Donatella Versace presented a series of revealing strappy dresses and short sporty Formula One-influenced combinations that dared women to get into the fast lane.
“I think women can be strong and capable of achieving their dreams while being beautiful and elegant,” the Italian designer said.
“It is a collection dedicated to all the women who follow their own path.”
To prove her point, Versace used a number of older models, albeit with perfect gym-hewn bodies.
The Italian creator, who took over the reins of the high-glamour fashion house from her late brother Gianni, also created an eye-catching line of superhero inspired pieces which seemed to channel Spiderman and the fin-de-siecle decadence of artist Aubrey Beardsley’s drawings.
‘My body, my soul’
Her models powered down the catwalk late Sunday to a rap of “my body, my soul”, the defiant message being that I will wear what I want to make me feel good and in control.
The emphasis was on legs with short embroidered dresses and long ball robes cut away at the front to show off high-heeled pins.
This take-no-prisoners feminist sexiness came into its own in power suits and gowns with cut away sections tied together with stringy not-quite-bondage cords.
Albanian-born British pop star Rita Ora caused a stir when she turned up on the front row wearing an ultra-sexy orange version of one, while the American model Gigi Hadid also turned heads with a see-through dress, another feature of the collection.
Christian Dior, which has been leaderless since the shock departure of artistic director Raf Simons in October, pulled out all the stops to impress Monday, building a palace of mirrors in the garden of Paris’ Rodin museum.
While there was much to admire in its riffing on the classic fresh and feminine Dior look, with gorgeous wispy lace and delicate off-the-shoulder dresses with clusters of crystal embroidery, it was far from the unbridled fantasy of John Galliano’s time at the helm.
Dior’s ‘new realism’
Dior itself appeared to admit that its wild days were over, claiming its clients now prefer “to dress freely and without fuss” in what it called “couture’s new realism”.
Boss Sidney Toledano told AFP afterwards he was in no hurry to find a replacement for Simons, whose minimalist touch lingered on in the dreamy spring-summer range that many critics predicted would sell well.
“It’s not like presidential elections where they are deadlines,” he said.
The studio team which turned out the show in Simons’ absence was immensely talented, he insisted.
“We are doing well. I am proud of the spirit which exists in this house. It’s like a great orchestra with a lot of virtuosos.”
Schiaparelli had earlier pulled off perhaps the day’s most playful and unexpected show.
Designer Bertrand Guyon mixed food, fruit and kitchen prints with a large pinch of the Italian artist Piero Fornasetti’s surrealism to produce a collection that was good enough to eat.
Floor length sheath, empire line and fairytale dresses, often with ingenious tongue-in-cheek culinary detailing, alternated with knee-length skirts, pinafore dresses and jackets decorated with historic horticultural motifs.
Dice Kayek went for a much more sombre business-like collection, marked by grey and black jackets with trailing capes and long puffy sleeves.
French label On Aura Tout Vu — best known for the sparkling bolero jacket made for singer Madonna — produced the most otherworldly collection of the day with a flock of short black and white feathery dresses for fallen angels.
With its handmade pieces solely within the price range of the world’s richest women, haute couture exists only in Paris and is regarded as the pinnacle of fashion.
The designation is protected by French law and attributed exclusively by the ministry of industry to 14 houses whose clothes are tailored to each client.
Another 20 are regarded as “guest members” of the elite club.
All photos: AFP