Eiffel Tower-top show gives picture-perfect start to Paris’ ready-to-wear week

PARIS – It would have been impossible to plan a more picture-postcard perfect start to Paris fashion week than Portuguese designer Fatima Lopes’ spring-summer 2012 ready-to-wear display Tuesday atop the Eiffel Tower, where the clothes fought for the audience’s attention with a breathtaking view of the City of Light.

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Sure, the venue presented a unique set of challenges: Ushering hundreds of fashionistas perched atop vertiginous heels and sewn into hobblingly narrow skirts into any old building is difficult enough under the best of circumstances. Whisking them hundreds of metres into the air atop one of the world’s most frequented tourist sites aboard achingly slow turn-of-the-century elevators is another problem altogether.

But even though they had to rub shoulders with the touristus vulgaris and dodge packs of souvenir sellers who proved even more pesky than the paparazzi, fashion insiders were tickled by the Lopes display – the first fashion show anyone could remember atop the Eiffel Tower.

Day 1 of Paris’ marathon nine-day-long collections is generally dominated by up-and-coming labels, and Tuesday was no exception. The French fashion world’s latest darling, Belgian designer Anthony Vaccarello, was the sartorial high point of the day, with his sex-drenched collection of ultra-minidresses aimed at a very specific demographic: jet-set party girls with endless legs.

Paris fashion week ratchets it up a gear on Wednesday, with displays by another Belgian critical darling, Dries Van Noten, and British bad boy Gareth Pugh.

ANTHONY VACCARELLO

Vaccarello won one of the French fashion world’s top prizes – this year’s ANDAM award – and the feeling that this young Belgian-born designer has friends in high places was faintly palpable at the show: On a day dominated by small houses of limited means, Vaccarello’s display stood out for its high production value and cast of coveted top models.

Luckily, the clothes – black ultra-minidresses with sexy cutout panelling, suggestive zippers and webbing that looked sure to snare just about any prey – lived up to the girls wearing them.

Leggy American model Karlie Kloss vamped it up in an asymmetrical gown that looked like it had mated with 1980s swimsuits, leaving one of her endless legs entirely uncovered up to the hip, while the other was swathed in rippling panels of stretchy knits.

Narrow bands of material looped around metal wiring to form the barest of tops – paired with the shortest of skirts in gleaming microfibre. A plunging V-neckline and bare back won a black onesie the title of world’s sexiest overalls.

Besides some tops in sheer snake printed silk, everything was black or navy – and looked short and steamy enough to become the new uniform of the elite army of international party girls.

FATIMA LOPES

As the first model emerged onto the Eiffel Tower-top catwalk, thick black curtains parted to reveal a phenomenal view over Paris, and the low beige cityscape – bathed in the radiant glow of the Indian summer sum – competed for the audience’s attention with the clothes themselves.

Had the garments not been in screaming neons, the view might have won out.

But Lopes punctuated her featherweight slip dresses in translucent silks with vinyl detailings in a rainbow of eye-popping shades. The fluorescent orange neckline of an ankle-length beige sundress recalled a cyclist’s safety vest. A second-skin bustier dress was a patchwork of vertical strips of fuchsia, lemon and tangerine polyurethane. The barely pubescent models’ lips were lacquered in matching shades, and they wore 15-centimetre heels adorned with metal hardware that recalled the Eiffel Tower’s steel beams and struts.

It was the first time in recent memory that a fashion show on Paris’ official calendar has been held in the iconic monument – and considering the logistical challenge of getting everyone up the tower, it was probably just as well.

Still, though they’d never admit as much, even the most blase globe-trotting fashion insiders got a kick out of their trip up one of the world’s most iconic monuments.

COMMUUN

The Japanese label served up lightweight A-line dresses and cropped trousers with trompe l’oeil panelling. Some of the looks were clever, like a pair of culottes embellished with a panel of shiny material that made it look as if a pair of hot pants had been layered on top. Simple A-line dresses were fitted out with flaps that mimicked ladylike little jackets.

Overall, it was easy, breezy streetwear that you could imagine making the leap from the catwalk to real life.

CORRADO DE BIASE

For his second ready-to-wear collection, Italian designer Corrado de Biase delivered a convincing collection of bias-cut gowns in airy silks with a flapper-ish appeal. De Biase, an accessories designer who’s collaborated with heavyweight houses including John Galliano, counterbalanced the feather lightness of the silks with quilted satin, served up on cropped jackets and culottes in pretty Asian prints.


