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.Yohji Yamamoto: Near the end of Yohji Yamamoto's show on Sunday night, the song "Blue Moon" came on the soundtrack. You know, "You saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own." Interesting choice of ditties, because these were hardly get-a-guy clothes — unless the guy's a razor-blade supplier.

In a season in which Yohji influences have surfaced at no-less-exalted places than Prada, Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld, this could have been Yamamoto's season. But rather than take the dark aesthetic he helped to invent to a new place — one with currency — he again insisted on a dour redux of ponderous men's wear concepts that he has long perfected and everyone else long ago relegated to a brilliant part of fashion history. Huge foppish pantsuits with three sleeves and 50-inch waists came out in relentless repetition, would-be skirts somehow connected into pants, multiple layers multiplied the enormous volumes and everything was dark, dark, dark — save for the momentary spark (relatively) of distressed teal denim and some Edie Beale silliness with layered floppy hats — worn one over the other.

That Yamamoto is a genius at seemingly impossible construction is a given. But what once inspired awe now plays as masterfully crafted trickery not mitigated by the fact that, come fall, there will be some desirable tailored pieces on the racks. If it's true that the runway is about concept and vision at least as much as it is about store-destined merch, then it's essential for fashion's greatest talents, among whom Yamamoto is high on the list, to use it to expand their vision — and ours.

Rick Owens: The futuristic, industrial world of Rick Owens is an intriguing place to visit. (How long one wishes to stay depends on one's proclivities.) In recent seasons, he has incrementally cleaned up his rough-edged look, giving it more polish and poise, while still staying true to his mantra of freaky chic by adding more couture-like flourishes to his silhouettes. He took another welcome step in that direction for fall. Jackets topped the Los Angeles expat's effort — and there was some interesting stuff on parade, including a glittering gold number with dangling flaps that opened the varying array of gathered, layered, and spliced together confections in fur, leather or knit. Owens paired these with high-waisted, cropped black pants and aggressive platform stilettos. He then turned softer with worn-in black wool dresses cut on the bias. Metallic fabrics in silver and gold added a cool Space-Age vibe. The apocalyptic look reached a crescendo when out stormed fluffy black parka jackets that looked like blown-up inflatable safety rafts. Weird? Sure, but certainly original — just the fare Owens' Gothed-out fans have come to expect and love.

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