Fantasy world Fashion: An ABC special aims to capture the magic and glamour of Paris' haute couture shows.

July 19, 1998|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,SUN STAFF

The backdrop is Paris. Celebrity sightings abound. The scene: high fashion at its most fanciful.

In the past, fans of haute couture had to rely on magazines, newspapers and TV snippets to get their fill of these grand runway events. But Thursday at 9 p.m., fashion lovers will get a rare chance to see shows by Dior, Chanel, Valentino and others in the ABC special "The World Fashion Premiere From Paris."

Actresses Anne Archer and Isabella Rossellini are the hosts of the program, which highlights the 21 haute couture shows, where gowns can cost as much as $250,000. It will take viewers behind the scenes at this pinnacle of fashion and offer commentary from fashion's media elite.

"Haute couture is really a laboratory for new ideas," says Archer, who compares the shows to performance art. "The clothes are so shockingly beautiful. ... It's fantasy time for women. It gives you goose bumps."

The program began taping yesterday with the opening of the fall-winter shows with permission from the Federation Francaise de la Couture du Pret-a-Porter des Couturiers et des Createurs de Mode, the governing body of French designers.

Typically, the organization puts restrictions on what can be shown and how much of it, in large part because designers fear competition and copycats. But Archer and her husband, Terry Jastrow, producers of the program, were able to convince the federation that the show would benefit all designers, and got the rights for the next five years.

The idea to turn this event into a prime-time special came to them after attending the shows themselves.

"They are very exciting. They're beautiful, romantic, ... often very glamorous. Sometimes a little sexy," Jastrow says. "I felt these would be fabulous television."

He also was enchanted by the personalities in the industry. Young avant-garde newcomers like Alexander McQueen (of Givenchy) and John Galliano (of Christian Dior) have helped impart a hip, bad-boy image to French fashion today, which adds to the entertainment.

Jastrow, who is executive producer, is relying on his sports background to help him pull the program together under tight time constraints. He's produced or directed programming from six Olympic games, covered numerous sporting events, including the Super Bowl, and received seven Emmys.

"First of all, it's an event, a happening," he says. "We're used to going in and trying to capture the moment."

Jastrow says he was given only one restriction: During the special, the collections must be shown in the order in which they actually occurred.

Archer and Rossellini will introduce segments from their post atop the Louvre Museum overlooking Paris. Dani Behr, a British television fashion journalist, will be a roving reporter. And commentary will come from fashion's heavy hitters: Andre Leon Talley and Katherine Betts of Vogue; Patrick McCarthy of Women's Wear Daily; Marin Hopper of Elle; and Liz Tilberis of Harper's Bazaar. They'll provide context, explaining how these sometimes flamboyant designs will be translated into the average woman's closet.

So far, the network hasn't committed to airing the spring haute couture shows that take place in January, preferring to wait and see what kind of audience tunes in this time. Says Jastrow: "They want to see how effective and wonderful we can make it."

'The World Fashion Premiere From Paris'

What: A television look at the Paris haute couture shows. The special stars Anne Archer (left) and Isabella Rossellini.

When: Thursday, 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Where: Channel 2 (ABC)

Pub Date: 7/19/98

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