Surrey man convicted of stabbing pregnant girlfriend to death gets new trial

A man who was convicted of stabbing his pregnant girlfriend to death has had his murder conviction overturned and a new trial ordered.

In June 2008, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Amjad Khan and Naim Mohammed Saghir, an alleged accomplice, guilty of the first-degree murder of Khan’s girlfriend Tasha Lynn Rossette, 21.

The victim’s body was found by her sister on Nov. 22, 2005 lying at the threshold of her Surrey apartment.

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She’d been stabbed 40 times with a knife, with some of the stab wounds being defensive. Her throat had been slashed. Rossette was four months’ pregant with Khan’s child.

The couple, who had known each other since high school, had begun a casual sexual relationship in late 2004.

The Crown’s theory at trial was that Khan feared he would bring shame to his family if it were known he was a father and he didn’t want to have the responsibility of having a child.

Prosecutors called several “unsavoury” witnesses to bolster their theory.

One of the witnesses said that Khan told him the pregnant girl was not going to have an abortion and that “the only way to get rid of this problem is to kill her.”

Khan offered to buy the witness a car if he killed the girl, court heard.

The witness also said that Saghir came to him and told him that he’d killed the girl Khan had gotten pregnant.

Saghir told the witness that he had to “slice that bitch’s throat because she was fighting back,” court heard.

At trial, Khan denied killing Rossette and said that on the night of the murder he’d dropped her off at her apartment house and then went home.

On appeal, he and Saghir put forward a number of grounds of appeal.

In a ruling posted online Tuesday, the B.C. Court of Appeal found that three of those grounds were sufficient to overturn the conviction and require a new trial.

One of the grounds related to an allegation by the accused that the Crown had improperly bolstered the credibility of one of the unsavoury witnesses.

In his reasons for judgment, B.C. Court of Appeal Justice David Frankel said the so-called oath-helping evidence was exacerbated by the Crown referring to it in closing submissions and by the judge referring to it in summarizing the Crown’s case.

Frankel also found that the Crown had improperly cross-examined Khan with respect to how he conducted himself while being interviewed by the police.

“Further, the charge to the jury with respect to the third-party suspect defence was flawed,” he said. “In light of these errors the convictions cannot stand.”

The third-party suspect defence referred to a theory by the defence that someone else was responsible for the murder.

Madam Justice Risa Levine and Justice Harvey Groberman concurred in Frankel’s reasons.

Simone Rossette, the victim’s mother, was clearly distraught when reached by telephone on Tuesday.

“I just found out about it two minutes ago,” she said. “I just talked to the police. I can’t say anything right now. I have to phone my daughter.”

 


‘Modern Family’ star Sofia Vergara launches line of affordable clothing

NEW YORK, N.Y. – At times, it’s hard to tell the difference between Sofia Vergara and Gloria, the character she plays on ABC’s hit comedy “Modern Family.”

Both have gregarious personalities, an uproarious sense of humour, an enormous shot of sex appeal and daring fashion sense.

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Now other women can be more like Vergara – or Gloria – thanks to the Colombian star’s new clothing line at Kmart. The line features the kind of outfits that have made Vergara so popular on the red carpet and beyond – figure-hugging dresses, tight pants, bright colours and short skirts.

“We have a lot of very comfortable and wearable things that can be worn by a woman of every size,” Vergara explained of her Sofia clothing.

“We have a lot of colourful things like a dress you can wear with tights, or you can wear under your leggings and still look well put together and sexy.”

The Sofia line, available at affordable prices, also includes accessories, camisoles, shirts, skirts and jackets.

The 39-year-old Emmy-nominated actress talked more about her line, “Modern Family” and celebrating her “Latin-ness” during a stop at Kmart, accompanied by The Associated Press.

AP: Why did you want to design your own fashion collection?

Vergara: I always wanted to do it. I always had the thing for fashion, for beauty. But, I always wanted to team up with somebody like Kmart because that is what I wanted to create, a line that was affordable, that was for women of all sizes, every ethnicity, that could make them feel cute and beautiful without spending thousands of dollars.

AP: Do you wear items from your collection?

Vergara: I actually wear all of it. Everything (points to what she is wearing) is from Kmart. I love it. I wanted it to be pieces I would wear, pieces that I like. That’s why I work with a very good group of designers and experts. I helped pick all of the materials, the models, the buttons, everything. So it was like the stuff that I like and the stuff that I wear.

AP: Have you ever thought about doing a high-end line?

Vergara: No, not really. I never was interested in that. I always wanted to create a line that was for my fans, for the girls that have always approached me and asked me, “Where did you get that outfit” or “I would have never thought to wear this with this. That is so great.” I think that is even more fun, to be able to create cute clothes and they look like they were very high-end clothes, but they are not.

