The Ghosts Haunting Paris Fashion Week

From edgy streetwear to romance and history, the best influences were also the oldest in Paris this week.

PARIS — There is nothing like leaving a few things to chance, especially at Paris Fashion Week.

Manish Arora sat inside his flagship store on a small street near Rue St.-Honoré, casting away some 48 hours before his catwalk show, his eyes gleaming.

His team of makeup artists and stylists milled around, beyond the signature gold heart that marks the entrance to his shop, which is decorated in bright pink.

“Indians love color,” Arora likes to say.

He should know. Arora recently became the first Indian fashion designer to be awarded France’s Legion d’Honneur, the country’s highest accolade, handed over in the French consulate in India where he spends half his time. His clients include Lady Gaga.

Hanging on the rails inside this inner sanctuary of the Arora universe, are rows of designs, created for his autumn/winter 2016 collection.

The customary larger-than-life embroidery glittered, like gold dust fallen from the Indian skies in a monsoon, to decorate his pieces that are almost always the most colorful at the Paris shows.

This year, the evolution of his look could be seen in the denim and cowboy boots, the bandanas and out-there sunglasses, or his gypsy, happy traveler girl that has informed his past few collections--not to mention his trips to Burning Man in California.

Paris Fashion Week supplies the sartorial climax after New York, London, and Milan. It is a place of surprises and sometimes unlikely glamour. Model and fashion icon Iris Apfel, 94, was in town for an exhibition at department store, Le Bon Marche, entitled “Iris in Paris.” It includes a pop-up shop.

This year, as in New York, there was much talk around being able to buy the designs on display now, rather than waiting six months—some young designers’ designs went on sale straight after their shows, although the governing body of Paris Fashion Week, the Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, said it was sticking to the traditional model of showing clothes six months before they are available to buy.

There were surprises or shocks, like the collection sent out by Lanvin, the first to go out since it parted ways with its long-term designer Alber Elbaz last year. The flouncy looks were trashed thoroughly by some and embraced as a commercial collection that will sell well by others.

There was the discussion about and mark left by other departures and new arrivals. Does it matter to show without a design chief?

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Dior showed sans Raf Simons, who left in October, while Balenciaga debuted designer Demna Gvasalia, who combined the houses’s architectural principles with his own edgy streetwear aesthetic established by the Georgian native at his own label Vetements.

There was a rallying to find trends, like velvet, which Demna, for one, embraced, or pleats and scarves.

At Rochas, Alessandro Dell’Acqua sent out a parade of velvet dresses and wooly socks worn with strappy heels that looked romantic.

Other shows too seemed to feature romantic ghosts of old Paris. Chanel re-worked classic looks with updates like denim, and included sometimes bag-lady silhouettes that deviated from its more classically-shaped history.

There was a flowing, fly away, yesteryear elegance at Valentino, mixed with sometimes darker, heavier wintery pieces, inspired by dance, like a pleated black skirt worn with a leotard-style top.

Then there was for inspiration, the fresh outlook of new designers short listed for the LVMH fashion prize--or the Next Gen selection at the trade show Tranoi. There, Varhan Kharchatryan, from Armenia, created surrealist shapes decorated with his grandfather’s modern art in some of the most eye-catching looks of the week.

Rahul Mishra, India’s latest designer to show in Paris, explained to critic Suzy Menkes, who makes a great effort to meet new designers, the workmanship involved in making his intricate pieces in India.

Polish designer Gozia Baczynska presented her new range of shoes with hologram heels and leather dusted in Mohair.

All were stunning in their own different ways, and revealed why it is the variety of designers at Paris Fashion Week that is its greatest, most heartening strength.