“Help.” “Cool.” Those two words — telegraphed via flamboyant messagenecklaces — bookended Alber Elbaz’s brilliant Lanvin collection onThursday night. The first came on a girl wearing a black dress; thesecond, the same girl, now in more upbeat platinum, though tears randown her face. Whether the tears were genuine and personal, show shtickor the result of a wayward eyelash in her eye, they fueled the feelingthat this show was as emotional as it was dazzling.

Casting fashion as an emotional discipline can sound pretentiousor over the top; clothes don’t cry, laugh or feel. Yet they elicitintense responses, and any given collection also results from itsdesigner’s mind-set of the moment. During a preview on Tuesday, Elbazsaid that after presenting his spring show last season, he paid moreattention than usual to the happenings of fashion. “I felt this changeof direction, a kind of crazy [mood] in Paris that I didn’t see before.Bloggers and editors who are all about being photographed and thendesigners who are mad at each other, and all of a sudden, that wholething. You question everything, and you start asking, ‘[Do] I belonghere anymore? Is it what I want to do for the rest of my life?’” Soonafter, Elbaz found the antidote to that despair in Tilda Swinton’s show“The Impossible Wardrobe” at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo. In it, against hersimple white robe, Swinton highlighted various historic fashion itemshanded to her by curator Olivier Saillard. “What I saw,” Elbaz said, “isthat it really is about the craft.”

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