Wednesday saw an abundance of such contrasts in style, fabric, tailoring and even in location that gave the start of the fall-winter 2013-14 season a dynamic lift.
Whether it be in Dries Van Noten's ode to Fred and Ginger, which captured his signature flirtations with menswear on girls, Guy Laroche's fierce versus the feminine, or Damir Doma's perfect twinning of slouchy and sophisticated, tensions littered the catwalk. They were often delivered with an ironic wink.
To playful gasps from onlookers, down the grand salon of 19th century townhouse Hotel Salomon de Rothschild, Gareth Pugh gave his show a postmodern kick by sending models wearing shredded polythene trash bags down the catwalk.
Even the Mugler show, the day's most unified, featured plays between sheen and fur, and midriffs versus shoulders—a reminder that tensions are inescapable.
Thursday's shows include Balmain, Barbara Bui, Rick Owens and Lanvin.
DRIES VAN NOTEN
Dries Van Noten thinks fashion is far too serious. That's why he explored his usual menswear-womenswear tailoring this season via the frivolity of ballroom dancing, feathers and the two-some Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Wednesday's show was proof again of the Belgian designer's mastery when it comes to the art of clashing styles.
Who better to represent the Van Noten universe, where men's and women's styles merge together, than one of the most iconic and inseparable male-female couples in Hollywood history?
Ostrich feathers in midnight blue, faded gray and tea rose billowed like 1930s boas with large vivid embroideries and vintage fur alongside men's baggy pants, club stripes and Prince of Wales check.
One fantastic look said it all: a sumptuous navy feathered skirt (Ginger), and a large white tuxedo shirt (Fred.
In Van Noten's world, like in Hollywood, there's no man without the woman, no Ginger without the Fred.
To discordant music and hellish mist, Gareth Pugh went to the gates of the underworld, bringing back with him an inspired collection of dark angels.
Starting in white and ending in black, the 49 looks saw the London wunderkind further explore the long, flared and otherworldly silhouettes seen last season.
Here it came with stiff cowl and giant shawl collars, or fold-over jackets with exaggeratedly large lapels.
Each look was fastidiously tailored.
At times, it looks as if Pugh had made a pact with the devil and channeled the full-skirted proportions of the 1950s, with their tights waist and full collars, but with dark excess.
But in Wednesday's show, Pugh saved the best till last: a series of impressive black creations billowing with shredded black polythene.
They fluttered by malevolently like feathers, as if the models were half-human, half-raven.
Croatian designer Damir Doma was back in top form for fall-winter in a show that saw his slouchy style get an unexpectedly elegant makeover.
"Neo-corporate" was how the Raf Simons alumnus described his smarter looks backstage.
Although cropped futuristic tunics and zippered shift dresses aren't exactly run-of-the-mill office attire, the sleek long silhouettes were a welcome turn that saw Doma's vibe get more sophisticated.
But if there's any worry that the Antwerp cool-kid is now grown up, mature and boring, fear not. The usual Doma DNA was still here, if muted.
Boxy jackets and classical menswear touches, such as stacked Chelsea boots, as well as masculine fabrics in perforated wool and lacquered leather, kept up the edgy fashion contradictions.
In a tight show of only 27 looks, designer Nicola Formichetti served up a collection of feminine, cocoon-like silhouettes.
Slick was the word.
The gentle rounded shoulders and softer skirts, in soft gray, blue and peach, evolved away from the angular, insectoid-obsession that's been almost haunting Mugler's recent collections.
It was a welcome change, which made for a ladylike vibe—in line with this season's trend.
Contrasts, such as soft peach fur on champagne satin, made one gentle look sparkle.
The odd geometric print—used sparingly—added the signature futuristic edge, as did neat bonnets on the heads.
Keeping it simple seems to suit Formichetti: it's one of the strongest collections he's done.
"It's the story of women, women who don't need men," says Guy Laroche's designer Marcel Marongiu of his brash, even kinky offering.
With this mantra, the Franco-Swedish designer explored a whole new terrain this season.
See-through lingerie shifts, rock-and-roll leather and even fierce bondage straps moved on quite dramatically from the classical codes of the house.
The sumptuous evening wear was still here though, in shocking pink and purple silk gowns, and several looks in blinding navy rhinestone.
He cited the style of Jimi Hendrix and Prince as inspirations—seen in the revealing sexuality of exposed nipples.
There were some great statement bombers, another nod to the fall trend: coats as the new accessory.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP