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J. Lopez designer Murad caps Paris couture-week shows

| Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Paris' frenetic spring-summer couture week wrapped up with displays mixing one of Jennifer Lopez's favorite red-carpet designers, Zuhair Murad, with other promising up-and-coming names.

Meanwhile, Christie's sold off a collection of objects belonging to the late, great couturier Elsa Schiaparelli for an incredible $2.3 million, provided by her granddaughter, actress Marisa Berenson. The sale had animal-rights groups complaining for including a monkey-fur cape, which didn't end up selling and comes a few days after a prominent fashionista was criticized for wearing gorilla fur.

Here are the day's highlights:

Is Zuhair Murad the new Elie Saab?

He's Lebanese, shows couture in Paris and has a list of faithful celebrity clients including Lopez, Taylor Swift and Kristen Stewart that love his sparkling gowns.

But it's not Elie Saab. It's Zuhair Murad.

Despite the constant comparisons with Lebanon's most established designer, the 42-year-old up-and-comer fortunately does not seem to mind.

“Why not? I love his work. He's a very good couturier,” Beirut-based Murad told The Associated Press.

“But talent or style isn't to do with the country you come from. Each one of us has our own separate vision.”

And Murad's fashion vision seems to be working, at least if awards ceremonies' red carpets are anything to go by.

He designed Lopez's white illusion-lace mermaid gown for last year's Golden Globes, and her Oscars gown the year before that had alternating stripes of sheer and metallic fabric.

The garden of Murad

To the backdrop of a luscious Garden of Eden, models sported waists cinched from belts made of golden leaves in Murad's spring-summer 2014 show.

The pure alabaster white, symbolic of pre-Fall innocence, mixed with colors the program notes describe as a “cornucopia of camellias, roses, sweetbriar laurels, and... heavenly plumage.”

Like Saab, Murad's cuts clasp the natural high waist of the female silhouette, often on full skirts. Features such as peplums and silk swags emphasized feminine curves.

A series of gowns in yellow and lavender felt a little saccharine — colors more associated with the 1950s, than today, perhaps.

But the sheer luxury of the crepe, organza, shantung, tulle, lace and embroideries made this collection work.

Schiaparelli's landmark auction

Christie's Paris auctioned off a personal collection of objects belonging to Elsa Schiaparelli, the influential fashion designer and hated rival of Coco Chanel.

It was a landmark sale made possible only after the collection was passed by descent to her granddaughter, “I Am Love” and “Cabaret” actress Berenson.

The eccentric couturier, who was born in 1890 and died in 1973, was known for her avant-garde taste and Surrealist friends.

A bronze lamp made by sculptor Alberto Giacometti sold for $230,347. Beautiful Man Ray photographs, and one of the designer by Horst P. Horst, sold for $55,338.

However, a monkey-fur cape, whose sale was branded “unacceptable” by animal-rights group PETA, didn't sell.

Up-and-comers hit couture

In the snooty world of fashion, it's nice to know that Paris couture week has been extended by a day to give opportunities to rising talent to make their mark.

In their debut show, British couture house Ralph & Russo produced a beautifully executed display of classical couture ball gowns that was inspired by the glorious '40s and '50s.

Fabric was rolled to look like roses, and silken swags hung romantically.

One raspberry gazar ball gown, with a full, sweeping skirt and large, undulating folds — had a finesse akin to Galliano-era Dior and made it seem surprising that this show was only their debut.

The house is fronted by Australians Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo, who, in a romantic twist, are about to get married. The question is: Will she don the bridal lavish gown that came out at the end?

Serkan Cura, meanwhile, presented a theatrical collection of darkly plumed creations and corsets.

To a rather unnerving soundtrack of birds' tweeting (or were they squawking scared?), bird feathers billowed from hips or shimmered like a raven on a jacket.

White plumes frothed in all over one of the more abstract white looks that looked like a sea creature, holding a great spiked fan shaped like a seashell.

Thomas Adamson is an AP fashion writer.

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