A sweet spirit and a gentle attitude towards women single out two designers at the beginning of Paris Fashion Week
Olivier Theyskens: A Fresh Return
Turn the clock back to the early days of the new millennium, to a faded French mansion on the Paris Bois de Boulogne, gilt peeling off, its floor thick with dust. Yet there in the empty rooms lived the romantic spirit of young Belgian Olivier Theyskens.
The designer was adored by Madonna, courted by couture for Rochas and Nina Ricci and ultimately ousted from his adopted city to land a job in New York with fast fashion line Theory.
And now, Theyskens, 39, is back in Paris, showing in a small space in the Marais district with a collection comprising everything that he stands for - especially that mix of tough and tender, everyday reality and distant dream
"That is fundamental to what I believe in, when it comes naturally out of my spirit, I don't question it," said the designer, referring perhaps to that meld of sweet young thing in a trench coat tied tight around the waist and an evening dress with an embroidered train sweeping across the floor.
"It was very Parisian," I suggested to the designer of the precise cuts and slender black dresses.
"It was the same mixture I always have between my French roots and my Belgium spirit," Olivier said. "There is this chemistry - I like that girl to have some depth and maybe translate that back to what I do."
This conversation was after the applause and cheers, more for the fact that the designer was back on home territory than by the strength of the show.
There was no real surprise in the story of a young woman, hair apparently wet from a shower - or perhaps from a fountain in a mysterious secret garde
She wore dresses in black with dotted lace over half-bared arms, a python jacket with the texture of tree bark over a floating chiffon skirt. Or maybe a glow of colour in a slim red dress, or a black and brown coat, its geometric pattern pitting the angular against the ethereal.
Theyskens has that essential quality for any fashion designers - a vision - and one that is recognisably his own. The central story is of innocence, or at least a freshness that is pitted discreetly against vulgarity. Could this concept be developed more strongly to make a defining statement?
Let's wait and see.
Simon Porte Jacquemus: Gentle Power
The music from the French film Jean de Florette filled the vast tent as the models took steps down wooden benches wearing footwear particular to Jacquemus: one normal heel and the other a wooden square.
Designer Simon Porte Jacquemus, whose work gets stronger each season, literally filled in the holes that were a symbol of his earlier work.
Now there were waves of fat ruffles down white shirt sleeves - that courtly look being the fashion story of the moment.
On this stage, as if in reference to Marcel Pagnol's original novel of the film, there was a Provençal feel to the clothes and the flat straw hats.
Twin the headgear with a lacy white nightdress garment (but one with sharp, wide shoulders) and the look was from an earlier century.
But the upturned 'V' silhouette that shaped the collection was dynamic and in tune with other thoughtful designers this season.