For the first of two dozen haute couture shows taking place until Wednesday night, the platinum blonde, permatanned designer Donatella Versace said she drew inspiration from the imagery of tarot cards.
Abstract prints derived from the fortune cards – sun, moon, lovers – adorned billowing chiffon evening gowns or a strapless mini dress of silk satin, overlaid with plastic and sliced into fine horizontal strips.
Hair in loose, bouncy curls, the models strode a catwalk directly above the swimming pool of the Ritz hotel, covered up for the occasion.
Their tight bustiers were fashioned from fine strips of shiny leather, or swirled patterns of crystal mesh and embroidery, flaring into generous sheer skirts, slit high on the thigh, in lime green, raspberry pink or sky blue.
Versace, who took a bow in black to the sound of Prince's "Kiss" mixed in with an operatic air, was showing her second haute couture collection since returning to the exclusive club after an eight-year hiatus.
The show kicked off three days of autumn-winter couture collections headlined by such names as Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy and Dior, whose new designer Raf Simons is making his hotly-awaited debut on Monday.
Haute couture is a protected appellation in France, awarded based on strict criteria like the amount of work carried out by hand and in-house, and the share of pieces made to measure.
Two dozen houses will be sending out one-off creations at the exclusive shows in Paris, their dizzying artistry matched only by their astronomical price tags, with wedding dresses reaching 100,000 euros ($130,000) or more.