From easy elegant uniforms for feckless aristocrats at Dior Homme to Damir Doma's business formal from some bygone age to the world's most expensive mechanic's coveralls at Hermes, Paris' fall-winter 2011-2012 menswear shows had something for everyone Saturday.
At Kenzo, designer Antonio Marras looked to Britain and its star sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, to crack the case, while Germany's Bernhard Willhem gave the world all the knit long johns we could possibly need.
Mayhem broke out on Dior's set — decorated like a tony Paris town house, complete with working fireplaces, twinkling chandeliers and wooden parquet — when music mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs and Chanel uber-designer Karl Lagerfeld arrived. Usually, several A-listers turn out for the Paris shows, but this season it's been slim pickings celebrity-wise, so every TV journalist, blogger and fashionista in the house was all over Combs and Lagerfeld.
Paris' menswear shows wrap up Sunday with displays by Lanvin and Yves Saint Laurent, concluding the marathon that began in New York and continued in Milan. But before the fashion world has a chance to recover from the long, sleepless weeks, Paris' rarified haute couture displays start up Monday.
Soaked in old school Parisian decadence, Dior was tailor-made for aimless, world weary nobles circa about 1975.
Filled with ample pants and swingy cardigans, this was a collection for those who don't have an office to report to, those whose only dress code is easy chic and no-fuss elegance.
Sweater trenches and poncho coats in chocolate and gray cashmere were the perfect antidote to a long night of carousing: Shorn of their fussy buttons, with casual tie closures, they exuded devil-may-care glamour, requiring little effort and no thought.
"There was lots of cashmere, a lot of knitwear, to be really comfortable and elegant at the same time," the label's menswear designer, Kris Van Assche, told The Associated Press in a post-show interview.
And did the collection's decadent ease strike a chord with the Combs and Lagerfeld, the two biggest celebrities to hit the Paris shows all week?
"I liked the capes," Combs pronounced.
It was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most expensive mechanic's coverall of all times.
Hermes — the historic Paris saddle-maker that now handcrafts exquisite leather goods and clothing with astronomical price tags — delivered its take on that most humble of garments, with two small differences: First, Hermes' coverall was in shearling, and second, it would probably cost the yearly salary of the average mechanic.
Besides the coveralls, which came in black and taupe, the collection, by designer Veronique Nichanian, was made up of the tasteful classics that have long been the label's hallmark: Two-button jackets, lightweight flannel, perfectly cut trousers, slim cardigans and long, lean coats.
It was all there — in olive drab and navy tones, punctuated with eye-popping Ceylon and deep Bordeaux. And as per usual with this house of unparalleled workmanship, it was all exquisite.
Kenzo delivered a whodunit of collection that looked to British sleuths to solve the mystery of menswear.
"Every season is like a mystery, a search for clues that allow you to find new looks, new shapes that stay true to the style of the house," Marras, the label's Italian designer, told The AP ahead of the show.
Marras cracked the case this time, serving up a strong collection that managed to be at once very British and classic Kenzo, with bold mixes, eye-popping colors and kooky knitwear.
Sherlock Holmes' favorite fabric — tartan — dominated the collection of snug Saville Row-style suits, paired with V-neck argyle sweaters and droopy satin bow ties.
Trouser-kilt hybrids were surprisingly fetching, requiring only a bold, fearless personality to pull them off.
Still, it was hard to imagine a personality bold enough to work the trousers with gathered paper-bag waists that reached the mid-chest. The sole glitch in an otherwise outstanding collection, the pants gave even the beanpole male models an unflattering gut paunch.
For someone showing in Paris for the first time, Lim was oddly on-trend with the layering that has taken catwalks here by storm. The New York-based designer, a critical darling, layered chunky ribbed vests over long sleeved sweaters and piled jackets on top of coats — a key look at designers from Louis Vuitton to Givenchy.
Lim described his decision to show in Paris — with a presentation with models standing immobile on industrial metal platforms — as a whim.
"I thought 'let's go where the party is,'" he said, adding the experience had proven "invigorating."
A boxy V-neck jacket and a pair of leather harem pants; a white shalwar kameez with a strip narrow strip of black fabric down the front, like a sort of minimalist tie.
Put the two together and you have a business suit, according to Damir Doma, whose dark, tribal and almost Medieval vision of fashion has catapulted him into the spotlight.
For fall-winter, Doma fielded drop-crotched pants in nubby wool and washed silk that were as close to a skirt as a pair of trousers can be without crossing over. Bulky ribbed sweaters that loosely swathed the models' bodies and starched white shirts with dangling flaps in the front completed the look.
Not for everybody, but then again, who needs more classic two-button blazers and wearable business slacks?
Men in tights have never looked so good.
Willhelm gave the men of the world all the clingy leggings and long johns they could possibly desire. Knit with kooky designs and dizzying patterns, the leggings were paired with matching hoodies and tennis shoes. A long john-dirndle hybrid, complete with a lace-up eyelet closure at the crotch, and a sexy sweat suit knit with trompe l'oeil police "do not cross" tape were standouts.
They were the kind of statement looks that you could imagine Rihanna or Katy Perry nicking from their boyfriends' closets for a paparazzi-stalked trip to the grocery store.
Saturday's performance art-steeped presentation was just as wacky as the outfits. Painted-faced models held umbrellas hung with swaths of tulle — some ringing ridiculous little brass bells. The models fought to keep a straight face as packs of fashionistas descended on them to snap endless photos with their cell phones.
Since striking out on his own last season, Frenchman Franck Boclet — the longtime menswear designer at Emanuel Ungaro and Smalto — has sharpened his vision of a varied wardrobe that allows men to play with their style much as women do.
"Men don't want to be stuck in a rut, wearing the same exact things every day," said Boclet, a style chameleon who dons rockabilly staples one day and a tuxedo the next. "The only rule for me is that it has to be top-notch quality, with excellent design and great materials."
For next fall, he served up a potpourri of day and evening separates in stark black and white that ran the gamut, from hardcore leather vests and rock star fur maxi-coats to drop-crotched cashmere trousers meant for lounging, to razor-cut three-piece-suits serious enough for any banker. Boclet showed his second collection in Milan earlier this month.