At home, in fashion

Television: No need to travel to Paris. An ABC program will bring the fall collections to your living room.

July 25, 1999|By Gailor Large | Gailor Large,Special to the Sun

A plane ticket to Paris in July: $821.

Four nights at the Hotel Ritz: $3,040.

Sunglasses to look cool in the front row: $150.

Being able to see the fall/ winter fashion collections from your favorite easy chair: priceless.

This Thursday, fashion fans can get an insider's tour of haute couture with "Paris Fashion Collections," which airs at 9 p.m. on ABC (Channel 2). With fashion industry veteran Isabella Rossellini as host, the program will showcase the collections of 25 of the world's top design houses, including Dior, Chanel, Versace and Lacroix.

Terry Jastrow, the producer of the show, has high hopes for it being hipper, edgier and more behind-the-scenes than last year's.

"Last year we brought audiences to the front row. This year we're bringing them to the front row and inside," says Jastrow. The show will feature a first-hand look, for instance, at the intricacies of haute couture design inside the House of Lesage, a famous embroidery firm where the perfection of a single sleeve can take as long as two weeks.

Jastrow, a seven-time Emmy Award winner whose resume includes the production of six opening or closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, is the chairman of the board of Event Television International (ETI). After an extended courtship, ETI finally received exclusive broadcast rights to the Paris collections from the Chambre Syndicale, the association of couture designers.

Before this, television rights to Paris collections had been restricted to quick clips from each show (no more than seven garments from any one designer). ETI now has permission to attend all shows and may film and broadcast without restriction through the year 2002.

Deciding on a host for the television special was easy, Jastrow says.

"I have a crush on Isabella," he says with a laugh. He goes on to explain that "we wanted to find a high-profile figure, a real star, who at the same time was knowledgeable and sophisticated about fashion."

Rossellini, an actress and former Lancome spokesmodel who had worked in the industry for years, was a natural choice.

Rossellini sees "Paris Fashion Collections" as a reflection of the evolution of haute couture. "It [used to be] an intimate setting," she says, "attended by 100 to 150 people, mostly journalists and buyers." Now it's accessible to anyone with a television set.

Last year she was one of the hosts for the inaugural special with actress Anne Archer. This year Archer has chosen to remain behind the camera as a co-producer alongside her husband, Jastrow, and ETI president Maryann O'Donnell. Rossellini will instead be paired with Vogue magazine's editor-at-large, Andre Leon Talley, who will provide fashion commentary.

Rossellini emphasizes the pure entertainment value of the collections.

"You have to take it as you would a play," she says, albeit one with $30,000 gowns as costumes. She considers each show a collection of "little theater pieces."

This year Jastrow and his directors have added new features to the show. Along with an inside look at the House of Chanel with Karl Lagerfeld, "Paris Fashion Collections" will have segments on Hollywood fashion, models and makeup, and bridal gowns, as well as a 21st- century fashion preview.

Although she can't attend all 25 shows (July 17-21), Rossellini says she won't miss her favorites, including John Galliano for Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, and Valentino and Versace. "Everyone gets excited about the big collections," she says. But she also looks forward to surprises from the younger designers.

While the collections are the proving grounds for trends, Rossellini warns viewers not to take them as a wardrobe guide.

"For me, style begins with paying attention to what looks good to you," she says, "instead of looking to see what others are doing." Rossellini herself likes clothes that have an originality, or clear "signature," whether it's Armani's simple style or Gautier's elaborate flair.

"Paris Fashion Collections" will have them and more. To Jastrow, that's what makes it event television. "I find the observation of it all great fun," he says. "Fascinating fiefdoms exist. There are huge figures with conflicting personalities."

When asked which shows he will be attending, Jastrow equates Paris' most chic week to the Olympics. "It's a very similar event," he says. "It's so fabulous, you try to sneak into as many as you can."

Fashionable TV

"Paris Fashion Collections"

WHEN:

9 p.m. Thursday, July 29

WHERE:

ABC-TV (Channel 2)

Pub Date: 07/25/99

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