Ghesquiere dazzles for Balenciaga

Nicolas Ghesquiere sent out a dazzling ready-to-wear collection for next winter for Balenciaga on Thursday in the elegant salons of the Hotel Crillon.

The natural sunlight streaming in through the French windows and the sparkling white tiled floor only served to enhance his core palette of luminous white, beige and grey.

Models with strict chignons in the nape of their necks and day-glo eyebrow make-up presented his Samurai quilted sleeveless jackets over straight skirts and dress and jacket ensembles, in subtle combinations like sky blue with a hint of orange.

He enlivened black pencil pants with contrasting hems in bright colours and also played around with a mirror effect, sprinkling grey stars on a green skirt and green ones on its grey knit top.

His finale of futuristic short duvet coats came in brilliant white or a print from museum posters for art exhibitions.

Actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, face of the house perfume and muse to the designer, was among the front row celebrities applauding the collection, which American Vogue's editor Anna Wintour hailed as "Great" as she headed for her limousine outside, with an unaccustomed big smile.

Fans of Indian designer Manish Arora disappointed by his more mainstream, commercial collection last October will welcome his return to his usual rumbustious form.

His show later Thursday was a dizzying romp through the rainbow, jumbling together vibrant colours with patchworks of traditional Indian handcrafted embroidery, from twinkling Rajastani mirror work to cobwebs of filigree gold thread.

Art Deco was a key inspiration for next winter, seen in geometric patterns and stripes, bristling with sequins, in eye-watering combinations of turquoise, lime and pink, or more subtle gunmetal and gold.

Models sported wigs with Eton crop fringes in fluorescent yellow over their dresses with plunging necklines, dropped waists and bloused tops borrowed from the 1920s.

Shapes were bold, like his Samurai warrior armour influenced quilted coats with big shoulders and stiff short capes and mini puffballs which morphed into clingy midi skirts.

In contrast Japan's Hiroko Koshino confined herself almost entirely to black for a capsule catwalk collection of impeccably cut variations on her central source of inspiration: the kimono.

With her models' curious knotted headgear she evoked the Old Silk road, comparing the paranjas still worn in Uzbekistan today with the costumes once worn by peasant farmers all over Japan.

Quilted jackets have also been worn since time immemorial, with tasuki or little strings used to keep the sleeves dry while planting rice in the paddyfields.

Her modern versions looked perfectly adapted for urban living with their distinctive details, like the curvy seams puckering the back of a coat, or the ruffle building up a shoulder, or elbow length sleeves constructed from stiffened black satin ribbon.

The runway show was staged in the middle of an exhibition of Koshino's work with textiles. Bales of fabric were hung from the ceiling, giving a rare opportunity to feel and examine close-up as well as admire the resulting designs made up on tailor's dummies.

Korean designer Lie Sang Bong called his show "Big city lights" but his aggressive warrior women looked more kitted out to stage urban warfare than hit the club scene.

They strode down the catwalk in spike-heeled biker's boots and gauntlets, with armour-plated corsets and big shoulders, swinging motorcycle crash helmets.

But the crash helmets were in girly day-glo pink, or decorated with mother-of-pearl studs, while the corsets were teamed with fur mini skirts and tufts of fur sprouted from the stilettos.

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