As the Paris spring collections moved into high gear, designers at some of the city's top houses were exploring highly distinctive motifs, from rock 'n' roll baroque to time reversal to peasant dreams.

Balenciaga: C'est magnifique! Nicolas Ghesquière exploded the Paris season into a flurry of fabulousness on Tuesday morning. His brash, brilliant collection for Balenciaga dismissed fall's furred and feathered minimalism in favor of baroque opulence crossed with rock 'n' roll attitude — and a hint of anticipatory Marie Antoinette glee.

It sounds like an eyeful, and it was. A thinking designer more than an emotional one, Ghesquière calculates every move for its fashion significance and its appropriateness to exist under the Balenciaga name. Here, he sought to combine two elements, the sharp silhouettes that go to the core of his respect for the house history, and major ornamentation. "It's about duality, contradiction, the opposition of architecture with airiness," he said before the show, making the point with one of his uber-constructed, frothed-up jackets, actually three pieces worn in pilings of silks, laces and lacings.

Ghesquière opened the show with a pair of sack dresses and then moved on to the trappings of rocker chic. His super-skinny jackets and jeans worked the ornamental motif in jacquards and flashy stripes paired with high-necked, decorated shirts or logo T-shirts that flashed the warning, "Devils in Balenciaga." Then came magical fabric collages in short Delft blue dresses and a trio of gowns destined for the celebrity circuit. And if the designer has his way, his "new proposition for evening" — elaborate Marie-Louis frock coats worn over frilled pantaloons or knickers — will find the red-carpet spotlight as well.

Yet while Ghesquière has taken great strides toward commercial viability — an effort reflected in the house's improved numbers and the growing popularity of its secondary collection sold in Balenciaga stores — he refuses to let such concerns smother his more, shall we say, voluminous fashion instincts. Thus, he still dares to play flagrantly to that insider lust for the new and daring. While one could absolutely envision an angelic model wafting about the Costume Institute fete in one of his gigantic organzas, an Oscar starlet similarly frocked would be mocked as a freak. How fabulous that Ghesquière can play so beautifully to both.

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