AP: Since you’re considered a sex symbol by many fans, do you feel that you have to be perfectly dressed at all times?

Vergara: No, I don’t think it is a responsibility, but I just like to be well put together. I am Latin. We grow up taking care of ourselves. I remember my whole life watching my mom getting ready to take us to school wearing rollers and putting her lipstick on. It is part of my culture, to dress like a woman and to be like a woman.

AP: With this fashion line and your success on “Modern Family,” do you feel like you’re opening doors for other Latina actresses?

Vergara: I think we had a great opening of the new season. I love that some networks now are trying to look for more Latin actresses to have on their networks because it is so amazing how the American public has accepted Gloria and her accent and all her Latin-ness, so it is great.

ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.

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Polanski attends Zurich film festival for award, new cinematic ‘memoir’ of his life

ZURICH – Two years after police in Zurich led Roman Polanski away to prison, the Oscar-winning director returned to a very different reception in the city, where he wrapped himself in applause and recognition Tuesday night by picking up a cinematic award and releasing a “memoir” of his life that had been treated like a state secret.

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The Polish-French director of “Rosemary’s Baby” took the stage of the Zurich Film Festival to finally accept the lifetime achievement award that he was unable to pick up in 2009, after being arrested for a decades-old sex-crime case.

He had been arrested by Swiss police on arrival at the Zurich airport on a U.S. warrant from 1978, then spent months in prison and later house arrest because of charges that he had sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

But he successfully avoided extradition to the United States after the Swiss government declined to deport him.

“I mean, who else would have the guts to come to this festival after he has been arrested here?” said This Brunner, a Swiss film and art expert in Zurich. “He has a unique personality, he has a huge heart.”

Zurich Mayor Corine Mauch said Polanski deserved the award for his body of film work and she saw no anti-U.S. sentiment in the warm reception he received, particularly since his legal status was “clarified” in Swiss courts.

“He’s a free man in Switzerland,” she said. “And I’m happy that after two years, he is able to get his prize here.”

Now able to travel unhindered to Switzerland, Polanski, 78, arrived at the festival hall as a spotlight followed him. Several hundred people stood to applaud him as he took his seat. He later strode to the stage amid nearly a minute’s sustained clapping.

“Friends, what can I can say? Better late than never,” he began, as the audience erupted in laughter.

“Two years, day for day. Certain parts of it I would rather forget. But I’m happy to be here, because I know that it was not only a blow to me, to my family, but also to the festival itself,” he said. “It’s a very moving moment for me.”

Though Polanski could joke about the ordeal, he acknowledged the pain of it but said little else, allowing the world premier of a full-length documentary – “Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir” – to largely speak for him.

“I would only like to take the opportunity of being here to thank all those who supported me during these difficult months. I would particularly like to say my thanks to the prison staff for trying to make my stay there as bearable as possible,” he added.

Polanski still faces an Interpol warrant in effect for 188 countries for extradition to the United States. He moves freely between Switzerland, which refused to extradite him, and France, which has a blanket policy of not extraditing its citizens.

In July 2010, he made his first public appearance since being released from house arrest, attending the Montreux Jazz Festival to watch his wife, the actress and singer Emmanuelle Seigner, perform on stage.

This year, his new film, “Carnage,” had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

But his “other” new film – the memoir – was kept secret by Zurich’s film organizers. The film recounts his Polish roots and includes footage of World War II and the Nazi invasion of Poland interspersed with scenes from “The Pianist.”

The documentary by Laurent Bouzereau is based on interviews with Polanski during his house arrest two years ago, and begins with shots of the Swiss prison that Polanski was incarcerated at, as well as photos of his chalet in the chic resort of Gstaad in the Swiss Alps.

By turns funny and sad, wistful and horrified, Polanski recounts a kaleidoscope of memories, such as seeing a woman shot in the back by a Nazi, his running away from a Nazi soldier shooting at him, and being reunited with his father and seeing the wall in Warsaw first being built.

Polanski talks about his mother’s death, the pain of his father remarrying another woman, and their visit to him in Gstaad where his father cried upon hearing music that reminded him of children being loaded into train barracks to be exterminated.

“It was an Apocalyptic, surrealistic vision,” Polanski recalled of the moment.

Polanski said he watched films so he could read subtitles: “I started really learning to read in the cinema,” he said.

British actress Alice Eve, a juror for the film festival, said she wasn’t sure if attendance at the Polanski award ceremony could be considered a political statement.

