c.2014 New York Times News Service

c.2014 New York Times News Service

PARIS — What does the future look like?

Many of France’s top prognosticators, and those with the funds and the institutions to support those predictions, came together here last week at the palatial Hôtel Potocki. The occasion was the 25th anniversary of the Andam Award, an annual prize of cash and mentorship that has given a boost to designers as various as Martin Margiela, the inaugural recipient; Giles Deacon and Alexandre Mattiussi of Ami.

Mattiussi, the menswear designer, won in 2013.

“I was thinking that last year it was me, it was Ami,” he said as he broke away from a crowd of photographers snapping his picture and headed into dinner. “So much has changed in a year.”

Case in point: The red beanie he had been wearing for the photos, his totemic accessory, was spangled in Swarovski crystal. The company is one of the handful of Andam sponsors that offers its wares and services to the winners.

Andam’s net is a wide one. It favors no one style or aesthetic, which can lead to surprises both good and odd. It’s not the surest place to find the future, but it is often worth a look. The finalists for this year’s prize included prominent names and lesser-knowns: Fausto Puglisi, the exuberant Italian maximalist, and Iris van Herpen, a spectral Dutchwoman with a sculptural, science-lab approach to design, represent both the highest profile and the most oppositely inclined.

Van Herpen ultimately took the prize, which was announced in July. She spent the dinner at a table with François-Henri Pinault, the chief executive of the Kering Group and her mentor for the next two seasons; Nadja Swarovski; Pierre Bergé; and Andam’s founder, Nathalie Dufour. At other tables sat Pierre-Yves Roussel, the charismatic chief executive of the LVMH fashion group, and John Demsey, the group president of the Estée Lauder Cos. All have a professional interest in identifying who’s on next.

It was a night of celebration, then back to work. This week, both Puglisi and van Herpen staged shows.

Puglisi is in Paris to present the collection he designs for Emanuel Ungaro. (His own collection is shown in Milan.) His models, beneath their plastic floral Stephen Jones headpieces and a lurid smear of club makeup, wore flowing jersey gowns in electric colors and abstracted florals in lace devoré that resembled smudged newsprint.

“I would like people looking at this to say, ‘Wow,’” Puglisi said backstage. “It’s fun. You can like it or not, but it’s fun.”

It’s a vision of the future rooted in retro and supercharged for the present. Puglisi recalled his own “wow” moments watching Versace and Ungaro shows as a child in Sicily, and leaned hard on an interpretation of the Ungaro archive. But it had a ferocity — its volume dialed up still more by Arianne Phillips, best known as Madonna’s stylist — sometimes at odds with Ungaro’s finesse.

Puglisi’s are visceral pleasures; van Herpen’s, cerebral ones. A trip to CERN in Switzerland, the site of the Large Hadron Collider, inspired a collection, which was based on the movement of magnetic fields.

Van Herpen uses materials like acrylic and acetate as much as leather and tulle, working with an architect and an artist to create pieces that are virtuosic and inventive but also somewhere outside the usual scope of fashion, at least in terms of something you might wear day to day. Her most elaborate showpieces are effectively giant cages of translucent webbing that hover around the body.

Translating the vision of these pieces into commercially viable ready-to-wear clothes is the challenge she faces: effectively, how to pull her work from the future back into the present without compromise. Leather mesh dresses, replicating the look of her acrylics and held together with what appeared to be tiny stakes of the stuff, came a way toward overcoming it, though they tamped down some of the magic of her more esoteric work.