distancing itself from the name Julien McDonald. The website has archived him in the history section, right after his two immediate successors, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. Publicity ads now feature perfumes and accessories exclusively, while former press officer, Lionel Vermeil, giving up all pretense of defending the situation, has returned to Jean Paul Gaultier.

In his lackluster 3-year stint as Artistic Director of one of the most noble of Parisian labels, McDonald's work has yet to earn a single good review, and the disappointing collection shown Saturday afternoon won him few, if any, new friends.

  Julien, who has previously hidden behind the skirts of Audrey Hepburn - resurrecting her image and wardrobe last season in attempt to avoid the guillotine, seems to have moved on this time to the hippie era, say circa 1969. With a flurry of tassels, corset vests, and cone-shaped gowns of taffeta interspersed with lace, he proved yet again that elegance is just not a word with which he jives.

The look belonged in Woodstock, not a chic penthouse on Park Avenue, and therein lies the trouble.

Struggling to interject a note of modernity into the rich tradition of Givenchy, McDonald has never quite been able to get the mix right.

It would have probably taken a major miracle to save him, and with his contract now running down with final days of the year, one can only think of the line sung in duet by Eva Gabor (another former client of the House) and Eddie Albert: "Goodbye city life. Green Acres we are there!"