PARIS — With a schedule so jam-packed that it left many panting for air, it was difficult for smaller houses and young designers to get attention this season. But nevertheless, a handful managed to stick out from the crowd. And those who did refined their looks, adding more polish and sophistication, fashion’s strongest direction for spring.

Of course, they did it on their own terms, blending the experimental with the commercial. Consider AF Vandevorst, the Belgian husband-wife team of Filip Arickx and An Vandevorst, who presented paper cutout dresses alongside fetching trench coats with slouchy sleeves and oversized shirt dresses. The latter, of course, were highly wearable, as was a green dress with a built-in cape. It all proves that the designers are maturing in the right direction.

Haider Ackerman, another Belgian, purveyed romanticism with a dash of street style. That meant a plunging black chiffon dress that riffed on the smoking theme, while a hooded sweatshirt dress was ruched at the shoulder. The tuxedo idea also translated into trousers with pleated chiffon on the front, and a short gray jersey dress and jersey trousers with straps. It was a confident show that illustrated that Ackerman deserves a place on the list of emerging talents.

Gaspard Yurkievich, who was inspired by the world of cabaret, also hit a high note with an offering of cute dresses fringed with feathers and decorated with silver sequins. A diaphanous white blouse also captured the showgirl spirit with its yellow fringes, while his white gauze dresses, in their angelic beauty, demonstrated that the designer is evolving in a promising direction.

Alexandre Morgando and Matthieu Bureau, who together do the Alexandre Matthieu brand, mixed street chic, such as easy blousons, with glamorous chiffon dresses intricately embroidered with graphic patterns. The latter were appealing in their couture-like detail.

German Lutz Huelle — known simply as Lutz — also worked athletic references in a collection of jackets suspended from the shoulder by swathes of chiffon, big trousers that spilled around the ankles and drawstring skirts. It had a youthful spirit.

Two designers, Adam Jones and Lucien Pellat-Finet, further developed their knitwear-based collections. Pellat-Finet decorated his casual cashmeres with sequins or wove them into poncho with butterfly embroidery. Jones, who has a strong voice, was feeling exotic this season, and he took his cue from the Fiji Islands. Sexy dresses came in jacquards inspired by primitive art, while tight cotton macramé tops were adorned with carved coconut buttons.Meanwhile, the house of Paco Rabanne moved forward while staying grounded in the past. Artistic director Rosemary Rodriguez brought Rabanne’s trademark geometric and metallic chain-link dresses to life, while adding a new element with slouchy hip-hop trousers and athletic-inspired tops in graphic red, black and white.

Two older houses fell short in their attempts at rejuvenation. Balmain, which has lost its direction since Oscar de la Renta left, put its eggs in designer Christophe Lebourg’s basket. He didn’t break them, but he didn’t whip up a tasty meal, either. Concentrating on minimalist sportswear, such as slim pantsuits, and silk dresses slashed open or with asymmetric flourishes, Lebourg left one wondering whom exactly the Balmain customer is.

At the house of Gres, Koji Tatsuno offered a vision of futuristic gold lamé and jersey dresses with oversized buttons and slouchy sleeves. Much of it was reminiscent of Balenciaga, especially the pieces detailed with cutout patterns. Granted, Tatsuno, who has been on the circuit for years, has done that before, and his Grecian draped dresses were pretty and mined the house’s heritage. Yet the collection didn’t carve out a strong enough image to give Gres new legs.

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