Dries Van Noten: Subtlety is the thing that keeps an around-the-globe collection from going camp and corny. And that subtlety is something that Dries Van Noten has down pat. After all, this isn’t his first trip. With an off-the-cuff reference to Japan in his snugly wrapped brocade jackets, a nod to Morocco in bits of embroidery and a washed-out pair of all-American jeans, Van Noten set off, proving himself to be quite a casual traveler. He wandered all over the map appreciating foreign cultures and their garb from afar instead of working up literal translations for the runway. As the designer surely intended, those distant interpretations meant that his exotic looks retained all their mystery.
In a neat bit of transcultural chic, a tie-dyed baby-doll top gave way to a kimono dress splashed with enormous pansies, while a circle skirt in an old-fashioned floral came directly from the Land of Dries. But within the mix, he also played the rough organics of his knits against the blousy softness of silk tent dresses. These billowy looks, which are some of the best around, included both a long prairie skirt spliced together from delicate sari silks and a layered dress in coral and bronze that looked fine enough to slip right through a ring.

Olivier Theyskens: Let the others take sides, concerning themselves with the state of the world and clothes that strive to project either giddy joy or sour desperation. For his part, Olivier Theyskens has advanced a different notion this season: real clothes with a splash of fashion. Remember suits? They’ve been few and far between this season, but somebody has to do them. And Theyskens’s version, which paired a short black trench jacket with a snug pencil skirt, looked great. Forties-style polish gave that slick little number its flair, while his double-breasted leather coatdress and broad-shouldered shirtdresses would have well suited some film noir dame. Meanwhile, his snug sweaters and A-line satin skirts could outfit a woman from any era.
While his cool staples may show retailers just how serious this designer is, fans look to young Olivier for his moodier stuff. Don’t forget he was crowned the Dark Prince of Goth at the beginning of his career. And everyone knows there’s something about the creepy side of Victoriana that has always had a hold over this designer. In creating a foil for all that makes the cash register sing, he sent out a fantastic tiered leather ruffled skirt that had been artfully damaged and a odd series of Belle Epoque dresses. Theyskens did up the latter traditionally, bustles and all, though in a wacky bit of trompe l’-il, the bodices were tacked on in front to achieve the effect of holding up a towel after stepping out of the bath.

Costume National: Hard-edged and seductive, Ennio Capasa’s girls have never been the shy type. They are confident gals who love his sharply tailored pants and sexy, body-hugging tops. But a few days before his Costume National show, Capasa said, “I’m playing with the new volume this season,” hinting not at his deafening techno soundtrack but at the billowy shapes that flooded his runway.
Loose waiters’ jackets, gauzy wrap tunics and blouson shirts dominated the collection, and, in an unsuccessful attempt at the harem trend, his signature slim pants morphed into a droopy-drawers affair. Not a look his sexy fans are likely to embrace. But Capasa did make an effort to pump up the volume while keeping the sizzle factor in tow. He loosened his silhouettes, then reined them right in again. Filmy tops were wrapped tightly to the body, while shantung tunics were cinched with wide, elastic corset belts. Even his shirts, jackets and, in one case, a flight suit — legs lopped off to shorts — were cleverly shown tied around the waist, but floating free at the back. In other words, Capasa’s take on volume.

Martine Sitbon: Long cheered by the hometown crowd as an exemplar of Parisian flair, Martine Sitbon is making an expansion play. She has recruited a new general director, Jean-Pierre Jais, formerly of Christian Lacroix, and a new commercial director, Marie Fages, a Sonia Rykiel alumna. Meanwhile, the production license held by Italy’s Gibo has been terminated, and Sitbon will now oversee all distribution and manufacturing matters. Late next year, the designer even intends to weigh in with a second Paris boutique, this time on the Right Bank.
With all these changes brewing, this season, Sitbon also unveiled her first collection for Prada-owned Byblos. For a designer who has weathered her share of business peaks and valleys, she must feel as if she is finally advancing onto solid ground. And it showed in the confident effort she delivered here on Monday. Working largely in white and beige, she featured floaty ballerina dresses with an Art Deco feeling. In their soft romanticism, they were an appropriate counterpoint to this agitated time. In another register, for day, there were pinstriped jackets with a slightly Edwardian shoulder and hook-and-eye closures as well as petticoat skirts and some fine leather pieces. Familiar ground for Sitbon, they were carried off with poise.