A stunning incarnation of power-woman drama and masses of giant men's wear looks were present and accounted for as the Paris collections got under way.

Viktor & Rolf: Is the lady passé, fashionably speaking? Not if she speaks the language of Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, who on Monday showed a magnificent fall collection that riffed on the haute propriety of the Fifties.

The designers dressed their runway in shirred fabric at the sides, setting the stage for their girls to model in that old-fashioned, polished posey way, each a vision of perfection — perfect coiffeur, perfect fishnet hose, perfect shoes, the heels carved like precision-cut crystal into a grid of tiny pyramids.

A bold, snooty runway flourish punctuated this grandly formal attitude: Various parts of the clothes — cuffs, a hem, an entire party frock — were dipped into liquid silver and hardened for preservation's sake, as one might do with baby's first shoe. "Fashion is the biggest thing in our lives," Horsting said. "We wanted to heirloom it, make it timeless."
Yet rather than descend into silvery shtick, the collection dripped with high chic and a bit of subversion in its icy, power-woman undercurrent. To that end, the models wore stiff grid masks with an armor vibe — part fencer, part Hannibal Lector — while voguing to a soundtrack that repeated over and over, "You can't reach me; you can't hurt me; I can suck you dry." And in line with the season's austerity, Snoeren and Horsting delivered the very dressed-up attitude with near-Calvinist restraint — and a whole lot of prim white cuffs.

The pair divided the show into sections of good old classics — little black dresses, trenchcoats, suits, white shirts (worn with big black party skirts), transforming each into an up-close wonder of cut and detail. One trench flaunted a spill of ruffled edging down the front; another had sleeves pouffed into bubbles cinched with tiny belts. Suits went both voluminous and lean, with dark sequined blouses. The dresses ranged from near-New Look construction to an off-the-shoulder sack dress.

The designers bothered little with evening, showing only a few ultradramatic, full-skirted bustier dresses, the final one in rock-solid silver worn by their bride — a shining finale to a sterling collection.

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