PARIS (AP) — As maids swept away dust from steps that led into a set in mourning, it was clear that the Louis Vuitton fashion show in Paris on Wednesday was a spring-summer collection in name only.
There was a dark fountain and a nightmarish carousel featuring inky, surreal-looking horses. There was a twin escalator and a luxury hotel elevator. And there was the universe of clothes in all-black.
The decor was like a greatest hits collection that fused elements of past shows with the present one, tracing designer Marc Jacobs' influential 16-year reign at the house.
Shortly after the show at the Louvre Museum in Paris, the visual metaphor was explained: LVMH announced that Jacobs was stepping down as creative director of its flagship brand. So Jacobs' ready-to-wear collection for the storied house looked like a funeral for a reason.
The dark show came on the final day of a fashion week that saw designers channel black and white but also other, sometimes colorful trends. Looks on high rotation included: tribal African, ethnic pattern prints, multitudinous pleats, metallic sheen and revealing micro mini crop tops. Mid-blue was a particularly favored color.
And while Louis Vuitton shows are often extravagant and can use sets that cost millions of euros, the less well-off had options, too, during this year's fashion week. An initiative in recent years called the "Designer's Apartment" provided showroom spaces for top young designers such as Aganovich, Monographie and Le Moine Tricote.
Still, it was the well-established heavy hitters who drew the most attention.
The 41-piece display — which used embroidered black silk stockings, Eisenhower jackets embellished cabaret-style with large feathered shoulders, dark appliqued embroideries, smoking jackets and some 1940s baggy, blue jeans — was a study in noir.
The glimmering catwalk landscape was towered over by a huge clock, whose arms, instead of going forward, went back in time nostalgically.
"We went back and used all the different bits of the sets of the past," Jacobs explained backstage.
The clothes, too, went back in time.
Floor-length, thick Edwardian dresses and large proportions in the sleeves fused with black decorative corset details that evoked the fashions of the 1900s, and contrasted with the more revealing "showgirl" looks.
They were inspired by singers such as Cher, whose look from the "Take Me Home" days was evoked in many ensembles. But at moments it felt as if some looks belonged more to Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci.
In the program notes, Jacobs enclosed a message evoking a farewell to LVMH's chief executive: "For. Bernard Arnault. All my love, always."
But it was the standing ovation from Anna Wintour that said the most. Such rare, visible acclaim from the powerful U.S. Vogue editor — to whom he partly dedicated the show — was a poignant cap to his tenure.
Glenda Bailey, the influential U.S. editor of Harper's Bazaar, said the show signaled the "end of an era."
"Watching the show was like seeing your life flash before your eyes, because there were so many memorable moments referenced," she told The Associated Press.
"Marc brought such incredible energy to Louis Vuitton and should really be celebrated for bringing that house to life, and creating the vision that someone else will now take forward," Bailey added.
It was an emotional farewell, but not for all.
While most of the fashion world recognizes Jacobs' talents, some lament that he became too known as a showman and say that under his tenure at the house recognizable codes have not been created like at other storied houses such as Dior and Chanel.
Others, like Anna Dello Russo, editor-at-large for Vogue Japan, think that Vuitton was ready for a change.
"It was the right moment for (Marc) to leave. It was a good thing," she said outside the Hermes show.
Jacobs' exit has started heated speculation on who will replace him.
Reports suggest that LVMH executives are focusing on Nicolas Ghesquiere, the former creative director of Balenciaga, as a possible candidate, although it's not a done deal.
Meanwhile, it's expected that Jacobs will focus on his eponymous signature collection, which has been extremely profitable for LVMH, and preparation for a possible initial public offering.
Designer Christophe Lemaire took to the jungle for his intimate spring-summer show, with models who snaked around foliage in a central Paris orangery in deep greens, blues and nature prints.
"The dream of the jungles. I started with the deep shades and then gradually brought in prints colors," Lemaire said of his luxuriant collection, which used a large tulip print on high-collared silk gowns called "folkloric."
The show had all the usually fine cut Hermes-style clothes, like one must-have loose beige suit paired with leather sandals, but it couldn't help but feel a bit mute overall.
A pale buckled ethnic skirt in rough material with a flash of green was a fiery little touch that Lemaire could have developed more.
Lemaire said the jungle theme was inspired by the master painter Henri Rousseau, whose most famous work is "Tiger in a Tropical Storm." It was a shame there were no tigers here.
It was the art of contrast in Prada's baby sister label Miu Miu.
For spring-summer 2014, Miuccia Prada softened her musings to produce a more wearable and feminine collection than last season's intellectual tight foulards, polka dots and enormous handbags.
Cleanly cut coats in pastel shades of blue, gray and yellow with softly colored panels produced harmonious contrasts alongside bright flashes of bright red and navy.
They often appeared on thick, patterned stockings that helped paint the whole silhouette in color.
Bright red sequined boots accessorized one look with a patterned sudden mid-thigh coat to give it an artfully contrasting punch of creative fun.
Samantha Critchell in New York and Sarah DiLorenzo in Paris contributed to this report.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP