Donatella Versace turned the luxury dial to full throttle Monday, sending out glamorous gladiators dripping with gold and lace as the Italian designer made her comeback to the haute couture club.
The Versace Atelier line was the house's first couture collection following an eight-year hiatus, kicking off three days of spring-summer shows in Paris headlined by such names as Chanel, Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier and Givenchy.
"She's a very glamorous warrior," the tanned, platinum blonde designer told AFP backstage after the show, staged Monday morning on a gold-coloured podium under the frescoes of the historic Beaux Arts school on the banks of the Seine.
Opera legend Maria Callas provided the soundtrack as US model of the moment Karlie Kloss stepped out, sculpted head-to-toe in French lace with scintillating floral embroidery.
Half a dozen models in pale watery green were followed by an explosive sunflower yellow, then gold, fluorescent green and a bright coral orange with perspex embroidery, and gold again for the finale.
Dazzling decadence was the watchword, with strips of metal plated with real gold circling the dresses like luxury body armour, around a shoulder, across the back or down the side of the ribs.
Curlicued laser-cut embroidery added to the science-fiction air, with hair scraped tightly back into high pony tails.
Sheer floor-length lace and embroidery dresses exposed legs up to the thigh, while short body-sculpting models in lace or leather came with shield-like plates on the front of stilettos, or reaching up above the knee.
"Versace's woman is sculptured, conscious of her body, and has a taste for futurism," the designer - herself dressed all in black - told reporters.
"And I always have in mind the celebrities."
A-listers who lined up backstage amid the media scrum for the obligatory photo shoot with the designer included actresses Cameron Diaz, Diane Kruger and Abbie Cornish.
"What I love about Donatella Versace's design is that she nevers forgets she is dressing a woman," Diaz told AFP afterwards. "I love the architecture of the clothing, and the way it reflects the light."
Likewise, Karlie Kloss, smiling broadly despite her impossibly tight-fitting bodice, insisted: "It feels good! It keeps it all in!"
Haute couture is a protected appellation in France, awarded based on strict criteria like the amount of work carried out by hand and in-house, and the share of pieces made to measure.
Two dozen houses will be sending out one-off creations over three days of exclusive shows in Paris, their dizzying artistry matched only by their astronomical price tags, with wedding dresses reaching 100,000 euros ($130,000) or more.
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