Second lines take centre stage ahead of haute couture shows

By Jenny Barchfield

PARIS - Designers fielded spring-summer 2011 collections for their lower-priced second lines yesterday, on the eve of Paris' rarified haute couture displays.

British madcap Vivienne Westwood, emerging French designer Anne Valerie Hash and Belgian design duo AF Vandevorst fielded their most commercial, most accessible lines, which were full of casual layered looks in light knits that looked like something someone would actually wear.

Known as Paris Fashion Days, yesterday's event was aimed at giving the second lines - which have long been seen as ready-to-wear's ugly stepsister - a high-glamour patina.

"Before, designers were almost embarrassed by their second lines," said Muriel Piaser, exhibitions director at Pret a Porter Paris, which organised the two-day-long event, held in a marble hall at Paris' former stock market.

"In today's economic climate, that kind of attitude is no longer possible because the client has changed. Designers are now recognising that they can use their second lines, with their much lower price points, to promote their top ready-to-wear lines."

That was the case with Hash, who launched her second line, AVH by Anne Valerie Hash, with a catwalk show at the event - instead of fielding a haute couture show later in the week.

"For a small company like us, it wasn't financially possible to do both," Hash told The Associated Press in a backstage interview.

"We needed a line that would boost the main ready-to-wear line, something inexpensive that would tap into the energy of streetwear."

She served cuffed shorts paired with tanks and cardigans and elegant draped pantsuits in feather-light knits. The collection, to be manufactured in Eastern Europe, captured the relaxed Parisian chic that has become the trademark of both Hash's ready-to-wear and couture lines.

Knitwear was also at the heart of A. Friend, Vandevorst's lower-priced line. The design duo layered knit tankdresses and cowl-neck sweaters over slouchy, drop-crotched leggings.

For Anglomania, Westwood delivered swingy dresses with waspwaisted bustier-belt hybrids and skintight jeans and sleeveless vests in metallic denim.

Paris Fashion Days will open its doors to the public on Tuesday, with runway shows by smaller, lesser-known labels including Pablo, French label Gerard Darel's second line.

The second lines, with their low price points and mass-market appeal, were at the opposite end of the spectrum from couture collections - where designers showcase their savoir faire with hand-sewn, made-to-measure gowns that cost as much as a car, or even several cars.

Paris' haute couture extravaganza starts on Monday local time, with luxury supernova Dior's ever-sumptuous, media-saturated display.

- AP

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