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

(ART ADV: Photo is 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 On Tuesday morning, streams of black cars made their way to the Grand Palais for the Chanel show, and the driver of a Rolls-Royce with diplomatic plates got into a shouting match with two French police officers.

Unsaid is how much fuel is burned for fashion: constructing show spaces that will be immediate tear-downs (Dior), installing mega sound systems (Saint Laurent) or just getting thousands of models, editors, buyers, hairdressers, caterers and the odd celebrity (Jennifer Lopez, at both Chanel and Valentino) around town. This extensive use of time and resources is all to display clothes in the most advantageous light.

A designer must work doubly hard to show that there's a creative purpose in such excess. And even then, there's always a chance he or she will seem woefully out of touch.

The 12 wind turbines on the Chanel runway, their blades idly turning under the glass roof of the Palais, did not mean that Karl Lagerfeld had gone green. Like the blue solar-panel pattern on the runway, they were strictly for effect: to suggest the technological innovations in the fabrics, as well as lightness and air.

A household fan, I guess, just wouldn't do.

Chanel can be accused of obtuseness and political incorrectness; it once trucked in an iceberg. In the end, the turbines didn't really add anything to the show, except an absurd sense of delight each time you looked up at the white blades. But neither did they detract from anything. On that huge, light-hazy stage, framed by the minimalist towers, the spectrum of colors royal blue, pink, aqua, red, sage, lavender blurred into random drops, much as your eye picks out the bright hues in crowded streets.

It's hard to know where Lagerfeld gets his ideas, or how much of the total effect he sees in his mind as he starts to sketch a collection. But his ability to impart abstract impressions, as well as an attitude, is utterly fascinating. Another thing to look for in this collection are graphic textures: subtle grid effects created by mesh (sometimes embedded in cotton), very flat tweeds, the bold stripes in the platforms of shoes, and the checked edging of paper white jackets and cropped tops. The short, blown-out silhouette is self-evidently about air.

Hedi Slimane has returned to the runway, as creative director of Saint Laurent, where he once designed men's wear before transforming Dior Homme into a hot, skinny-suit connection. He brought back his showmanship but, alas, not the fashion sense that people expected of him.

He seemed reluctant, in fact, to interpret the Saint Laurent style, and so what the audience got (I saw the collection online, as I was not invited) were tightened-up pantsuits, blouses with frothy bows, fringed suede, floppy hats, caftans and other bohemian trappings from the late '60s and '70s. It was a nice but frozen vision of a bohemian chick at the Chateau Marmont.

The real question is whether there remains a vital enough story in Saint Laurent to tell to young women. With Celine, Phoebe Philo created her own. Maybe that's a cue to Slimane: Don't tell other peoples' stories, tell your own.

I don't know a "virginal polo shirt" from another polo shirt, but despite how that sounds, the Valentino designers, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, had a terrific show. In black, paper white, ivory, and rose shades of pink, A-line dresses and skirts in lace and other materials lightly swept over the body. Feminine details, like collars and bib fronts, were restrained. Along with the fabrics, what made the collection was the modest, beautiful line.

Clare Waight Keller has found her legs at Chloe in cute, oversize Bermudas and rounded pants. The shorts looked great either with a slim collarless jacket and long crepe blouse or a cropped popover top (a trend this season) with crisp white T-top. The misses in this collection were almost all a result of some excessive gesture: a too-wide collar or overshaped sleeve. Last season she filled her collection with offbeat sportswear pieces. Somehow, she needs to pour off some of the feminine syrup.