Guy Laroche is back in the Paris fashion conversation after Wednesday's bold, grown-up offering from designer Marcel Morongiu, who struck gold in a stunning ready-to-wear fall-winter collection that channeled gems and this fall's running theme of sophisticated, covered-up glamour.
Morongiu also dared to revisit DNA pieces by the Parisian fashion house, founded in 1957.
"It takes some time to stamp your own identity," mused the designer, who's been at the helm of the shows since 2008. "I now feel mature enough to interpret the signature pieces."
Another label that dug out the dusty archive books was Mugler, under the artistic eye of creative director Nichola Formichetti, who gave a Japanese kimono kick to Thierry Mugler's "Insect" collection, first shown 15 years ago.
It was the first show without Lady Gaga and the accompanying buzz, but with the designer's rapidly expanding fan base and front row replete with party girls, Formichetti's accountant should lose no sleep.
The kimono cropped up again Wednesday in Belgian designer Dries Van Noten's imaginative journey through the patterns of the Far East.
The most disturbing show of the day was served up in a cold, disused garage by unpredictable London designer Gareth Pugh, featuring models in suffocating geometrical headgear with a clerical edge.
French Vogue Editor Emanuelle Alt summed it up well enough: "Gareth is great for Paris because you never know where he'll go."
Day three of the fashion calendar Thursday includes shows from Manish Arora, Balmain and Nina Ricci.
It was a coming of age for Morongiu in his gem-inspired offering for Guy Laroche. Fully covered models with black gloves were covered in a treasure trove of evening wear.
Blouses, oversized coats and architectural gowns came in blinding bronze, coal, gold and malachite, all sparklingly alluring but baring little flesh. The shortest skirt was below the knee, and save one stand out pleated graphite wraparound in silk, decolletes were banned. Only funnel necks and crew collars were on view.
And with that, Morongiu went to the heart of one of the big fashion conversations this season.
"It's so easy to take everything off," said the designer. "Being covered and sexy, now, that's the tricky part."
It is a sign of the designer's growing confidence that he felt ready to revisit Guy Laroche's early DNA pieces largely avoided in past seasons, such as the luxurious "pull en satin" and the loose but structured "robe sac" that peppered the show.
DRIES VAN NOTEN
"The richness of the East," Van Noten declared, was the inspiration for his collection, as he delved into the sumptuous Asian fashion vaults of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Chinese, Japanese and Korean costumes such as multicolored dragon coats and kimonos were reinterpreted using digital printing on floor-length silk gowns with cinched waists.
But you can bet that the academic-edged Antwerp designer will never stick to just one motif.
The normally strict, structured Asian clothing was endowed with floral shards of imperial yellow, turquoise and jade chinoiserie, providing a flowing and sexy 1970s feel.
The show also featured lashings of fox and Suri Alpaca fur on collars and chubbies in some great statement coats.
As ever for the designer who cut his teeth in dressing men, there was a distinct menswear feel to some of the jackets, providing the on-trend element necessary to sell clothes.
But was the designer overdoing himself? The busiest look of the show had some scratching their heads about what continent they were meant to be in: a contemporary parka with raccoon fur hood, on a long silk gown with Chinese motif on top of trousers, accessorized with an enormous black croc clutch.
It was a good thing the air conditioning was working.
What do priestly robes, Maasai tribal headwear and perhaps Gotham City have in common? A lot for British designer Pugh, who fused them in typically dark and animalistic style with geometric forms and suffocating reversed collar masks.
The pulsating bass music that opened the show with utterings of "God" and falling dead rose petals created an unsettled mood that must have rubbed off on the clothing.
Chubbies in black wool, furry bustle dresses and chainmail balaclavas with fur tassels introduced an animalism.
These soon morphed into tribal-edged funnel necks and headstraps that, together with a notable disc-shaped hat designed by Philip Treacy, grew from musings on the beaded headwear of the Kenyan Maasai.
Shoulders were narrow on silhouettes that would expand at the waist with strong peplums, an angular feature typical of the designer.
Clean-lined capes and gray duchesse satin tops were supposed to mirror the shape of clergy garb.
But at moments, large reversed metallic collars with points like rodent ears and shield-like sleeve paneling in black harked more to Batgirl.
Backstage, with typical self-deprecating humor, Pugh said his main theme was "just to get away from my last season. It's good to mix things up."
Mugler's Formichetti took a microscope to the insectoid world for his show.
Jutting bony peplums, laser cutting and spiderlike shoulder padding were shown on models who wandered several at a time around an arena catwalk, seemingly at random.
Like other collections this fall, the designer delved back into the house's archives for inspiration, finding Thierry Mugler's "Insect" collection from 1997.
But the graphic angular look was given a Far East revamping with long fox fur and mink kimono sleeves and the proportions of traditional Japanese clothing _ something close to the heart of the Japan-born designer.
Many looks will look great in photos at A-list parties, like a stiff micro dress in black silk gazar with a sheer hood. Another white sheath with rounded shoulders, a leaflike peplum and an impossibly cinched waist turned the model into a severe, hourglass fembot.
Without Lady Gaga in tow this season, the clothes had to speak for themselves. Luckily, they did.