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C’est Magnifique

Welcome to Paris! The land where anything is possible in matters of la mode, including zapping the fashion-jaded out of their ho-hum doldrums.

Welcome to Paris! The land where anything is possible in matters of la mode, including zapping the fashion-jaded out of their ho-hum doldrums. Paris — where creativity flourishes, where every girl can be her own fashion show, where the shirtdress and a black bustier frock are anything but basic, where robotic skirts pirouette around static bodies, where blatant pilfering results not in shameful knockoffs, but in artistic manifestos. Where all of that can percolate and bubble over in a mere two collections.

For fall, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, the dynamic duo of high-concept shows, strove to flaunt the notion of distinction. “We wanted this to be about our essence, our individuality as designers,” said Snoeren before their Viktor & Rolf show. And how better to telegraph that than in the way their work allows women to celebrate their own individuality? Thus, each girl was presented as her own mini, self-sufficient fashion show, complete with lighting rig (harnessed ingeniously without adding a tad of girth to the torso) and her very own music via mini speakers.

What did this wacky schtick have to do with the clothes? Showmen that they are, the designers used the aluminum tubing as display mechanisms for clothes of outsized proportions, from the languid train of a dress to an overextended collar on a camel coat. Then there was a big dirndl skirt decorated with stereo speakers. But the real fascination with these designers comes from their ability to show real, even low-key clothes within an outrageous context. And so they did: smart suits, cropped pants with little jackets or sweaters, lovely shirtdresses, including one embroidered in crewel-worked flowers, its voluminous skirt attached to the tubing like a giant fan.

Often folded details distinguished the clothes in shoulder work on dresses and sweaters, as well as in a skirt’s box pattern, created by creases in the fabric. These were inspired by Dutch folkloric fare. “Traditionally, people didn’t want to cut the fabric,” Snoeren said. “They were too frugal — cheap, maybe.” That’s one trait from their heritage that the designers have not adopted, as is obvious in their tony designs and in the wealth of ideas with which they delight season after season.

Speaking of runway delights, everybody knew that Yohji Yamamoto, who has so enchanted audiences at times in the past, was due for a dazzler. On Monday, that’s just what he delivered in a gorgeous, deft infusion of lightness and subtle wit into his core sobriety.

Yamamoto opened with a chic sight gag of questionable origin: a girl in a long leather coat with a matching suitcase, both emblazoned with a riff on one of luxury’s most famous logos. Was the intent mere spoof, or an expression of mild pique at how Vuitton’s designer-in-residence makes no bones about his affinity for Japanese-inspired motifs?

Either way, the recurring logo captivated with charm and intrigue. Whether Yamamoto is bemused or merely irritated by the strength of Vuitton today, he certainly is not adverse to catching one’s inspiration where one can; he’s done it before with overt homage to Chanel and Dior. Here, he worked the YY-cum-Vuitton logo as well as a series of mechanical hoop skirts that rotated to the absolute delight of the crowd, an apparent nod to Hussein Chalayan. Yet here was Yamamoto at his best, offering lesser talents a primer on how a designer can properly manipulate whatever stimuli might strike him into his own material. His fixation with gender play showed up in tiered ruffles (in dresses and skirts) trapped between motorcycle jackets or tailcoats and trousers. There were girlish polkadots, boyish leathers and renderings of his new monogram that swung from romantic (bohemian headwraps) to tough (faux tattoos).

And though he delivered it all in his typically complicated cuts and compilations, he did so with a newfound buoyancy and grace. It offered a tingly reminder that, no matter how many fashion weeks sprout up around the world, there’s nothing like show time in Paris.


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