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PARIS (Reuters) - Jean Paul Gaultier sent glittering panthers and 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.
On the last full day of shows at the prestigious Paris fashion week, he put on a highly theatrical display of outfits sewn from leather, feathers and velvet, and named "Catwoman," "Pink Panther" and "Cruella de Ville".
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, known for his irreverence and camp sense of fun. Speaking backstage, he said 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," said Gaultier, whose work is majority-owned by Spanish family luxury group Puig.
The designer said the clown motifs were influenced by Italian director Federico Fellini's film "The Clowns," and David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" video in which the singer is dressed as a clown.
Deep V-shaped external pockets gave a square silhouette to hips on trousers and dresses that evoked the look of a harlequin. Tubes of fabric in outlandishly round, swirling patterns enveloped the models in dresses and tight jackets.
Italian label Valentino presented a whimsical and highly elegant collection from designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli that also took inspiration from the animal kingdom.
A menagerie sprung from the pages of a Renaissance encyclopedia adorned the intricate fabrics on dresses and coats.
The heads of marble lions seen at ancestral manors embellished herringbone coats, while Baroque scrolls and decorative flourishes were incorporated into dresses.
The design pair, whose Spring haute couture show in January was influenced by iron grillwork in a formal garden, opted this time for floral and fauna like coral, feathers and shells as elegant embellishment, as cut-out scrolls imparted drama to ink black coats and dresses.
The Giorgio Armani Prive show on Tuesday night entitled "Nude" featured fluid fabrics like tulle and organza in pale, subtle tones.
Transparent fabric that exposed skin and Swarovski crystals played with the contrasting ideas of nudity and adornment. Black feather necklaces gave a dramatic flair.
Additional Reporting by Hortense de Roffignac, editing by Paul Casciato and Andrew Heavens