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Paris Men's Collections, Leather Makes Comeback, Who's That Girl?

Romantic textures, military details, and muted colors epitomized the best fall 2009 men's collections in Paris.

Fashion and luxury amicably parted ways some time ago. While luxury is in retreat, fashion keeps looking young, full of hope, and very much alive. Fashionistas at the recent men's fashion shows in Paris were like geese flying in formation, with the venerable house of Lanvin at the pinnacle of the V. The look for autumn '09 that emerged from Lanvin's trendsetting show was more Anne Rice than Stephenie Meyer. Heavy silk scarves thrown on like thrift store finds were paired with equally unfussy velvety jackets and drapey, relaxed trousers that called to mind the feeling of earnestly wearing pants that are too big because you adore the fabric. The footwear was heavy with military reference, as if pragmatically admitting we're in deep shit, globally speaking. I'd like to think the same fashion impulse is behind the resurgence of Doc Martens boots (DrMartens.com), which were on everybody from fashion insiders to boys on the rue. (I was this close to giving in and buying myself a new pair in classic oxblood.) Ladies should check out the new Diva Darcie, an eight-eye, high-heeled boot. The other standout Paris show was by the club-kid ringleader Gareth Pugh, whose collection channeled a heady mix of Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Manson. You can throw a pair of Doc Martens at that look too.

Second Skin Cotton is comfy and wool is warm, but leather has been a second skin since the Paleolithic era. Designers have rediscovered the leather jacket -- and that means the pants are not far behind. My favorite bespoke moment was in the early '90s during a sweaty-palmed trip to the Leather Man (TheLeatherMan.com) on Christopher Street in Manhattan. My loot consisted of a pair of made-to-measure, five-pocket leather jeans in seamless-leg black cowhide, and I spent less than $500. Amazingly, you can still get custom togs at your local leather shop for less than the cost of a cashmere V-neck sweater at the mall. In Los Angeles, try 665 Leather (665Leather.com). In the heartland, a mysterious lady runs the shop Black Market Chicago (BlackMarketChicago.com). Try a custom vest, or a cropped motorcycle jacket. There's something about leather and queers. Maybe that's because it's not a fabric: You don't clothe yourself in it; it's a skin, something in which you sheathe yourself. And your local gay businesses could use the patronage.

Who's That Girl? Remember Ingrid Casares? She was a nightlife impresario -- and Madonna's hottest girlfriend -- who, at the height of her powers, was hailed as heir to Studio 54 founder Steve Rubell. South Beach would simply not be what it is now if not for La Casares. Her signature look is the equivalent of James Dean for girls: a reined-in, rockabilly-inspired boyish haircut; a slim-cut T-shirt paired with jeans; and just the right amount of status label accessories to command respect in any strobe-lit atmosphere. That's the look that stands out now in some of the most chic nightclubs in Paris. Mind you, there weren't many Ingrids, but it takes only one or two in a roomful of cocktail party dresses to turn the tide. As for Casares, I hear she's still one of Madonna's closest friends.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Alex Galan