PARIS (AP) -- Bold prints, harem pants and beefy sailor looks ruled the catwalks Thursday on day one of Paris' menswear displays, with strong spring-summer 2010 collections by Belgium's critical darling Dries Van Noten, French luxury label Louis Vuitton and the country's one-time enfant terrible, Jean Paul Gaultier.
Japanese label Issey Miyake gave a Turkish spin to its East-meets-West aesthetic, sending out a mosaic and tulip-print collection fit for a sultan. Emanuel Ungaro kept the color popping with a flamenco-meets-rock- 'n'-roll collection that was heavy on fuchsia and polka-dots.
Vuitton looked to New York City's daredevil bike messengers for inspiration for its sportswear-meets-lux ury display, which married citrus tones and muted mossy greens and grayish purples.
Both Gaultier and German suitmaker Hugo Boss delivered strong, mariner-inspired collections in navy and white stripes, though Gaultier's sailor — with his clear plastic paneling and sheer fabrics — was hands-down the sexiest of the two.
But it was Dries Van Noten, a critical favorite hailed for his unexpected color combinations and use of ethnic prints, who stole the show. A clap of thunder added its deafening voice to the raucous applause as Van Noten took to the catwalk for a final bow.
The French capital's five-day-long menswear displays move into day two on Friday with shows by Britain's madly inventive John Galliano and underground American star Rick Owens.
DRIES VAN NOTEN
Electricity was in the air — literally — at Van Noten, as a summer thunderstorm and a truck fitted with thumping speakers amped up the voltage at the Belgian designer's already-charged menswear display.
Thursday's show — which took place under the marble portico of Paris' stock exchange — was Van Noten at his best, with perfectly tailored suits in mismatched batik prints and shimmering microfiber trousers hemmed high, at the ankles.
"It was fabulous, very fresh but staying true to the Van Noten spirit," said Takeharu Sato, fashion and market editor at London-based Monocle magazine.
"It wasn't boring," said Sato, adding he was sick of designers playing it safe in times of crisis by churning out marketable suits in solid lights or darks.
Trench coats in blue and beige prints had tie belts that evoked bath robes — one of Van Noten's trademark looks. A pea green and maroon printed sweater vest was paired with shimmering navy trousers, in classic Van Noten this-doesn't-match-b ut-looks-better-than-if-it-did style.
As the speaker-fitted truck spewed out a soundtrack that sent sound-waves pulsing through the crowd, the late afternoon sun shown off puddles of rainwater that had formed on the steps of the stock exchange, casting the clothing in a ravishing golden glow.
Menswear designer Paul Helvers paid homage to the bike messenger, sending out models in generously cut single-button jackets and cuffed shorts toting across-the-chest messenger bags in nubby leather.
Models in dress shoes with heels capped in fluorescent rubber trod across a catwalk covered in black gravel that sparkled like asphalt.
"This season I was really into pushing the boundaries of what is sportswear and what is elegance, what is chic," Helvers told The Associated Press in a backstage interview.
The impeccably cut suits had sportswear touches like zippered hoodies and ventilation flaps. Often the suits, in eye-popping oranges and yellows or muted moss and mauve tones, were topped with flowing microfiber windbreakers or light trenches.
Models wore plastic sunglasses with yellow-glazed lenses and jewelry meant to resemble bicycle chains.
JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
This time around, the man who gave the world Madonna's cone bra delivered a sexy, gender-bending collection of muscle-bound sailors who'd embraced their feminine side.
Ripped models wore sequined bustiers beneath navy and white striped suits, while others wore skirts or culottes with daring zippers in front and back.
Gaultier, who has long made striped sailor sweaters his trademark garment, gave the nautical look a quirky spin with a square-collared Navy uniform in nylon microfiber with mesh ventilation flaps. The black suits with pagoda shoulders like elves' ears were paired with relaxed wide leg jeans, while clear plastic panels gave classic trench coats a dose of subversive sexiness.
Gaultier also delivered variations on teenage staples, sending out Converse in translucent plastic and Levi jean jackets with cut out panels and harness straps. Another knock-out look (for those bold enough to try it) were strapless bustiers made from Levis and worn beneath sober camel double-breasted suits.
The German suitmaker also sent out a collection fit for the beaches of the chic French beach resort of Deauville. Belgian-born designer Bruno Pieters stuck to a navy white-and-red palette and lots of horizontal sailors' shirt stripes, pairing tunic-length shirts in sheer cotton with short shorts and cropped jackets cut even shorter in the back.
One model carrying a leather tote and decked out in red shorts and an abbreviated double-breasted jacket embellished with buttons looked like a bell boy straight out of a a five-star Deauville hotel.
Other models looked more like the fish one might catch on Deauville's beaches. Heavy metal sequins covering several well-cut jackets sparkled like scales.
The looks were eye-catching, but gave even style maverick Adrian Brody pause.
Asked whether he would dare don such a sparkly garment, the American actor demurred. "I could maybe wear them for something specific, but casually? I think I don't know."
The Ungaro man is one who dares just about anything — even pink and polka-dots.
Designer Franck Boclet sent out a slim, Spanish silhouette, with high-water pants and blazers in flamenco-friendly fabrics like polka dots and ginghams. Leather and deep indigo denim details gave the collection a rockabilly touch.
Black and cream abounded, as did the label's signature color, fuchsia.
"Before I started working here, I scoffed at the idea you'd see me in pink," Boclet said. "But now, I come in here looking like a flamingo."
Some of the models, too, sported a flamingo look, wearing raspberry-colored trousers, sportscoats, flowing spotted scarves and hot pink driving gloves.
Not a look for every man. But a good one, it appeared, for those — like Boclet — who dare do pink.
Color took center-stage at the Paris-based Japanese label Issey Miyake, as designer Dai Fujiwara sent out Turkish-inspired harem pants and short suits in turquoise, Ceylon and Persian blues embellished with geometric mosaic designs and eye-popping tulip print.
A crocheted hat resembled a turban, while tapered mules conjured up a sultan's slippers. The blue, red and purple squares, triangles and hexagons woven into a cotton fabric turned a generously cut summer jacket into a delicate mosaic.
"Turkey used to be a meeting place between East and West which is the same concept behind Miyake," Fujiwara told The AP in a pre-show interview. "I took a very historical Turkish look and mixed it with the kind of clothes young people around the world are wearing."
Other highlights included a cardigan in canary yellow and bubblegum pink made entirely from crocheted Japanese paper. A spokesman for the label acknowledged the show-stopping piece had one drawback: being "not that easy to wash."