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Photographed by Gabriel Karanfil

America has not entirely come to grips with its own experience in Vietnam, but the French have an older one, an era often whitewashed, and as painful to look back on as the war. And so it was all the more exceptional that Antonio Marras turned to the Mekong and Colonial Vietnam for inspiration for his Summer 2006 collection for Kenzo.

Fashion shows are seldom the place to make political statements, and so Marras concentrated on evoking an era - a certain grandeur now lost to time . (Even the waltzes used as a soundtrack bore out that theme.) Of the 50 models, the single Indochinese carried a small baby. The sigh that instantly went up from the audience was probably a reaction to the tenderness of the moment given that most people in the room were far too young to remember grainy images from long ago.

Politics aside, the show sizzled. From the opening sailor-inspired outfits that included a fishnet lacy top and a beret sprouting a tricolor pompom, to the frothing pleated skirts and tiers of joyful prints, the show was exuberant. Add in sparkling embroidery, exquisite floral print suits, a glittering pancho, a vest shining as fresh as new fallen snow, an evening gown splashed with webs of jet beads, and you can see that Marras has very convincingly worked with the eclectic tradition of the house to come up with winning codes.

Without doubt, the Kenzo show won first prize for staging, even before a boatload of models sailed out onto the stage and silver confetti fell from the sky. The attention paid to the presentation was as exceptional as the clothes that were shown.


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