c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

PARIS — On a gray Sunday morning in Paris, when there is little traffic and the only signs of life on the streets are a few ambitious joggers, an excursion to the suburb of Saint-Denis for the Kenzo show did not sound so bad. The designers, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, had set up their runway in a glass-ceilinged hall the size of a railway station in La Cité du Cinéma, a film studio complex recently opened by the director Luc Besson. At the entrance is a trailer-size model of the Brooklyn Bridge. And there were cookies.

Bridging cultures, often between home and abroad, has become a signature of Lim and Leon, also the owners of Opening Ceremony. Their spring collection for Kenzo sought to meld California beach style with Paris tailoring, along with an ecological message this season of preserving marine life.

Their collection included two-piece looks in crisp cotton, minis, pants and jackets with blue-green scribbles or wavy hems that reflected the ocean, as well as a tunic made of embroidered fish (the clear winner of the show) and another black suit printed with yellow fish that looked somewhat Japanese. A short-sleeve top was marked up with a hastily drawn message, “No Fish, No Nothing,” a reminder of the dangers of overfishing.

Their idealism is endearing, if not a little naïve. Just imagine the younger versions of the designers, when they were pals at Berkeley, signing up for Earth Club and wearing the same tie-dye T-shirts for weeks on end. But the fashion audience is cynical. More than one guest observed that considering the dozens of black Mercedes-Benz coupes idling outside, and the gasoline it took to chauffeur the editors back and forth from the city, the message was mixed.

Isabel Marant’s collection had a lacy lingerie theme, with miniskirts of layered lace worn with tailored black jackets, the sleeves smushed up to the elbows, providing a sharp contrast between the hard and soft that is a hallmark of French chic. At one moment there was a baby-doll top and shorts made of nearly transparent lace, and the next, killer black leather pants (another version was shown in white lace) with lacing at the waist and ankles. Some of the outfits looked as tough as a woman in a football uniform.

For a more sugary sweet vision, there was Guillaume Henry of Carven, whose best looks were camouflage coats and dresses with wraparound tops in bonbon pastels, with cutouts of vivid wallpaper roses appliquéd along the sides. Carven targets a younger audience, but Henry’s approach is sophisticated, sometimes even challenging in his proportions, as with a series of oversize or elongated jeans jackets that looked a little stiff.

Among the contemporary designers showing in Paris, Acne Studios from Sweden took the simplest approach, with breezy white cotton jackets that resembled peacoats and a dress made of leather that was cut with slits like a paper ornament. By coincidence, Jonny Johansson, the creative director, had also played with a nautical theme. He included a fisherman’s rain slicker in a yellow papery fabric and a denim sailor dress, so, suffice it to say, he is probably not worrying about the fate of the fish.