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Paris Is Still Fashionably Thin

As fashion models paraded the runway in his new cropped tunics and skinny jeans, designer Karl Lagerfeld was busy dismissing a controversy about underweight models as "grotesque," saying women in France and many other countries are more likely to suffer from obesity than anorexia.

Lagerfeld, who last year revealed the secrets of his own 93-pound weight loss in "The Karl Lagerfeld Diet" book, was one of the big names who introduced his spring-summer collection at Paris Fashion week.

Lagerfeld's show on Oct. 4 featured Lily Donaldson, one of the crop of size zero models who have been criticised for encouraging young women to diet obsessively, who stepped out in a slinky navy jersey dress with bands looped about her slender body.

The Paris ready-to-wear shows kicked off Oct. 1 with the French fashion industry's leading official saying he did not believe organizers should ban the use of models considered underweight.

Didier Grumbach, head of the Chambre Syndicale - the body that governs French fashion - said that he did not plan to follow in the footsteps of Spanish authorities in setting guidelines for the minimum weight of models who appear on the catwalks.

"I think it's a non-issue. You don't solve public health problems by regulating the size of models," he told The Associated Press. "You know, fashion is only the reflection of what is happening in society. It is not the cause."

France's Health Ministry recently announced it was setting up a working group on body image, with the aim of establishing a charter with advertisers banning the use of excessively thin models.

Grumbach said he did not plan to take part in the government talks. "I honestly think we are not responsible for health problems," he said. "Let the Health Ministry take care of health problems, and let fashion designers choose models according to their taste."

2French designer Christophe Decarnin was certainly not in the mood to buck the prevailing appetite for super-skinny models. His spring-summer collection for Balmain focused on mini dresses that reflected this season's revival of body-conscious dressing, as epitomized by Azzedine Alaia and Gianni Versace in the 1980s.

Though only in his second season at the house, Decarnin made a splash by dressing French actress Audrey Tautou and American director Sofia Coppola at the Cannes film festival last May. The young Hollywood set should snap up his latest skimpy creations.

Australian model Gemma Ward, whose "alien" look has been a major fashion influence in the last two years, paraded in a thigh-skimming strapless dress in pleated olive chiffon that was fit for a modern-day Athena. Grecian influences abounded, from the sunray pleating of a white chiffon dress to the multi-strapped leather platform sandals.

Military influences came in the shape of cropped khaki cargo pants and distressed T-shirts riddled with little holes - much like the one front row guest Lenny Kravitz was wearing. "I think Paris is an incredibly inspiring city, so that's why I'm spending a lot of time here," said the rocker, who was taking in the show with his daughter Zoe.

For many fashion editors, too, Paris is the highlight of the month-long ready-to-wear collections, which have already steamed through New York, London and Milan.

The French capital is unique in allowing commercial juggernauts like Christian Dior and Chanel to coexist with conceptual designers like Martin Margiela and Yohji Yamamoto.

Paris has a history of defying prevailing ideals of beauty. British designer John Galliano shocked fashion editors last year by showing his creations on giants, identical twins, fat women, old men and dwarves, in what some observers described as a "freak show."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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