''Washington Post'' photographer Lucien Perkins puts together a collection of fashion photos

Fashion’s as beautiful and as deflatable as a hot-air balloon. And in Runway Madness, a new photo collection from Chronicle Books, both aspects of the business of selling dresses on groaningly gorgeous models get equal exposure. The shots — by Washington Post shutterbug Lucian Perkins — convey the weight and whimsy of the clothes, from a shimmering line of simple white Donna Karan shifts to the festival of colors (reality be damned!) at Todd Oldham. But Perkins’ photos also goose the image industry’s egos, petulant posing, and descents into irredeemable silliness. Quotes from fashion insiders, compiled by Washington Post reporter Robin Givhan, provide the necessary perspective. Says Bloomingdale’s fashion director Kal Ruttenstein: ”The fun begins when the lights go down and I can see the clothes. The rest is fluff: the politics, the seating. I just like to see the clothes.” Let the parade begin.