Something of Greek flair seems to be roaming through the haute couture collections of Paris this week. It was evident on Tuesday night, when the voices of singers Marinella and George Dalaras became accomplices to Christian Dior’s couture extravaganza signed by John Galliano. It resurfaced yesterday afternoon when Jean Paul Gaultier threw his own version of high fashion for spring 2006, with a number of Greek-inspired ideas. Away from the look-at-me kind of jet-set fashion styles often associated with the glamorous lifestyle of the islands, Gaultier seemed to be revisiting Greece at the time of the country’s independence from its 400-year Turkish occupation, without discarding his passion and masterful work in pleated garments. A well-known lover of this country, the French designer is a frequent visitor to islands such as Santorini and Myconos, for instance, though his last visit was associated with the opening of the first Hermes boutique in Athens – besides running his own fashion company, the prolific designer is also the man behind the French luxury powerhouse’s womenswear. Back at the Palais de la Mutualite, an early 20th century edifice where Gaultier established his headquarters in 2004, the atmosphere was decidedly sensual yesterday, with comfortable sofas placed all along the long gallery reserved for catwalk presentations and colorful church and mosque lamps and lanterns flying above. For a meticulously designed couture show, creating the right atmosphere is a prerequisite and for this a member of Gaultier’s staff had traveled to Athens last week scouting for decorative objects, lanterns and lamps. «It is a bit of a Greek tragedy,» said Gaultier to French television channel Paris Premiere in an effort to explain the creatively hectic pre-show atmosphere backstage. Meanwhile, front-row guests included Catherine Deneuve and Claude Pompidou, wife of the late French president Georges Pompidou. The show’s real star, however, was Madonna, whose arrival signaled the beginning of the catwalk show. «Paris-Athenes,» the collection’s opening garment featuring a couture version of the traditional Greek fustanella, set the tone. The elaborate piece, made of 40 meters of pleated fabric, was worn by a female model, in signature gender-bending Gaultier style. An East-meets-West culture was evident throughout the show: Structured and fitted silhouettes were juxtaposed against flowing drapes, while harem details, intricate embroidery, transparencies and a clin d’oeil to traditional costumes became witness to Gaultier’s inspiration and subsequent elaborate execution. Yet another source of beauty and style was Maria Callas, whose voice filled the Palais de la Mutualite, while models evoking her unique allure paraded nonchalantly in true diva manner.