Yesterday's offerings from the autumn/winter 2008 Paris collections opened with yet another stand-out showing by the Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquiere. Of all those working in fashion today, Ghesquiere is perhaps the most influential and, if his word is law, the future belongs to a sci-fi It girl clad in moulded vinyl, photographic printed latex and grey tailoring – also moulded – articulated with panels of ivory, silver and rose.
Ghesquiere took the silhouettes that Cristobal Balenciaga was so famous for and reworked them to suit an ultra-chic, super-slender and determinedly metropolitan heroine.
She looked extraordinary in boxy jackets with a broad, slightly dropped shoulder line worn with narrow trousers or A-line skirts split to the thigh. The clothes did whisper 1960s, yet they were more subtle in construction than that.
Come this year's cold snap, the woman who wears Balenciaga will slip into an above-the-knee-length coat so shiny it reflects any light in her vicinity. Simply designed to the point of perfection, it is designed to be worn with clusters of antique crystal at the wrist and throat.
If these pieces were strict to the point of minimal, the fashion follower with more maximal tastes will certainly not be disappointed with a hugely intricate take on the biker jacket – patch-worked and printed and in colours reminiscent of reptiles from another galaxy.
In a similar vein, fine rubber dresses stamped with everything from gnarled tree branches to romantic oriental scenes would stop the traffic speeding down even the most glamorous urban highway.
The previous evening, children from the Portland School in Nottingham took pride of place in the front row at Vivienne Westwood's Gold Label show. After sending the designer photographs of a fashion show where they had presented their own designs, they had been invited to collaborate with Westwood in painting her own fashions.
Westwood being Westwood, the brief she delivered to the young people in question was never going to be benign. The preservation of the planet through human intervention was high on the agenda.
"Imagine soldiers who had been fighting people who lived in a land that had a lot of jungle, for example, Vietnam," she told the children. "How scary it would be when behind every tree may hide someone waiting to kill you. After the war some soldiers who were disgusted with war never went back to their army base but made friends with their former enemies and stayed in the jungle... The jungle taught them... not to be greedy, to take only what you really need. They became a different type of fighter, freedom fighters."
The 36 children involved created rainbow-coloured prints that were hand-painted on to jersey, cotton shirting, chintz, Lurex and more. Westwood's heroic vision of fashion – all curvaceous tailoring, sparkling, corseted asymmetric eveningwear and quite the finest knits in the business – seems of the moment right now. When standing out in the crowd is the order of the day over and above blending in with it, this designer is always going to shine.
Reports from Paris Fashion Week at: independent.co.uk/thecollections
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