Susannah Frankel reports from Paris on the actress's contribution to the new Ungaro collection

They were both women's wear collections showing yesterday in Paris but they couldn't have been more different – and not just because of the clothes.

Models wearing spring/summer designs by Emanuel Ungaro and Dries Van Noten took to the catwalk: one a celebrity-led aesthetic that was obvious to the point of banality; the other complex, modern and highly personal.

The relationship between fashion and celebrity took on a new dimension when the esteemed house of Emanuel Ungaro showed its collection under the guidance of their newly installed artistic director, Lindsay Lohan.

Lohan has taken on this role in partnership with the Spanish designer Estrella Archs, a 35-year-old graduate of Central Saint Martins school of fashion. "It will be an explosive combination," Ungaro's chief executive, Mounir Moufarrige, has previously told trade paper Women's Wear Daily.

Moufarrige is clearly not averse to such publicity-courting tactics. And Lohan has not disappointed where that is concerned at least. The 23-year-old tabloid darling has also been playing publicist, busily tweeting friends – Lily Allen, Charlotte Ronson and Miley Cyrus among them – invites to the show. However, the managerial powers that be at Ungaro preferred the front row to be a celebrity-free zone, perhaps in a bid to ensure nothing could detract from the main event.

Given the pyrotechnic build-up, what was a somewhat stoney-faced audience, gathered to see the crème de la crème of international design talent, to make of the clothes that Lohan had been involved in creating?

Subtlety was not the issue here. Instead, a body-conscious silhouette that was ultra-short throughout and embellished with sequinned or printed hearts signified the desire to attract a younger, cooler customer to the brand – just like Ms Lohan herself. Vibrant colour, including most prominently hot pink, ultraviolet and flame, added impact and so too did oversized sunglasses, the lenses of which were studded with crystal.

It was entertaining, certainly, but quite what any of it had to do with a name that once stood proudly for bourgeois elegance and, even more so, Parisian sophistication is less clear.

Emanuel Ungaro, who trained under the hugely revered couturier Cristobal Balenciaga, founded his house in 1965 and retired in 2004. A year later, the company was sold to American entrepreneur Asim Abdullah.

Later in the day, the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten showed his collection, which couldn't have been more different in flavour. "The authenticity of local, generational, ethnic crafts, techniques and fabrics inform and define urban and occidental forms," read the show notes, neatly summing up what this hugely successful, still independently owned designer means to an unusually loyal customer.

Van Noten and his team scour the planet in search of the finest ethnic prints and embroideries imaginable and then apply their considerable pattern-cutting skills to ensure an up-to-date, metropolitan and, this time, very Gallic end result. Where the new Ungaro aesthetic was uber-simplified, this was hugely complex but never overwrought, luxurious but never ostentatiously so. In particular, colour shone: saffron and canary yellow, iris, emerald and midnight blue was contrasted with softer shades of putty, ochre and dusty rose.