Feline frenzy meets Fellini at Gaultier's Paris fashion show

PARIS, July 3 Wed Jul 3, 2013 12:48pm EDT

PARIS, July 3 (Reuters) - Jean Paul Gaultier sent glittering panthers and colourful clowns down the runway on Wednesday as the French designer tapped into feline glamour and Fellini-esque nostalgia for his Autumn/Winter 2013-2014 haute couture collection.

Gaultier, often labelled the bad boy of French fashion for his irreverence and camp sense of fun, presented a highly theatrical show as part of Paris fashion week in which looks inspired by felines and Federico Fellini shared centre stage.

Bearing names such as "Catwoman," "Pink Panther" and "Cruella de Ville", the high-drama outfits were sewn from leather, jersey, feathers, cashmere and velvet.

Even the models' upswept hair was made to resemble the spotted fur of a jungle cat.

"Feline print has been always in fashion in haute couture," said Gaultier backstage, adding that the look still has its "bordello" connotations. "I tried to use it in a new way."

That meant mid-length coats resembling leopard skin that were actually made from feathers: "It's like a chicken mixed with panther," joked Gaultier.

Gaultier, who has always professed his deep love of cinema, said the clown motifs were influenced by "The Clowns," a film by Italian director Federico Fellini, and David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" video in which the singer is dressed as a clown.

Deep V-shaped external pockets imparted a square silhouette to hips on trousers and dresses that evoked the look of a harlequin, while tubes of fabric in outlandishly round, swirling patterns enveloped the body in dresses and tight jackets.

Despite the over-the-top theatricality, the artistry in Gaultier's work is meticulous, as befits those ateliers chosen to show at the Paris haute couture shows.

Couture garments, which are painstakingly hand sewn by highly skilled artisans, are the creme de la creme of the $275 billion global luxury industry.

Jean Paul Gaultier is majority-owned by Spanish family luxury group Puig.

For those opting for a more sombre tone, the Giorgio Armani Prive show on Tuesday night entitled "Nude" featured fluid fabrics like tulle and organza in pale and subtle tones.

Evening gowns were encrusted with Swarovski crystals while black feather necklaces imparted a dramatic flair. (Reporting by Alexandria Sage, editing by Paul Casciato)