Icy winds and empty seats defined the first day of the menswear shows at Paris Fashion Week — with heightened security following November's deadly attacks in the French capital. Some front-row celebrities were no-shows but they ended up missing out on top-notch creativity for the fall-winter 2016-17 season — with exaggerated proportions featuring in Valentino and Raf Simons.
Here are the highlights of Wednesday's catwalk collections.
Designers Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri did away with the military styles that have peppered the nascent menswear aesthetic.
Wednesday's show — in the magnificent 18th-century Hotel Salomon de Rothschild town house — was all the better for moving Valentino in a welcome creative direction.
Sixties' styles began the proceedings soberly enough — what the designers humorously called "existential blandness." Graphic monochrome turtlenecks were paired nicely with long black coats with elongated, oversize proportions, or tight-fitting double-breasted pea coats with skinny pants.
But then flashes of punk — like some blown-up black-and-white check plaid on a statement coat — demonstrated that this collection was not going to remain sober all the way through.
True enough, embroidered pearls in Native American patterns served as sumptuous decorations on a series of enviable retro coats that showcased the house's famed couture roots.
And then the designers really let their hair down in a tribal-bohemian finale — which showcased perhaps too many looks. Ponchos rubbed shoulders with embroidered feather motifs, and bold tectonic patterns on coats had fashionistas pulling out their smartphone cameras.
French Federation Tightens Show Security
France's fashion federation is ratcheting up security at ready-to-wear shows during the menswear and haute couture week, as the country still reels from some of the worst attacks on French soil in peacetime.
The federation said it is collaborating with authorities in enforcing a national state of emergency until Feb. 26 — a move, it admits, "might generate some constraints for the guests."
Designer Franck Sorbier urged industry professionals to bring the bare minimum and banned big bags while designer Elie Saab warned that people will be searched and refused entry without ID.
The Paris fashion season is always a huge operation for French authorities, who have to divert traffic to accommodate the traveling circus of fashionistas that try to see over 70 official shows.
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Raf Simons Goes Back to School
It was a back to school with a dash of the 1980's for Raf Simons, who's been making ripples since October last year for resigning as Christian Dior's creative director.
At his Wednesday night menswear show, the Belgian designer showed that he has retained a sense of humor — at least for his eponymous label.
"Gargantuan" could be a better word than "oversized" to describe the surreally exaggerated proportions of Simons' russet and blue college sweaters and striped high school cardigans in his fall-winter 2016 show.
Skinny models sported skinny black drainpipes, further contrasting the oversized shapes.
Collars were nibbled away as if a bored school kid had got hungry ahead of lunch break.
There were some clever moments of fashion fusion — large, floppy cuffs that might readily be associated with slouchy high school adolescents at times evoked Asiatic styles, which also feature long, sweeping cuffs.
Most looks were, of course, unwearable.
But Simons is a fashion "intellectual" more interested in ideas than practicality.
Lemaire Feels the Blues
It was a study in blue for former Hermes designer Christophe Lemaire's eponymous label.
The focused 31-piece collection artfully experimented with some beautiful hues on loose silhouettes— such as blue gray, Prussian blue, navy and true indigo.
Elegance was the name of the game, with sumptuous, timeless fabrics on a cape, a sophisticated neck tie or loose silky buttoned-up shirts riffing nicely off the timeless stone cloisters where the show was held.
But Lemaire is an "it" designer now, and casual sneakers with white soles and pants and jackets with a sheen gave this collection a contemporary feel.
Paris Fashion Goes Digital
Paris fashion organizers are making it easier in the digital age to follow shows and trends.
Starting this month, the federation has launched a new smartphone app called "Paris Fashion Week" to help fashion followers know where and when catwalk shows are occurring. It also offers insight into up-and-coming designers showcased in a fashion fair called Designers Apartment that runs alongside the main fashion week.
In addition, the "New Now" function tells users in which shops specific garments from some 30 brands can be purchased as they hit the shops. Thomas Adamson, AP Fashion Writer