Paris fashion has no boundaries and no borders.
Thursday's cultural melting pot of spring-summer 2013 shows was proof enough.
Curious designers, thirsty for new inspiration, ventured across the globe to bring new ideas and exotic cultures back to the catwalk.
Manish Arora travelled to northwestern India's Rajasthan to bring Paris a vibrant infusion of traditional Indian dress and lavish regal jewellery.
Balmain’s creative nomad Olivier Rousteing, meanwhile, replaced last season’s muse — the Russian Empire’s Faberge Egg — to travel to the artisanal wicker-weavers of Cuba to give his summer collection a unique panache with its hints of in-vogue black.
Barbara Bui, who also opened with black, joined the expedition with geometric American Indian prints and tribal-looking dresses and foulards.
Taking another tack, Nina Ricci, forever a romantic Parisian gamine, travelled decades back in time to produce a nostalgic show with a modern twist.
Friday’s collections include Roland Mouret and Issey Miyake, as well as the debut ready-to-wear show for new Christian Dior designer Raf Simons.
To welcome in next spring, some designers in Paris have said it with flowers. Balmain said it with wicker.
Never one to travel with the crowd, 27-year-old designer Olivier Rousteing used artisanal Cuban wicker-weaving as a vehicle for his signature graphic silhouettes.
Rousteing — who on Thursday completed a full year at the helm of the iconic French fashion house — possesses a roving eye for cultural artifacts. Strong shouldered, highly structured looks came with cropped tops, lashings of jewel and slices of torso at his Paris Fashion Week show.
Yet the high point was the wicker-embellished cropped jackets that growled like a fierce, feminine exoskeleton.
Rousteing’s 3-D woven straw evoked a baroque mood, a feeling that was echoed by lavish diamond checkerboard patterns — a replica of the polished marble flooring of the Versailles Palace.
No doubt Rousteing will pass his annual job review.
India — home to over a billion people and one of the most colourful cultures in the world — is a limitless creative touchstone for designers. So it’s surprising that Mumbai-born Manish Arora — perhaps the subcontinent’s most famous designer — has not delved into its rich fashion encyclopedia before.
That is, until now.
Arora presented a spicy and bohemian homage to his homeland for spring-summer 2013 at Paris Fashion Week.
But why now?
“Luckily, this year I was very attracted towards jewellery: Is there a better place to draw inspiration?” said Arora, dressed in a flamboyant gold top.
Arora took us by the bejewelled hand down a goldmine of revamped traditional Indian dress. Angrakha dresses with orange patterns were set off boldly with a shiny chainmail pant, alongside geometric prints of tigers, panthers and antelope.
However, the show was really about the jewellery, as sublime ornamentation reined in some of the collection’s more garish looks. At one point there were gasps as the maharaja’s daughter came down the catwalk: Resplendent in a standout gold face-band that circled the bottom of the eyes.
There’s been nostalgia in the air at Nina Ricci of late.
This was certainly the case in Peter Copping’s deceptively complex spring-summer 2013 show at Paris Fashion Week, which floated ethereally by and matched the vintage feeling of last season’s show.
Perhaps the mood was set by the millions of falling cherry blossoms — which mark the end of spring — that opened the presentation.
Or perhaps it was the floaty chiffon tops, the gentle pleated skirts, the halter necks, the flowing fringing or the soft silhouettes that harked to bygone days of the 1920s and 1930s.
Although the show opened with black designs, it melted like winter into spring, shifting into dusty colours of silver gray, blush pink, red and pale lavender.
Touches such as zippers kept it modern for an accomplished, commanding show — the most feminine display so far this season in Paris.
But Copping needn’t be feeling nostalgic himself — this collection shows he has a bright future with the fashion house.
“Black is back for summer,” declared Barbara Bui, following her saleable, and typically feminine collection for spring-summer 2013.
The French-Vietnamese designer opened the show true to her word, with a series of sexy-looking black nappa ensembles.
Bui, known to have an eye on her youthful clientele, ticked the on-trend box with her gentle masculine tailored-jackets, which led the eye down provocatively to skintight pants or inches of leg.
Singing the spirit of spring’s first bloom, Bui then let float by a diaphanous series of sheer organza blouses.
Fluttering layers and contrasting pockets endowed the cornflower blue and flesh coloured looks an interesting textural play.
Unfortunately, the message of harmony got lost by the end — diluted by a confusing series of geometric American Indian patterns with conflicting silhouettes.