PARIS (AP) — Gold, space-age sheens, peasant garb, gravity-defying skirts and 1950s boudoir slippers all made for a dramatic - if incongruous - array for Paris' first full day of spring-summer 2014 fashion shows.
But what Wednesday's ready-to-wear displays lacked in unity they by far made up for in energy and inventiveness, as showcased by Dries Van Noten, whose unchallenged mastery of contradictory styles was on full view in his dizzying fashion spectacle.
The inimitable Belgian designer produced the strongest show of the day.
With seven days to go before the season ends, it's too early to spot the Paris trends - but flowers, metallic sheens, and white made strong statements across the day's 11 official shows.
Elsewhere, several shows - such as Gareth Pugh and Rochas - used dramatic hairstyles and make up to strengthen the statement of their increasingly imaginative catwalk presentations.
The shows continue Thursday with Lanvin, Nina Ricci and Balmain.
DRIES VAN NOTEN
Only at a Van Noten show can opulent gold hang from sportswear vest straps, peasant blouses meet luxurious colorful damasks, ethnic beading come alongside John Lennon-style shades, and flattened torsos jar with billowing multi-directional 3-D frills, and, still, all succeed and prompt whooping applause.
It's no small feat.
This season saw Van Noten explore his Midas touch.
Gently flirting with the metallics craze this season, in one look a huge gold waist-flap set off the contradictory styles with glamor. In the ensemble, a vertical loose cream jacket on a flat-fronted gray top was set alight by the horizontal gold accordion-pleats - finished off with a suitably out-of-place, decoratively textured black skirt.
Van Noten must have had great fun in putting this collection together.
The show ended on a high with one dizzying ensemble of floral-shaped rouching that the program notes said used up around 16 meters (52 feet) of silk.
In warm cream, black and golden ochre, this incredible creation turned the whole body into a billowing, 3-D experience and blurred the line between fashion and art.
Creative director Marco Zanini used Tennessee Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie" as an inspiration behind his 1950s-themed catwalk show.
The feathery boudoir slippers and messy bed-hair nicely evoked Amanda Wingfield, the play's faded Southern belle and unstable single mother.
But Zanini used Williams only as a jumping board in this Rochas show's fascinating ode to the fifties.
Not all the 41 looks worked — far from it — but each formed part of a carefully-crafted shopping list of all things in-vogue during this time: Pointed winklepickers, full skirts and box coats, as well as the must-have hues of pale peach and pale turquoise.
Meanwhile, sheeny material with floral patterns perfectly captured the American society's then obsession with the latest material to hit the stores: Nylon chiffon.
London's enfant terrible produced one of his most sculptural shows to date, with stone-smooth fabric producing clean folds and engineering planes around the body.
As ever with Pugh, it was high drama.
Whether in stiff exaggerated collars in white, which billowed out like an unfurling rose, space-age circular shoulders in gray or black, or bright turquoise silk column skirts which elongated the leg, surreal elements dominated the 38 looks.
Three-dimensional makeup which enlarged the brow, alongside huge enveloping feathered headdresses, had the Star Trek fans in the audience smiling.
"It feels very light and easy and at peace, and this is how I feel myself," said Croatian-born designer Damir Doma of his unusually delicate Paris show.
Antwerp-trained Doma's niche in the Paris fashion week calendar is often found in his hip monkish, dark and medieval styles.
So when the first looks filed by in breezy white cotton it certainly felt like a welcome new direction.
Neatly embroidered perforated holes punctuated dresses, gauze skirts and boxy tops. They were distributed almost randomly like a feminine blossom that broke up what might have been a stark monochrome.
Doma's signature asymmetry was still here though - and in abundance with a series of truncated toga styles.
But the story of the show was Doma's exploration of his often-neglected feminine side. In a seismic shift for the designer who prefers menswear tailoring, he included actual dresses in his womenswear for the first time.
Futurism infused Guy Laroche's show.
The result was a collection with some great ideas, but that seemed to lack somewhat in energy. High notes were hit in a series of sporty skirts that could be described as intergalactic tennis-wear. Cut on the bias this techo-fabric had a voluminous and exaggerated natural flounce - going upward as it would in zero-gravity.
The science fiction musing continued with an all-white shattered glass-effect zipper jacket and cross-over top.
The gray fringing details that appeared on several ensembles and white shirt and black masculine-tailored pant looks didn't, however, feel very fresh.
Marongiu, it seems, worked best in zero-gravity.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP
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