PARIS — This season of Paris Fashion Week, which runs through Wednesday, is shaping up to be about new beginnings as designers show their spring-summer 2013 collections.
In the first of two main events, Belgian designer Raf Simons blew the dust off the mantel of Paris high fashion on Friday morning when he presented his first women's ready-to-wear collection as creative director for Christian Dior, where he replaced the disgraced John Galliano after a lengthy search for a successor. (Galliano, a star of the design world, was caught on a camera phone in February 2011 making drunken, anti-Semitic remarks that cost him his job and landed him in trouble with the law.)
Simons rewrote the codes of French design for a new generation with a collection that was all about color, movement, lightness and legs. It was sexy all right, beginning with Dior's famous Bar jackets reinterpeted as super-short coat dresses with surprising bursts of color or crystal embroidery peeking out from a godet, a pleat or a hem.
Minidresses with trailing hems sizzled with iridescent streaks of color in motion. Ball gowns were deflated, chopped off at mid-thigh and worn over black shorts. And floral ball skirts were treated as casually as jeans, paired with black crew-neck sweaters — a trick Simons honed during his time at Jil Sander. Glittery eye shadow, fishnet veils and cat-eye sunglasses completed the vision of Dior 2.0.
The second big moment will come Monday, when Hedi Slimane, whose slim-line aesthetic dominated men's fashion when he was the designer for Dior Homme from 2000 to 2007, debuts his first women's collection as the new creative director for the venerable house of Saint Laurent, which he is designing between studios in Paris and Los Angeles.
The week is also about newcomers like Damir Doma, who have built their businesses independently, outside of the luxury industry's brand-as-star system, rather than working in the shadow of long-dead designer names at old fashion houses like Dior and Saint Laurent. Doma's edgy, sophisticated collection showed he is one to watch.
As witnessed at the Dior show, even in Paris — the industry's directional compass and ground zero for serious fashion — celebrity swirl is part of the scene.
The most eagerly anticipated front-row guest was scorned starlet Kristen Stewart, who turned up to see the Balenciaga collection by Nicolas Ghesquière. There were more paparazzi waiting outside for a shot at her than guests inside waiting for the show.
It was a sure bet that Stewart would come because she is the face of the house's new fall fragrance, Florabotanica, a mix of a hybrid rose, wood and moss inspired by a fractured fairy tale. And it seems as though Ghesquière must have had that fairy-tale theme in mind while designing the blockbuster collection, which was both naughty and nice.
(Of course, Stewart's own life became a fractured fairy tale this summer when she was caught cheating on her boyfriend, "Twilight" costar Robert Pattinson, with director Rupert Sanders. But the fashion house has stuck by her throughout the torrent of negative publicity.)
Nicola Formichetti, Lady Gaga's stylist extraordinaire and creative director of the house of Thierry Mugler (now known simply as Mugler) showed his spring-summer 2013 collection at Paris architecture museum Cite de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine on Wednesday night. Though Gaga was not in the house (she is on tour and was performing in Zurich), she did send along a gift — a new, unreleased single for the soundtrack. Titled "Cake," the track is Gaga's first rap song. The show closed with the hit "Esta Noche" courtesy of Azealia Banks, who was sitting front row.
Although most of the New York collections for spring, shown in early September, were dominated by color and print, many of the Paris collections have been moving in a different direction, emphasizing clean lines and surfaces. Here is a rundown of trends and themes that had emerged as the week hit its halfway mark.
Midriff-baring bustiers and cropped tops, grunge plaids and Morrissey on the soundtrack. The 1990s are back in fashion for better or worse. At Balmain, designer Olivier Rousteing was inspired by 1990s Miami to mix diamond checkerboard prints and stripes on high-rise trousers, cropped jackets and leather bralettes.
Belgian designer Dries Van Noten spun a grunge romance, mixing masculine and feminine elements, sheer plaids and soft florals.
The key piece — a sheer, plaid button-down shirt (Noten's softer take on the grunge flannel) — was paired with everything from a silvery plaid sleeveless jacket, nipped at the waist, to a slouchy camel-colored grandpa sweater and sheer floral pajama pants.
The sheer trend we've seen on the runways the last few seasons isn't going anywhere. Van Noten used layers of sheer washed florals and checks on breezy, free-flowing silhouettes to bring weightlessness to his collection. And Rick Owens showed his light hand by putting models in transparent plasticky dresses and otherworldly hairstyles set against a bubbling wall of sudsy foam.
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