PARIS — Menswear season in Paris brought the lofty catwalks back to the people, with a series of shows that twinned the glamor and energy of high fashion with genuine wearability.
Loose shorts, rolled-up sleeves, jackets with the arms lopped off, and high-waisted loose pants in highly enviable colors added a distinctly relaxed feel to the normally frenetic spring-summer 47 shows, and countless off-calendar events.
Givenchy, the strongest show of the season, which evoked tribal energy through plays on graphic lines and color, featured some great single garments that were surprisingly wearable. It was thanks to their tonal balance and softer silhouette.
Indeed, this season was the story of a lengthened, slimmer silhouette. The boxy torso that's been around for quite a while has settled into a shape that's leaner and, at times, looser, as seen in some ultra-stylish suits courtesy of Lanvin.
The color on highest rotation was a beautiful cobalt blue, with rich burgundy and soft grays adding to the cool, summery energy seen throughout the five days of shows.
Hedi Slimane delivered an ode to the rockabilly styles of the 1950s with a twist of glam rock in an energetic Saint Laurent Paris menswear show Sunday.
Most of the looks – like pointy buckled "winklepicker" shoes with white socks, bolo ties, greased hair, red bandana neckscarves, sleeveless black leather and leopard jackets, as well as Slimane's signature skinny pants – produced no great fashion surprises. At points, the 44 ensembles even seemed a touch repetitive, delivered predictably on stomping near-adolescent models.
But crucially, the vision of this spring-summer 2014 collection felt much more at ease and consistent in its style than the almost directionless rebellion of last season.
Among the looks were some imaginative and wearable single pieces, like one show-stopping black piped red jacket that could have come straight out of a 1950s cabaret. Elsewhere, a "Grease"-style leather waistcoat featured a great, removed section at the back to expose the sparkly undergarment.
Items like this will no doubt ensure that Saint Laurent under Slimane continues to sell buoyantly, as it has for the last 12 months.
Lanvin's menswear show seemed to take revelers behind a film noir movie set.
Perhaps it was the huge industrial retro lights that beamed from the center of the runway, reflecting the hazy quality of an old movie. Or perhaps it was the black-heavy looks themselves: The slicked-back hair, the turned up collar of a sheeny black slim trenchcoat, or the high-waisted 1930s pants.
Whatever it was, it worked, producing a nostalgia that made this strong collection from designers Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver look so finessed. There were some great, stylishly loose suits in black and white that were light and worn on bare skin.
Elsewhere, a long retro clay blazer that hung to the mid-thigh cut a great silhouette with one sleeve rolled up. And a lightweight pale gray New Romantics-style bomber with studded crossover had a great stiff texture and hard old-fashioned upturned collar. However, the collection's time-dial was jolted towards the end to the 1980s and 90s with color-blocking and some garish shattered-glass effect pants.
Givenchy delivered what could possibly be one of its most imaginative shows in recent memory: A kinetic play of stripes and color that confirms why designer Riccardo Tisci's collections are among the most eagerly anticipated on the Paris calendar.
The mood of the show was tribal-meets-machine, with electronic circuitry prints appearing alongside loincloth shapes, leggings, printed Aztec-like neck adornments, sandals and even primal face paints.
It takes a designer as bold as Italy-born Tisci to pull off something this wacky and anachronistic. The 57 looks evoked, through their sheer number, as well as through the tensions created by diagonal, vertical and horizontal lines on multiple-layered ensembles in blue, red and gray, the feeling of a jostling army. Red disk motifs, a reference to both the modern computer and a primitive symbol, recurred on knee-length apron skirts as well as long and short-sleeved vests.
But what truly made the show a coup was that among all this intellectual musing, most of the looks were completely wearable.
Hermes delivered what it called a "bohemian soul" collection, nestled among historic stone colonnades on Paris' arty Left Bank.
Never one to follow trends, menswear designer Veronique Nichanian follows her own nose and delivered yet another strong collection that was distinctly her own.
Luxurious materials, such as metis lambskin, printed silks and extra-fine cashmere, came alongside ensembles matched with a real eye for style.
Sandals, open shirts with tromp l'oeil prints, drawstring trousers, loose jackets and a one-piece gray jumpsuit all came together to give this collection a distinctly relaxed feel. It was perhaps helped by the insouciant swagger of several models who seemed to stroll rather than strut, with a hand casually placed in their pocket.
But the real soul of Hermes menswear is the colors. Cool pale blue and deep ocean blue, silvery steel and nickel gray - set against emeralds, whites and burnt siennas. One color the program notes call "cloud" just goes to show the mood the house is trying to evoke.
Dior Homme's designer Kris Van Assche is a self-confessed minimalist.
It sits quite nicely, therefore the minimalist, neat and geometric shapes of modernist painters such as Piet Mondrian were his chosen motifs.
In highly wearable tones of burgundy and a rich mid blue, Van Assche set about painting on refined Dior suit canvasses a patchwork of squares and rectangles in tonal shades of the signature colors.
The disco-cube staging - a labyrinth of rectangular mirrors - reflected the myriad quadrilaterals and produced a wonderful spectacle when the 49 looks with squarely-cut torsos filed back for the finale recap.
The concept produced some great looks, such as a series of smooth sweaters with tapered arms. But elsewhere, where the square shapes were out of kilter with the proportions of the clothes, it worked less well.
The other nice play in the show was the juxtaposition of the office and the beach. But the best part of the collection was to be found due south: Sheeny, upper class Oxford shoes, subverted by a great metal sporty suspension spring. Could they be the latest urban trend for fashionistas who have no time to change for the gym after work?
"True style has no rules," designer Maria Grazia Chiuri said of the collection - only the second menswear outing in Paris for the storied Italian house.
The Valentino show, with a uniform theme, was more coherent than last season - and felt as if Chiuri and her design partner Pier Paolo Piccioli were finding their feet in this new territory for Valentino, a label that's known principally for its womenswear.
The idea of "no rules" played out in the 47 looks - mostly to good effect - where uniform was broken up and subverted. The show's opener was the most successful example of this, with the uniformity of the bread-and-butter sharply tailored suits broken up with contrasting bands of blue dye.
However, in some of the military-inspired looks, a dalliance with camouflage didn't feel very fresh.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP