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YSL underwhelms, as Chloe and McCartney get fresh

PARIS -- Everyone loves a high-profile rivalry, but perhaps the fashion world more than most.

This might explain why fashion writers have so eagerly pitted the two new influential faces of Paris' ready-to-wear calendar against each other.

In the Christian Dior ring, Raf Simons _ the house designer appointed in April whose Friday collection wowed journalists _ and in Yves Saint Laurent's, Hedi Slimane, the 44-year-old appointed in March, who himself used to work at Dior menswear.

Amid incredible pressure to deliver, Paris-born Slimane unveiled his new vision for the rival house Monday, with YSL themselves adding to the buzz through their strict guestlist and restricted invitations.

Meanwhile, the front row presence was proof enough of the brand's enduring allure: From French First Lady Valerie Trierweiler, actress Jessica Chastain and a roll call of his designing peers Vivienne Westwood, Alber Elbaz and Marc Jacobs.

So who won?

YVES SAINT LAURENT

When fashion editors put down their pens halfway through a catwalk show, it's always cause for worry.

This was the case at Hedi Slimane's disappointing debut at Yves Saint Laurent _ a rather confused ode to excess that used fringing, leather, lacing, tassels, feathers, sequins, skinny menswear tailoring, baggy pants, cinching cummerbunds, capes, tribal pendants and almost everything else under the sun.

Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent's former partner said: "(Slimane) knows the Saint Laurent DNA, the spirit."

There was definitely a nod to that. For example, black silk neckbows, a house signature that was used as a leitmotif. But the collection lacked the empowering sex appeal that made Saint Laurent one of the most famous names in fashion.

The bows, rather symbolically, instead of unifying the collection, fought with other busy materials for attention.

Unflattering floppy Stetson hats capped it off.

Slimane took a gamble on the no-holds-barred approach to impress, but somehow fell short of the mark in his basic silhouette.

Many individual garments _ like one sumptuous look with side a spread of black feathers _ were highly creative.

But here the plumes' dynamic horizontal energy was drowned out by the bow.

Slimane pulled it off well when he wasn't trying too hard: A classy skinny menswear pant looked great with a sharp shouldered tuxedo _ and a spot on merging of YSL and Slimane's own personal style.

Had he kept it cleaner, Slimane might not have given the upper hand so easily to his Dior rival.

CHLOE

The Chloe fashion house is celebrating its 60th birthday during Paris Fashion Week but its spring-summer 2013 show proved it's still as fresh as a daisy.

Designer Clare Waight Keller's collection takes its cue from founder Gaby Aghion's mantra: "I lived the life I wanted."

Chloe, founded in 1952, practically invented ready-to-wear in the first place and has always confidently led the way. That rebelliousness came out Monday in the clothes _ strongly feminine and diaphanous but also structured with laser-cut edges in many large frills and ripples.

"I wanted a feminine spirit, but sharp...like a knife," Waight Keller said after the show.

This contrasted with the collection's soft side. Transparent organza silks played on volume, giving a layered three-dimensionality to soft, oversized T-shirts and knee-length skirts. The light touches came from hibiscus flower appliques on sheer white tops, or in one instance, in green down a singular pant leg.

Features like this can look overly busy if handled poorly. But here the looks were paired with a clean-cut minimalist vest, jacket or Bermuda to tasteful effect.

STELLA MCCARTNEY

"Palatable, everyday." That's how Stella McCartney, backstage, describes her fresh, optimistic and relaxed spring-summer outing.

If she hoped the collection to be everyday, the show itself _ in the gilded foyer of the Paris Opera Garnier with ornate, swinging double chandeliers in gold , not to mention the famous faces like Kate Moss, Salma Hayek and McCartney's former Beatle father Paul _ was not.

It's hard to be casual when you were born with one of the most famous dads on the planet _ but she got full marks for trying.

Silhouettes ignored the waist, with a cool, low-slung belted vibe, and the big curves of last season were gone.

Thinking outside the box, McCartney created some fantastic elliptical curves in vibrant saffron yellow and forest green, sculpting a feminine shape like a geometric hourglass.

Black and white camouflage print looked fantastic on a silky jumpsuit, worn by sassy model of the moment Karlie Kloss.

This look wasn't exactly everyday, but it's sure going to sell.

HAKAAN

There's going to be a one-hour hole in the normally tight Paris Fashion Week calendar, after representatives of label Hakaan said its entire collection had been lost.

Turkish designer Hakaan Yildirim was set to present his spring-summer 2013 to the media on Tuesday afternoon.

But PR company Karlaotto sent out emails Monday to all those with invitations saying the preview was canceled _ after all the clothes had mysteriously disappeared. "The whole collection is lost," said Karen Nitsche of Karlaotto. "It was when they were being transported. We don't know how."

Last November, Marc Jacobs canceled a London press preview after his collection was stolen during its transfer from Paris.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP