Hussein Chalayan: Beautiful though some of his melancholy deconstructed collections were, at last Hussein Chalayan gave himself — and his audience — a break. During the late Nineties, fashion’s bling-bling years, he was there to remind us of life’s untidy side. But now, his dark vision seems to have brightened up considerably.

Using the image of a jet plane parked on the tarmac as a backdrop, his apparently sunny collection was an ode to chic tourists. And no, the terms chic and tourist are not mutually exclusive. She’s packed her bags with tropical play clothes, including a slew of tie tops and short-shorts for daytime adventuring, and with demure cocktail dresses for sampling the local nightlife. Over the course of half a dozen exits, clean khaki minidresses built like overalls gradually morphed into garden party dresses cut in faded antique florals. One gently deconstructed deb dress came in prissy white, while a slim frock with bows at the shoulders was printed with positively preppy palm trees.

But wait a second. Chalayan hasn’t abandoned his edge completely. Danger lurked in those palms, where scouts armed with bows and arrows prowled. Equally unsettling was a print that looked classically tropical from a distance, but depicted medieval tribes battling within an industrial landscape. These pretty feudal scenes were worked into incredible dresses constructed with stiff curls and rolling ruffles. So there’s trouble in paradise, after all.

Chalayan’s intent may have been to highlight the irony of tourism, with visitors destroying the very sights they’ve traveled so far to see, or even the plight of indigenous peoples. But whatever his intent, the clothes were as cool as they were wearable. The talented Chalayan has finally found a way to voice his dissent, while still meeting the rest of the fashion world halfway.



Y-3: Yohji Yamamoto is a good sport. In fact, he’s a gold-medal champion. At least that’s the way he depicted himself silk-screened on the back of a jacket he sent down the runway as part of an energetic, Olympic-themed Y-3 collection. Yamamoto has become a bit of an endurance designer lately, now that he shows three women’s wear collections in Paris, including this terrific collaboration with Adidas. Now in its third season, Y-3 wore its sport heritage like a first-prize ribbon.Models wearing bright tracksuits, logo T-shirts and sweats — some clutching soccer balls — zoomed around the Paris Judo Institute as if they were entering some futuristic stadium. The clothes were lightweight, breezy and high tech, but this is one heck of a stylish team. Collaborating with Japanese artist Saeko Tsuemura to develop comic-like prints, Yamamoto splashed these across leather jackets and tank dresses. And speaking of splash, Yamamoto should make waves with his first swimwear designs. His maillots, inspired by referee uniforms, and neon tankinis with Y-3 logos were graphic and strong.

Iconic Yamamoto items like sanded jeans, voluminous knit dresses or sweaters with extra-long sleeves were the surprise of the show, proving Y-3 can be worn by armchair athletes, too. In fact, the designer sat in the front row during the show with his mother, Fumi. Fashion is a spectator sport, after all.



Sonia Rykiel: For a designer who loves whimsical, cheeky glamour, this season proved a perfect moment for Sonia Rykiel to pull out all the stops. That’s exactly what she did, delivering a lively romp of rhinestone-dappled knits, gossamer lingerie dresses and floaty chiffon flower-print skirts. They showed this Left Bank original at her feisty best.

For years, she has advocated that women can be sexy without compromising their strength. That message emanated from the ruffles of a low-cut dress or an oversized sweater hanging seductively from the shoulder. A black knit skirt dangled from a single strap, while a glittering “Elvis” pin closed a fitted knit jacket. When the see-through swimsuits strutted out, some lavished with rhinestones, it no longer mattered that they were over-the-top. One was already swept up into the party.



Dries Van Noten: Dreamy and romantic. Van Noten’s beautiful spring effort gave a wistful twist to fashion’s continued movement toward pretty femininity. Of course, this Belgian has played that tune for years, with ethnic-inspired embroidery and vintage-style fabrics. That touch was there. Pleated skirts came beaded with flowers, and embroidery on chiffon tops had an artsy finesse, while the colorful floral prints on dresses or skirts were among the best seen so far this season.From a designer who spends hours tending his magnificent garden back home, this comes as little surprise. Yet he added a new element with ruffled skirts, angelic cotton smocks, little jackets and loose-fitting lingerie dresses. Van Noten again proved himself a consummate colorist, expertly applying a serene and sophisticated palette of lime, emerald, purple, silver and inky blue.



Veronique Branquinho: Sooner or later everyone — even fashion’s dedicated intellectuals — gives the sexy stuff a whirl. A few seasons back, Miuccia Prada tried it, to great success, and for spring, Junya Watanabe vamped it up. He wasn’t alone. This season, Veronique Branquinho also took the leap, dressing down her high-minded, artistically inclined ladies until all that was left was their barest essentials.

Her sensual collection, while repetitive, was never vulgar and revolved around lingerie dressing. She showed scores of lace-spliced satin slipdresses and camisoles, which were paired with simple pleated skirts or tailored tuxedo pants. The best of these near-unmentionables included a black mesh slipdress shown over a lace bandeau, and pieces beaded at the bodice, or across the back, with what looked like a lacy bird spreading its wings.

She may have been going for a more commercial look, which it was, to be sure. But maybe Branquinho spent a little too much time in the boudoir. In taking her look bare and lacy, she also stripped away a sense of Veronique’s unique chic.

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