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(ART ADV: Photos XNYT127-131 are being sent to NYT photo clients. Nonsubscribers can purchase one-time rights by calling: 1-888-603-1036 or 1-888-346-9867.)

c.2012 New York Times News Service

PARIS With nearly everyone here taking a pause, thinking outside fashion and the present moment, and burrowing into the early years of a house, if that is a designer's job, I wondered what Riccardo Tisci would do at Givenchy.

Tisci has had a somewhat tortured journey at Givenchy, though he has outlasted, and in a way outgunned, his two predecessors. His motifs have included goth weeds, crucifixes and attack dogs. If he considered Hubert de Givenchy's iconic dresses for Audrey Hepburn in a string of '50s and early '60s movies, and for women like Jacqueline Kennedy, he kept those thoughts well concealed.

Yet that period ought to be a powerful inducement for a designer to question his ideas, considering the freedoms that were in the air in art, music, films. The sexual revolution was around the corner. And before Yves Saint Laurent got going, in 1962, Givenchy was on the case. His clothes were ravishingly light and knowing.

When Tisci opened his show, to live organ music, the first look was a baby-blue, one-sleeve silk dress with a ruffle around the yoke and down one side. Despite the striking accessories, like metal chokers embellished with wood and shoes with studded plexiglass heels, the eye kept flying back to the superb and satisfying clothes.

He aced the dopey ruffle, reducing its movement to a flutter on a lean silhouette. Not for a minute did the clothes look nostalgic. If he came close at all, it was with mock turtlenecks and halter fronts, but he submerged the latter with an airy white gazar tunic worn with black pants.

Gold bar tacks placed at the shoulders or the sides of tunics served as minimalist adornment, but they also kept in check the effusive fabrics, including radzimir and organza. Another classical statement was the Givenchy blouse, done in lace or chiffon with the modern asymmetry of one overscale sleeve.

It might not have been the most challenging collection, but for Tisci it was an important one, with liberating aspects. And its timing couldn't be better.

Female designers of women's fashion differ from men in that they wear the clothes, but, in a larger sense, they also inhabit them. They associate them with place, as well as mood and experiences. A female designer is more apt to treat a ruffle ironically. On Monday, both Stella McCartney and Giambattista Valli showed sheer looks.

But whereas McCartney's tubular dresses playfully incorporated an elliptical patch of color into the pleated fabric, and could be worn alone or with a belted summer tweed jacket or one of her gauze knits for a completely different effect, Valli offered his clients the harsh choice of wearing underpants with his sheer minis. Fortunately, he had more substantial clothes, too.

In one way or another, McCartney was exposing a female obsession with this collection: How much of one's self to show? From the crisp forest tweeds to asymmetrical wrap dresses, to a beautifully cut tuxedo with a boxy jacket, there was a cool sense of economy and order. But then she starts to tug at the blind. More skin is revealed: diamond-cut dresses in black and white silk organza, or the unfettered summer look of a black eyelet shirt over one of those clingy elliptical skirts, suddenly refined in jet black.

Hermes may have the world's best leather artisans, along with silk-print makers, but what it needs is more passion and precision in its women's fashion, from Christophe Lemaire. He seemed on the right track last season, with languid pantsuits and sports-inspired clothes, but this collection didn't project a woman with an assured, quirky sense of style. Having the money to buy crocodile shorts with a matched top is beside the point. Would you anyway?

Even if some Hermes' customers don't mind being led by the nose, the company still has to invest in the dreams of other people, and the principle that they look to these shows for ideas, and not merely nice products. There should be a far more advanced sense of style at Hermes, as there already is in its menswear.