Small talk among fashion people generally begins with flattery and the complimentary acknowledgment of some wardrobe element or another.
But discussing l’ete indien was the main conversational gambit during the unseasonably warm start of Paris Fashion Week.
Heat can be democratic; with temperatures hitting 29 degrees, editors and buyers could do little to avoid a dewy glow, both within gilded salons and in gritty alternative venues that had impact but no airflow.
The maison prive that played backdrop to the Nina Ricci show was so lacking in circulation that Anna Wintour removed her signature optical armour until the first model appeared. Thankfully, paper fans were provided for the Lanvin show. All that flapping in a blacked-out tent had the effect of a wall of butterflies.
And no one was complaining per se. It was more a question of “What do I wear?”
This is where things got a bit confusing – and amusing – because everyone had descended on Paris to see what we’ll be wearing come spring, when the weather heats up as it should.
Except that it was hard to look at many of the clothes – a photo-printed day dress from Dries van Noten, a Rick Owens columnar skirt, a yellow ochre leather jacket at Carven – and not want to wear them immediately.

Paris Fashion Week 2011 recap
France Fashion - Nina Ricci.

Pretty. Dressed up. Safe. These were the terms many critics used to describe Christian Dior’s spring collection, despite the last scene on the runway, where Karlie Kloss’s bare rear showed through a shimmery and sheer evening gown.
If Paris Fashion Week had an astrological sign, it would be Gemini. Two contradictory and competing trends emerged on the runways, sometimes within the same collections. Smart separates suitable for conservative workplaces often preceded long billowy gowns fashioned from silk organza, many of which seemed like the sorts of negligees Hitchcock heroines would wear to bed.
Sheer eveningwear is a natural progression, as lingerie was a stand-out trend in many of the most recent French and Italian resort collections. Sheer skirts are already on the rise in Parisian street style, so long as they’re accompanied by dark (and sometimes boyish) undergarments. Designers borrowed from this trend and embellished the look for evening.
For spring, Nina Ricci showcased a collection of skirts and high-waisted shorts worn with embellished bras and cage hats. Valentino and Dior also embraced organza and added carefully placed appliques and beadwork to obscure their models’ precious parts.
Even the usually subdued and conservative Akris revealed too much for some onlookers. Princess Charlene of Monaco, who sat front row at the runway show, told Britain’s Telegraph that some pieces in the Monaco-inspired collection were a bit too revealing for the principality: “There are certain protocols, and obviously I wouldn’t show too much. [Monaco] is a Catholic country,” she said.

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