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c.2012 New York Times News Service
PARIS — The Balenciaga show was just over as Francois Pinault, the art patron and founder of PPR, slipped out of the backstage area, past a throng of waiting guests. A sustained roar followed as the models, still in their new ruffled and tweeds, cheered.
Then a security guard pushed through with Kristen Stewart, dressed in scribble-print white jeans and a black tank top, a lime-yellow leather jacket slung over her shoulder, so she could have her moment with Nicolas Ghesquiere.
She talked and talked. Oh, brother. As Ghesquiere listened, she worked her way from one outfit to the next, saying what she liked about each. She skipped nothing, and her enthusiasm showed.
Holding up the line at Balenciaga is understandable. On Thursday, as the Paris shows accelerated, Ghesquiere put a lot of new options on the runway. In one sense, the lean tailoring and white squared-off tops, with their Catholic overtones, brought his designs back to his roots at Balenciaga, when the clothes attracted a girl force.
But in another way, this collection was confidently grown-up, as if Ghesquiere knew he had nothing to prove.
''I think Balenciaga has given me a quiet force," he said.
That was abundantly clear in the tailoring — now as sleeveless black jacket sliced over a surgical white top and high-waist navy pants — and in black ruffled dresses that were at once sporty and sensual. It's amazing to see how Ghesquiere continues to abstract Balenciaga's Spain. On the models' fingers were tiny gold rings; on their feet, pumps with hollowed-out cubist heels.
He didn't erase the Modernist geometry of recent seasons, but he used it more harmoniously with the fabrics. Square-cut white lace tops had an almost plaster cast, while the source of the tweeds was hard to pinpoint. As someone on Twitter noted, the tweed suits looked like a young woman's grunge version of her mom's Chanel suit. Quite so, but those etched tweeds took some work.
The collection had a touch of mythology and nature (in pleated skirts embroidered with black thorns or, if you like, barbed wire). Out of those two forces, Ghesquiere found a new silhouette: an easy tank dress, almost an apron, with a flared skirt and a swag of fabric in the front.
Grunge has seen so many iterations since Marc Jacobs first put a plaid shirt on the runway 20 years ago that it's scarcely a shock today. The Olsen sisters did their version, and photographers like Steven Meisel re-created images of young Hollywood with a latte in one hand and a designer bag in the other.
Fortunately, Dries Van Noten has the good taste, as well as an in-depth supply of fabrics, to make an idiosyncratic statement. Some of his outfits truly looked grungy, like a flabby gray pullover worn with vintage floral-print pajama pants and a untucked plaid shirt. He doled out a lot of friendly pieces from ruffled chiffon blouses to slouchy pants and silvery plaid shorts; his customers will have to decide what they need. Among the versatile looks were wrap vests and sleeveless dresses tied with a cord.
At Rochas, Marco Zanini seemed fascinated by how women walk — in a satin pencil skirt, a retro swimsuit, even a swaying hoop shirt. He showed all those styles, but his most relevant looks were wide-leg trousers and blouses in white stretch brocade.
In the late 1990s, few designers caught the mood of the time as precisely as Veronique Branquinho did. Her clothes were as cool as Ghesquiere's, and as talked about. She has returned to the runway after a three-year break. Mature, yes: those modest yet chic gold dresses and long skirts, a pair of wide-leg navy trousers with a matching work shirt. Detached, just a little. Her voice is the opposite of what you hear today, and for that reason, you want to hear more from Branquinho.
White bubbles oozed out of taps at Rick Owens' show, and soon there was a small advancing glacier on the runway: a perfect image for the designer's incredibly light and airy clothes. Owens created a sliver of a silhouette, then veiled it in semitransparent fabrics or terse, sleeveless, lapelless jackets. The couture feeling was all there in the membrane-like fabrics, but the sense of energy was a complete rush.