French fashion designer inspired by Romania

ALISON MUTLER
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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — One model dressed as a Transylvanian roof, while another sashayed in an outfit meant to resemble the streets of Bucharest.

Welcome to fashion, Romania-style.

Romanian-based French designer Philippe Guilet, who has worked with the likes of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld, has created a collection inspired by Romania's ancient peasant traditions and modern urban jungle.

His "Prejudice" collection showcases in Paris early next year.

Beyond fashion, Guilet aims to present a more beautiful Romania, a country whose image is blighted in France and elsewhere by images of aggressive beggars, social welfare scroungers and computer hackers.

The collection, which premiered at the French embassy last week, thrilled Romanians, leaving some in tears over the spectacle of their humble village crafts being whipped up into world-class couture.

The collection features a chiffon-lined women's suit covered in tufts of wood which evoke a Transylvanian roof and a figure-hugging dress embroidered with an applique design resembling a colorful Romanian Easter egg.

The bridal gown was concocted from 20 handmade virgin-white tablecloths of cotton and silk. A model walked down the catwalk in a dress wreathed in black cables, meant to conjure up the chaotic tangle of Bucharest's streets.

"We have produced something beautiful ... It's a passport for Romania," the 47-year-old Guilet, a former research director for Jean-Paul Gaultier, told The Associated Press in an interview.

Guilet shared the stage with other designers, united in the theme of celebrating Romanian culture.

Underprivileged Gypsies crafted metal bracelets from tin drainpipes, while Romanian shoe designer Mihaela Glavan created shoes and boots with heels that are a miniature of sculptor Constantin Brancusi's most famous sculpture, the "Endless column."

"Our objective is to show designers and trendsetters (in Paris) they can work with Romanian artisans," said Oana Marinescu who heads the 100%RO project, which promotes Romanian heritage and supported the collection. "The accent is on what Romania has beautiful."

Some of the clothes were simply breathtaking in their intricacy, a core element in Romanian artisan work.

A Greek-style column dress, weeks in the making, was a vision of 198 pearly grey-green jersey silk ribbons, inspired by the River Danube which runs through Romania.

Kilograms (pounds) of beads, which take hours to assemble and are a staple of Romanian rural arts, were used tapestry-like in evening dresses, matador jackets and even a sweat shirt, for a modern urban twist.

There was one drawback. A reporter drawn to try on some of the exquisite items discovered that, like all authentic couture, the clothes were only in size 36 (U.S. size six).