PARIS - Spring signals new beginnings. Not only in statement-making prints and new colours — as the Paris spring-summer 2013 season has shown — but in bold ideas that remap the fashion landscape.
One such revamp came in the form of Raf Simons.
The anticipation around the Belgian's ready-to-wear debut at Dior was palpable: Crowds spilled into the all-white edifice at the Hotel des Invalides and actor Robert de Niro, director Luc Besson and designer Diane Von Furstenberg lined the front row.
And the designer did not disappoint — evolving his own minimalist style with whimsical exuberance and also that of the iconic house, whose codes he mastered, then subverted.
Taking the trend of colour spliced with summer black, his pale palette came in yellows, greens, pink and metallic blue.
Brighter hues were served up by Roland Mouret, the master of va-va-voom, and Anne Valerie Hash whose unified collections boasted vibrancy, yet, still, never strayed too far from the black, that's now a mainstay for 2013.
Issey Miyake, meanwhile, picked back up of the popular trend of colour-blocking to kaleidoscopic effect.
Saturday's shows include dutch design duo Viktor & Rolf and the fashion queen of England, Vivienne Westwood.
Freedom was at the heart of Raf Simons' outing for Dior — a confident show that twinned the essence of the 1950's "New Look," with the liberated hemlines of the 1960s.
Simons — a minimalist — is in many ways the stark opposite of Christian Dior, the exuberant house founder who favoured longer ankle-length silhouettes.
But Friday's free, liberating display shows that in spirit — if not perhaps in silhouette — they meet eye to eye.
Simons took the "New Look" bar jacket, in black, grey and white and sent it down the catwalk often bare-legged, with the hemlines of the sexual revolution.
It was the same rebellious mood with which Christian Dior founded the house in 1947: His long-length "New Look" shocked the fashion world in its indulgent use of material — a backlash against wartime fabric rationing.
"The foundation of the house is a reaction to restrictions," said Simons. "I wanted to do that too."
Do it, he did — not forgetting to have fun on the way.
Cheekily, Simons turned it and other jackets into mini dresses — twinned with black uber-short shorts. Other looks had a dash of Simons' own signature architecture.
Simons' has been swatting up.
Where Christian Dior loved garden flowers — here, Raf Simons delved even further into the bushes, bringing back in his jam-jar six sumptuous insect-inspired looks in silk and tulle.
One pink and blue loose A-line used tulle and embroidery to create the translucent veins of an insect wing.
It was details like this that made this collection fly so freely and so high.
Issey Miyake's collection was born, so say the program notes, of "vibrantly colored images of birds alighting...and flapping their wings."
Weaving in the house's signature high-tech fabric on sheer and tulle jersey, the result: A colour-blocked phoenix of a show.
Hues — and also models, who walked in criss-cross formation — converged and flowed. In the process, it added a much-welcome splash of fun to the Paris Fashion Week calendar.
Black graphic stripes blurred in the loose and pleat-rich silhouettes, in lime yellow, cobalt, sky blue and orange, only serving to add to these visual illusions.
Then came the science: The Miyake fabric-lab showing that it's been as busy as ever.
This season they served up what the house calls "revolutionary" double-sided printing. Revolutionary it wasn't, but images on the front and back blurred together to produce a nice graphic play.
Models strolled down the catwalk haphazardly in white open-toe sandals.
"Forget spring," they seemed to say, "we can't wait for summer."
There must be a lot of pressure on Roland Mouret to break away from the label of the one-dress wonder.
The inventor of the famed cap-sleeved "Galaxy dress," that's graced a million red carpets, has, perhaps consciously, been in an experimental mood recently, gently modifying his signature mould. This continues in Friday's coherent show.
Where last season the silhouettes were likened to an abbreviated 1950s "New Look," Friday's show had tinges of 1980s space-age geometry.
Origami-like folds on belts, straps and sporadically attached large pockets provided a small creative twist on a more structured, fitted collection.
Peplums and geometric filets, and one-off pleats provided the creative butter, spread on his bread-winning va va voom silhouettes.
They made a comeback as pencil skirts and sheaths this season in deep green, white and on-trend vermillion.
ANNE VALERIE HASH
Anne Valerie Hash hit the right spot with her feminine but edgy show, featuring several looks with the top part sliced completely off.
"It was about female self-confidence," said Hash backstage. And the guillotine effect, too?
"Ah, I suppose I also wanted to have some fun."
The guillotined materials' were suspended to the body thanks to a bustier, which gave the shoulders a curious and imaginative trompe l'oeil effect.
High waists and pencil-skirts in many of the 33 ensembles — in indulgent lashings of summer black, power pinks, coral, gold and "electric anise" — gave a structure and confidence to the often super skinny models' fragile silhouettes.
But Hash — a woman's woman — didn't forget the sex appeal too: With stretch chiffon, second skin sequins, stretch leather and satin, many of the looks dripped liquid sensuality.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP