Hubert de Givenchy: Exactly what Givenchy’s loyal stable of customers will be able to expect from the house after this season is a question mark. Speculation on who will take the reins when Givenchy retires just won’t quit, and even though the current wisdom is shifting away from John Galliano, both his backer, John Bult, and his muse, Amanda Harlech, were at Givenchy’s final ready-to-wear show.
At least through fall, the Givenchy lady can relax. The designer knows that she doesn’t give a hoot for the passing follies of fashion. Conservative Chic? She’s a life-long party member. And once again, Givenchy’s giving her just what she wants: smart suits with none of that covered-knee nonsense, cozy cardigan jackets over gray flannel pants and graceful belted shirtdresses in lightweight wool. For evening, she has all sorts of options, from suits cut with Renaissance flourishes to a delicate gown in blue metallic lace.

Romeo Gigli: Different drummers often seem a little out of step, and that’s certainly the case with Gigli. There’s no question that he makes beautiful clothes. He has a daring color sense, an eye for lavish, intricate fabrics, and he knows how to tailor — his jackets and coats are cut like a dream. This season, as often in the past, Gigli focused on a dandyish sort, building his collection around a gentleman’s jacket and vest in all sorts of variations. He showed them either with skinny pants and over-the-knee boots or — in an apparent nod to Mod — tight shirts and hip-sitting bell-bottoms, all in the richest possible fabrics. The mood was excessively elaborate and a bit cumbersome. Years ago, Gigli was a ground-breaker in fashion’s sober school, and now might be a good time for him to reexamine those roots.

Issey Miyake: Given Miyake’s cult status among fashion students, it’s not surprising that his presentations are more like religious ceremonies than runway shows — replete with chants, organ music and somber marching models. To much applause, Issey began with six elderly ladies — one of them all of 94 — in long, priest-like white coats, and followed with jackets in eccentric bantam feather patterns.
Miyake’s experiments with fabrics continue: Handknitted sweaters in thick untwisted yarn and cord; chiffon in sugar-candy colors, and bubble-jet color printing on leather. Miyake might never be known for designing highly wearable fashion, but his unique esthetic vision will always win admirers.

Jean Colonna: Colonna has always played with good and bad taste, but, this season, he pushed the limits of decency even further. The designer sent out a bevy of bad girls, with big, tousled hair and tons of makeup — like so many sexy Fifties’ secretaries who love to get around. And just when it seemed that there was nothing else to be done with his signature vinyl, Colonna found a way to inject new life into it. He took black PVC, stamped it with a crocodile pattern, and used it everywhere: skirts, dresses, jackets, coats, coatdresses and blouses. He then mixed his faux crocodile with leopard-print blouses, pinstriped jackets and fake fur collars and cuffs. It was a kicky, consistent collection which will be perfect for Jean’s kind of man-eaters.

Martine Sitbon: After working out on the cutting-edge for years, Martine Sitbon went in fashion’s new conservative direction in a collection that lacked the punch of some of her recent shows. She began boldly with black patent leather trenchcoats, tight skirts, narrow pants and blouses. And while she faltered with some Country Western references and dowdy sheared velvets, she hit her stride with dozens of men’s wear-inspired suits. When it comes to strict pinstriped pants worn with long matching jackets, noone can out-Mod Martine.

Veronique Leroy: There was a lot of hype surrounding “downtown” designer Veronique Leroy. But even with a free space at the Louvre, courtesy of the Chambre Syndicale and supermodels Linda and Naomi, Leroy was unable to deliver the goods. This season, her vision of women fell between Japanese animation and Eighties’ club rats with lots of leopard-print spandex, bright fake snakeskin and a bunch of “Flashdance”-worthy chenille sweaters. Leroy seemed to revel in tackiness that was neither hip nor chic.

Cerruti 1881: Nino Cerruti put his favorite fluid fabrics on the back burner this season and went for high texture instead. Chocolate-brown mohair was a favorite, along with boucles, chenilles, wide-ribbed knits and metallic taffetas. Jackets were dandyish or curved and belted, while skirts ranged from ankle-length tubes to short, flirty bias looks.

Kenzo: He took his disciples on a winter tour with one of his strongest collections in years. On a runway covered with fake snow, he kicked off with some snazzy long skirts and crisp jackets that recalled The New Look, but came in Kenzo’s brighter hues. He then broke new ground with a series of luscious striped pajama shirts and chic bathrobes, culminating in two beautiful patchwork peignoirs in silk and velvet panne. “I was dreaming of being in the bedroom at a chalet,” Kenzo explained. The designer used fake mink, rabbit, leopard and cheetah artfully throughout this collection in the form of piping, shawls, collars and scarfs. So much so, that PETA should consider giving him an award. The finale of chic silk moire redingotes and floaty wool skirts concluded an impressive show, ideally timed for the American market. The house is opening a 2,500-square-foot boutique at 805 Madison in July, retailing its top line, Kenzo Paris, and the men’s collection, while the new bridge line, Kenzo Studio, will debut in the U.S. this fall.

Jacques Fath: Dutch designer Tom Van Lingen took the house of Jacques Fath back to its roots, with all kinds of echoes from the Fifties. There were nipped-waist jackets; short capes; cigarette pants; fake leopard, and even marabou trim for a politically correct version of mink. Fath clients love to dress up at night, and Van Lingen gave them plenty to choose from. Among the highlights were his tulle-and-tweed combinations — with curvy, belted tweed jackets over midcalf tulle skirts — and black matte jersey evening dresses. There were also sleeveless, sequined dresses cut straight at the knee with a slight flare in the back, a hemline seen in skirts for day, too.

John Rocha: It was all rather ladylike this season chez John Rocha, the Irish-based designer on his second outing on the Paris catwalks. He got it tenderly right with sensuous suits in satin and nylon taffeta and hobble skirts in soft velvet. Organza skirts with huge naive hand-painted magnolias and voluptuous silver satin pajama suits helped round out Rocha’s subtle collection.

Robert Merloz: Under the watchful eye of Pierre BergA, Merloz staged his first Carrousel de Louvre show using some new tricks, such as faux vests superimposed on jacket fronts, or jackets and skirts that were part woven and part sweater knit. Sometimes it worked — as in the dress with a pinstriped skirt and ecru knit bodice with a coordinating cardigan. But otherwise, the ideas got too complicated. Merloz is at his best with uncluttered, tailored looks and his simple, body-hugging knits with sheer striped insets.

Balenciaga: Designer Josephus Melchior Thimister raided the house’s fashion archives for inspiration this season. He sent out mottled gray “authentic Balenciaga tweed” in the form of several inventive suits, and followed with intricate white patent lambskin dresses, one of which had superb spider backstraps worthy of the Master. The collection did have its share of hits and misses, but racy black velvet bustiers and dragon-lady ballgowns — along with Stephen Jones’s witty hats — gave this show a rousing finale.