Paris show gives credit to style from the streets


Every season, one show in Paris goes beyond fashion. It gives people a slice of Paris life they could never find on their own. This season, which ended Friday, the Xuly Bet show was the ticket. Staged on an empty floor of Le Samarataine, a local department store, and attended by all the usual suspects from the fashion industry plus a hundred or so of the designer's friends, it was a reminder of where style is born -- in the streets.

Starting with Lamine Kouyate himself. He's the 20-something Mali native who designs the Xuly Bet collection. Imagine him dressed in a tailored white shirt, sleeves rolled well above the elbows, topped by a fitted white T-shirt touting his company name and the slogan "100 percent Pure Afro."

Tied around his waist were a patterned red sweater rolled up like a cummerbund and, over that, the sleeves of a navy pea coat. In khaki pants, with African trading beads around his neck and wrist, dreadlock bangs pushed back against a crew cut, eyes sparkling, knees bending to the beat of the music, he was the joyous host of a huge, earthy bash.

The audience provided the best street fashion show of the week. A man in a monkey-fur hat shaped like a bell would have been surprised to hear that monkey was the preferred fur this season

at Chanel. A woman with rhinestone-studded hair veiling her face turned out to be one of the models.

It was Paris underground, surfacing at the barely civil hour of 3 p.m., its cultural roots newly dug up from Africa, Asia and Europe as well as the United States.

Mr. Kouyate has used tight, stretchy tube dresses as a first layer for several seasons. Karl Lagerfeld does something similar and calls it the "skin dress." Mr. Kouyate puts shorter tunics or longer tweed jackets over his. Mr. Lagerfeld might add a complete suit.

For some women, the skin dress could become part of a modern wardrobe, as indispensable as leggings. But those who put functional dressing ahead of the latest look might find it too contrived.

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