PARIS — There's never a gray moment for haute couture.
As it snowed outside, it was a spring garden party for Christian Dior on Monday, the first day of Paris's spring-summer 2013 season.
A roll call of A-list celebrities were able to enjoy agreeable weather thanks to a lavish garden created for the Dior show? replete with hazelnut trees and scented boxwood hedges — in an annex inside Paris' famed Jardin des Tuileries.
Sigourney Weaver, Jessica Alba, Rosamund Pike as well as French first lady Valerie Trierweiler were able to dry off on the front row to explore Raf Simons' creative flower-themed landscape of gowns.
The spring season often lends itself naturally to earthly explorations, and the show's first day proved this in abundance.
Italian-born Maurizio Galante's designs had the delicate layering of forest foliage, whereas organic themes abounded in 28-year-old wunderkind Iris Van Herpen's death-defying ode to electricity in the human body.
But Donatella Versace — who rebelled to show at the end of menswear fashion week and outside the official calendar — is always one to buck the trend.
Her designs' unapologetic, gold contours looked almost superhuman in their sculpted proportions, not to mention sexy thanks to the exposed flesh. But the Italian designer didn't convince everyone, not even Kevin Costner, who watched from the front row with his wife.
"Yes, I suppose Versace makes them sexy," the actor mused after the show. "But the most beautiful woman here is sitting next to me."
Haute couture is an artisan-based method of making clothes that dates back over 150 years. The very expensive garments, shown in collections only in Paris twice a year, are bought by a core group of no more than 100 rich women around the world.
Spring was in the air at Christian Dior, whose couture show carried on with last season's idea of the "flower women."
The show saw multi-layered flower embroideries and detailing that increased — like a blossom — as the 47 looks progressed. It was a nice idea, but detailed gold, yellow and blue appliques sometimes detracted from the gowns.
The collection's subtlety was to be found, instead, in Simons' exploration of sections and layers through color.
Apart from the staple hourglass shape that's familiar Dior territory, Simons experimented away from the house DNA, with colored sections on ensembles which seemed to grow in stages, like a plant shoot.
This produced some of the show's best looks, like strips of pale lemon, off-white and pale lilac, which broke up one embroidered, black silk bustier. Or one silk ball skirt that expanded out at a line, like an organic growth spurt.
IRIS VAN HERPEN
Iris Van Herpen's electrifying haute couture show should have come with a warning sign: Danger High Voltage.
A mysterious black statue in a dimly lit Parisian salon awaited revelers who suddenly gasped as this "statue" began to move; the figure was in fact a performer inside a black body stocking, standing on a Tesla coil.
Then followed one of the most unforgettable —and frightening — displays seen in recent couture memory: the electricity was turned on and this figure lit up like lightning.
As if straight out of a scene from the movie "X-Men," long electrical sparks shot out in all directions for several minutes.
In 11 dynamic looks, Van Herpen continued her signature exploration of organic life. This was, as ever, twinned with a dash of poetic license, all to produce one of her strongest shows to date.
White trapezoid silhouettes with all-over spiky appliques perfectly evoked the high-energy fuzz of a voltage current.
But it was the electric human that stole the show.
Maurizio Galante is inspired by nature.
To the sound of birdsong, the designer presented a show where models, like forest spirits, sported moist organic hairstyles.
The looping, shredding and draping of diaphanous fabrics such as crepe, chiffon, organza and taffeta — often with glistening crystal beads — were aimed at evoking the delicate layers of foliage.
In some ensembles this worked.
A shredded, flowing white silk look that included flared chiffon pants flowed beautifully with the natural movement of the model.
However, at times the contrasting shredded fabrics came across busy in their myriad cutouts and loops.
It was high octane glamor for Donatella Versace, who kicked off the haute couture season with a front row of celebrities and a sculpted razor-sharp set of silhouettes.
Taking inspiration from glass domes and steel beams, metal lines constructed the clothes in 24 carat gold pinstripe — and oversized fluorescent leather piping marked out the neckline.
Many inches of exposed leg and peek-a-boo slits accompanied this to make the show ooze with sexuality.
The 27 looks included a bubblegum pink babydoll evening dress with pink crystals and mirrors, and a deep V cut into the front.