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Paris Fashion Week begins with dazzling details

From Lanvin to Issey Miyake to Dior, finely crafted looks took to the catwalk.

The Dior show on Friday left the fash-pack in a sombre mood, ready to be delighted a couple of hours later at Lanvin.

Alber Elbaz can always be relied upon to create a party atmosphere, and the cheers he received at the end were especially fervent, something of a release for perturbed fashionistas. It was also an expression of relief, after the dark, Amish-style pieces at the start of the collection gave way to bright dresses manipulated from springy silks with ruffles so voluminous and light they looked like they'd been inflated with helium.

It's an effect that is deceptively simple, achieved by extensive fitting sessions, a tired but happy Elbaz told me after the show. "We work hard for it, I can tell you. When someone asks me what I do for a living, I always tell them I'm doing fittings for a living, day and night."

Indeed, it seemed that today was all about an acknowledgement of the hard work behind these collections, from the applause for "les petites mains" at Dior to the extraordinary show put on by Dai Fujiwara for Issey Miyake. This was as much an exploration of creative processes as a presentation of clothes, the live pianists paralleling with music the action on the catwalk. To the sound of a piano being tuned, and rudimentary melodies, young men scattered along the catwalk took pieces of paper and folded them, origami-style, into garments for the models to wear. As the music became more complex, so models appeared wearing clothes that took these basic origami forms and extrapolated them into utterly wearable silks, padded wraps and digitised herringbone patterns.

The first couple of days of fashion week had been rather more straightforward in their emphasis on the sort of high luxury that a post-recession prêt-à-porter market looks set to offer.

Peter Copping's Nina Ricci is a case in point. His version of the venerable brand has come a long way since that first intimate show in the tiny salon off the Avenue Montaigne. This time, the house's status as a real fixture on the Paris calendar came across loud and clear with the setting for the show: a tent in the closed-for-the-night Tuileries, the way through the dark, silent gardens lit by hundreds of candles, and a glitteringly illuminated Tour Eiffel as an archetypally Parisian backdrop.

The clothes, too, grow ever more confident in their very consistent aesthetic. A harder version of the Victoriana look beloved of Copping included frayed seams, black sequinned lace, shrunken wools and strong, curved tailoring. Gothic black silks and devoré velvet gave way to ghostly ice-blue, grey and frosty pink, with a rich bottle green providing contrast to the chilly palette. The satin boots, shredded tulle and creased silks were delicately decayed, exquisitely fragile.

While Copping sticks resolutely to his own style, elsewhere in Paris a less brittle approach to winter manifested itself in cocooning, layered silhouettes, luxurious fabrics and honeyed, neutral palettes. Certainly ice-blue recurred, but often, as at Lefranc Ferrant's small salon show, in a swathe of thick, soft cashmere that enveloped the models in what was effectively a sartorial hug - albeit a very chic one. The duo's biggest strength - manipulation and development of fabrics that are as light and functional as they are desirable - was highlighted with combinations of shivering printed silks and stiff, light ruching.

Anne-Valérie Hash, too, chose to mix fluid silks with softly sculptural shearlings and wools, layering wrap gilets and cropped jackets with softly tapered side-fastening harem pants. The palette was pure autumn: navy, mustard, gunmetal grey and some feminine dusky pinks for good measure. Most delightful were the asymmetrically ruched dresses and skirts, with diagonal seams marked by layers of frayed chiffon and silk.

The power of the diagonal line is not to be underestimated as a tool to achieve both flattering silhouettes and a pleasingly outré edge. Barbara Bui employed this to great effect in frocks that featured ragged lines of silvery embellishment snaking diagonally across the body, an interesting interlude in a collection that started off with the Courrèges-like futurism of monochrome patent leather and ended in a more post-apocalyptic, Mad Max mood.

Going entirely his own way, as always, Manish Arora's jewel-coloured lamés and extraordinary, almost psychedelic prints should find him a ready market in the pop world, but beneath the wackiness were some examples of fine, contemporary tailoring, including the now-obligatory raglan-sleeved boxy jackets, leg-o'-mutton sleeves and strong shoulders. It will be interesting to see how he transfers his trademark style to Paco Rabanne, the iconic 1960s brand, which, it was recently announced, will relaunch ready-to-wear with Arora at the helm.

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