“If it is, then I’m happy to be part of it. Because I do believe that he has paid for his crime, and he’s also good at what he does, and the celebration isn’t undue,” she said of Polanski.

Over 45,000 visitors are expected to attend the seventh installment of the film festival in Switzerland’s biggest city that includes ten world premieres and runs through Oct. 2.


Israel approves 1,100 new homes in east Jerusalem, drawing criticism from Palestinians, US, EU

Comments Off on Israel approves 1,100 new homes in east Jerusalem, drawing criticism from Palestinians, US, EU

JERUSALEM – Israel granted the go-ahead on Tuesday for construction of 1,100 new Jewish housing units in east Jerusalem, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out any freeze in settlement construction, raising already heightened tensions after last week’s Palestinian move to seek U.N. membership.

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Israel’s Interior Ministry said the homes would be built in Gilo, a sprawling Jewish enclave in southeast Jerusalem. It said construction could begin after a mandatory 60-day period for public comment, a process that spokesman Roi Lachmanovich called a formality.

The announcement drew swift condemnation from the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as their future capital. The United States, European Union and United Nations all expressed disappointment with Israel’s decision.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Israeli announcement was counterproductive to efforts to relaunch Mideast peace talks. She said both Israel and the Palestinians should avoid provocative actions, and that international mediators will remain focused on guiding the two sides back to direct negotiations.

Richard Miron, a spokesman for U.N. Mideast envoy Robert Serry, said the announcement “sends the wrong signal at this sensitive time.”

The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt all settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the adjacent West Bank – territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war – as a condition for resuming peace talks.

Since capturing east Jerusalem, Israel has annexed the area and ringed it with about 10 Jewish enclaves that are meant to solidify its control. Gilo, which is close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, is among the largest, with about 50,000 residents. Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem has not been internationally recognized.

Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem city council member who is critical of east Jerusalem construction, said city officials had given initial approval to the Gilo project more than a year ago.

Margalit said he didn’t expect the project to be “an obstacle of peace” since it is in an existing Jewish area that is widely expected to remain part of Israel in any peace deal. But he said Interior Minister Eli Yishai, leader of the hawkish Shas Party, appeared to have timed the approval as a response to the Palestinian statehood gambit. Yishai declined an interview request.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the Israeli decision amounted to “1,100 no’s to the resumption of peace talks.”

He urged the United States, Israel’s closest and most important ally, to change its position and support the Palestinians in their quest for U.N. membership. The United States has repeatedly called on Israel to cease settlement construction on land that could constitute a Palestinian state, but says the U.N. is not the proper place to resolve the conflict.

With peace talks stalled for the past three years, the Palestinians last week asked the U.N. Security Council to recognize an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Although the move won’t change the situation on the ground, the Palestinians believe international support will boost their position in future peace negotiations.

The U.S. has vowed to veto the Palestinian request in the Security Council. Both Israel and the U.S. say a Palestinian state can be established only through negotiations.

In an interview published Tuesday, Netanyahu ruled out any settlement freeze, arguing that a 10-month moratorium on new housing construction last year had failed to yield results.

The Palestinians, saying his limited freeze was insufficient, agreed to resume negotiations just weeks before the moratorium ended. Netanyahu then refused a U.S.-backed Palestinian demand to extend it, and the talks quickly collapsed.

“The Palestinians, by coming back to the issue of the settlement freeze, indicate that they don’t really want to negotiate,” Netanyahu told the Jerusalem Post. “They use it again and again, but I think a lot of people see it as a ruse to avoid direct negotiations.”

Netanyahu has called for the resumption of peace talks without preconditions. He has dismissed demands that a Palestinian state be based on Israel’s 1967 prewar lines – putting him at odds with the Obama administration.

Seeking to break the deadlock, the international Quartet of Mideast mediators – the U.S., EU, U.N. and Russia – last week called on Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations without preconditions. It called for a peace agreement to end the more than 60-year-old conflict by the end of next year and urged both sides “to refrain from provocative actions.”

The fate of east Jerusalem is the most explosive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The sector is home to Jerusalem’s Old City, which houses sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites.

Netanyahu says he will never relinquish east Jerusalem, which Israel considers an integral part of its capital. The Palestinian leadership has vowed it will not accept a state without key parts of east Jerusalem as its capital.

In all, about 200,000 Jews live in east Jerusalem areas that Israel calls neighbourhoods and the Palestinians call settlements. Squeezed between them are Arab neighbourhoods that are home to some 250,000 Palestinians.