AP Fashion Writer
PARIS (AP) -- The fourth day of Paris fashion week saw Raf Simons unveil the latest chapter of his journey after nearly a year at the design helm of Christian Dior.
Following his acclaimed debut last year, the pressure has been stacked on the Belgian designer to deliver again in what is only his second ready-to-wear show in one of the most influential jobs in fashion.
At Paris' Hotel des Invalides, fashion editors fought through swelling crowds to take a glimpse into the storied house's future.
They saw Simons live up to their expectations.
Other shows of the day expressed fall fashions through vivid color, like in the strong showings from Issey Miyake and Roland Mouret.
Some like Isabel Marant got into the wintry mood through muted palettes, serving up some great comfy knitwear.
Raf Simons confidently evolved the angular portions of previous seasons' work into softer, more saleable silhouettes. The new Bar jacket, looser and in trendy wool denim, seemed to point to a man who's finally settled in to his role.
This season was the supplest fusion so far of his minimalism and the house's ultra-femininity and curves.
Fall-winter saw a parade of "memory dresses," some 48 looks that delved into the iconic houndstooth, peplums, and the original '40s designs of Monsieur Dior himself. They hit the catwalk reimagined, sometimes asymmetrically, alongside enormous mirror ball decor.
Like thought bubbles, the silver spheres set the tone for the musing, which included an embroidered tulle bustier A-line dress -- an archive piece called "Miss Dior 1949" -- reworked in hip embroidered black leather. Elsewhere, blown-up houndstooth had a surreal quality, in vertical slices down column silhouettes. It was a great re-working of the classic pattern first used by the house in the late '50s.
Apart from one burst of vermillion, the muted palette of black, navy, white and pale pink was further proof of his evolution. After all, while at Jil Sander, it was Simons who started the bright color trend that's now spread across the world.
There was plenty of imagination with silhouettes delving into the fashions of the '50s and even '60s. And prints and embroideries of surreal eyes and tears that resembled ants, gave the show a surrealistic edge, reminiscent of Salvador Dali. However, the show could have done without the motifs by Andy Warhol, such as a sparking stiletto print, which sometimes jarred as overly adolescent, and a tad tacky.
Overall, the show was a success; one step further on in Dior's mission statement for the designer, to "propel its iconic style into the 21st century."
Issey Miyake cast a few minutes of sunshine over a gray Paris sky on Friday with a show brimming with color.
Checkered patterns added to the fun, and it was invigorating to see them on models, who actually smiled as they walked.
The show's inspiration, said designer Yoshiyuke Miyamae, "comes from landscape seen from the sky."
Optical crisscrosses of varying thickness created great dynamic movements on stretch fabric, as he imagined an aerial view of a dense forest.
Not all of the 42 looks worked. Some came across as busy, especially toward the end. But the mastery of tonal color really stole the show.
Tops in rich ultramarine, vivid jade and vermilion saw colors blocked together in changing intensities. And discords such as green with bright turquoise made pockets stand out.
The most Parisienne of the silver screen icons, Catherine Deneuve, was the inspiration behind Roland Mouret's playful, colorful and womanly show.
But this was not the shy Deneuve of New Wave classic "Belle de Jour," but the actress of the glamorous 1983 film "The Hunger"-- with sharp '80s shoulders and garish eye makeup.
The bold palette popular of that era -- with its blue marine, russet, beige, black and dark red -- worked with panache here in setting off the saleable va-va-voom silhouettes.
As ever, Mouret's derrieres were the most flattering seen this season. But the most interesting feature was his square details and paneling.
Sometimes softly asymmetrical, three-dimensional fabric folds gave the collection the feeling of being slightly off-kilter.
Sublime statement coats hung down from an incredibly strong retro shoulder-frame -- with the best look in ultramarine.
"The starting point was that in winter you just don't want to dress up," said Isabel Marant of her relaxed Paris show that played with layers and featured some great cosy knitware in off-white and black.
The loungy attitude was a neat contrast to the show venue: Paris' monumental Place Vendome, which is steeped in grand history.
Gone were the signature Marant motifs; as were the embellishments, apart from the odd set of studs on a belt or a black jacket.
In their place: comfy silhouettes -- for an uncomplicated fall.
Elongated T-shirts were mixed and matched with vests, truncated sweaters and some menswear pieces.
On-trend peekaboo slits near the bust were a reminder, though, that Marant may have forgotten to get complicated, but she hasn't forgotten to be sexy.
Saturday's shows include Viktor & Rolf, Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP
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