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City of Light, Camera, Action

Models on Ozempic, dazzling guys in sequins, superstars everywhere you turned: Look, it’s King James! Sheesh, there goes Rihanna! OMG, Beyoncé! Those screams you’re hearing? Fangirls losing their minds for Cha Eun-woo, the pretty singer from the K-pop boy group Astro.

The week just past was emphatically one of fashion as an S.E.O. experiment, test field for an ever-evolving global ecology, increasingly monocultural, of luxury goods. Yes, there were talented indies. There were great masters from outside the mainstream, most notably Rei Kawakubo. There were some seasoned and celebrated, although not sufficiently recognized, talents like Grace Wales Bonner. There were survivors like Kim Jones at Dior Homme and lots of gifted comers showing men’s and women’s wear and, well, everything in between.

Take, for example, Marine Serre, who served up her most commercial riff to date on upcycled yarn waste and deadstock, here rendered as armor for warriors of the urban night (as well as molls in trash drag.) Let’s hear a round of applause for an evening dress made from a granny afghan. Try rocking that one at the Met Gala, Lil Nas X.

Consider Rick Owens, showing in full doom-mode outdoors on the river-facing plaza of the Palais de Tokyo as if he had not seen a weather report. The predicted thunderstorms never arrived, and yet Mr. Owens showered guests anyway with drifts of gunpowder and wreaths of sulfurous fog from fireworks mounted on scaffolds and blasted into the Parisian sky.

The show was titled “Lido,” after Mr. Owens’s seaside getaway in Venice, yet it had more than a whiff of Burning Man. An observer would be hard-pressed to find clear connections between the soft littoral landscape of the Venetian lagoon and Mr. Owens’s sternly constricting offerings: peaked shoulders like the budding wings of dark angels; high-waisted trousers with long hems trailing like the uncoiled wraps of a mummy’s shroud; high-top versions of therapeutic leg braces and Brutalist “concrete sandals” — perhaps the thing for one terminal dip into the Adriatic.

There were also studies in cool elegance, as at Dries Van Noten. Like the celebrated geyser, this designer can be counted on to deliver, sometimes with bursts from the creative core, occasionally with desultory puffs. This occasion registered as something in between.

That is, he provided uncontroversial gabardine trousers worn under trench coat skirts, twin sets for men, knit velvets, mousseline shirts teasing flashes of nipple and, most notably, sequined shorts. We have seen versions of this before from other designers. Yet such is the fickleness of fashion that suddenly they seemed eminently wearable.

Part of that is the Paris effect. Next to Tokyo among great world capitals, this city has the greatest capacity to frame the outlandish. Against its backdrop the clusters of Rei Kawakubo devotees strolling along the fashion rialto that is the Rue St.-Honoré — in trousers with hoop-belled hems or deconstructed frock coats or other outlandish garb — seem like welcome legations from distant galaxies.

Janet Flanner, the brilliant Paris correspondent for The New Yorker, once remarked that Picasso, even as a genius, had more gifts than he could deploy. Possibly the same could be said of Ms. Kawakubo who, like Picasso in his 80s, shows little sign of slackening pace.

“In order to find a new world, we have to go beyond reality,” Ms. Kawakubo said in a gnomic note accompanying her Comme des Garçons collections. Of course, you could argue that the opposite is equally the case.

For the current collection, Ms. Kawakubo showed collared black frock coats in which waistbands were the hems of inverted shorts; double layered jackets; upside-down trousers; jungle prints; and Gary Card headbands embedded with what looked like flotsam. Oh, and there were the Oxford shoes right out of Meret Oppenheim. Were the wearers coming or going in properly bench-made, if Surrealist, Oxfords featuring two shoes per foot, either layered or headed in different directions?

Where Ms. Kawakubo is coolly cerebral Mike Amiri wears sincerity on his sleeve. When he took a bow at the end of his show with his family, it was hard to resist enthusiasm for this self-made Californian designer who, showing for several seasons in Paris, has urged his loyal consumers to ride along with him as he follows taste shifts away from streetwear toward soft tailoring, leaving behind the perennially juvenile cult of the sneakerheads.

Officially, Mr. Amiri’s inspiration was a chill Los Angeles style. What it more closely resembled — shirts and long shorts in leather woven like bistro chairs, silly flower embellishments, shorts-and-shirts like cabana sets — was attire for rich Miamians. If you accept that geography is commercial destiny, next stop on the fashion caravan is South Florida.

In a packed schedule that proved the runway show is in no peril of disappearing, there were some shows that fell flat, like showroom appointments passing themselves off as something else. (Yes, you, Officine Générale.) There were bombastic statements like Kim Jones’s anniversary collection at Dior Homme (he has survived there five years, a lifetime in the luxury goods trade), replete with fine boxy tailoring that almost made you imagine his next stop may be Chanel.

And there were moments of pure theater and elevated design. The best of these was produced by Jonathan Anderson at Loewe and staged inside the 18th-century stableyard of the elite Garde Républicaine — France’s version of the Royal Horse Guards.

Mr. Anderson often seems like the rare thought leader in the industry, a designer connected to culture in ways that have little to do with the trashy slipstream of social media. The fountains that were the centerpiece of his show were the work of the American sculptor Lynda Benglis, great bronze extrusions that suggested organic eruptions or frozen waves. They nicely counterbalanced the severity of Mr. Anderson’s designs, which included trousers with waists so snug and high they turned the upper torso into a bust, boxy gray sweaters like Colorforms shapes and fully sequined shirt and trouser separates.

They called to mind the glittering ’60s, specifically Andy Warhol’s foil-covered Silver Factory, which, by coincidence, is being evoked by a show at the Gagosian Gallery on the Place Vendôme. “It was the perfect time to think silver,” Warhol later wrote of the period and of his storied studio. Silver was both the future and the past, he noted. Astronauts wore it. Hollywood actresses from the Golden Age were photographed in it. Most important, mirrors are backed with silver. “Silver was narcissism,” Warhol said. Can anyone doubt that he was, as usual, prophesying the next Age of Narcissism, that of TikTok and Instagram?

Given that, the commercial logic of Louis Vuitton’s new chief executive Pietro Beccari’s hiring Pharrell Williams to design its men’s wear collection seems as irresistible as a bulldozer.

Let the naysayers cluck about Mr. Williams’s design offerings, in some sense lost amid a zillion-dollar spectacle during an evening in which Vuitton colonized central Paris, taking over the storied Pont Neuf; painting it in the pattern of its trademark Damier print; and importing the Voices of Fire gospel choir from Virginia, Mr. Williams’s home state, to sing a rousing composition of his titled “Joy (Unspeakable)” that tapped into Black spirituality as a promotion vehicle for unabashed materialism. (“If you want it, you can have it!” they belted out. “If you need it, you can have it!”)

In a consolidated luxury goods sphere, where three groups (LVMH, Kering and Richemont) control nearly the entire ecosystem, market capture amounts to the one true religion. Designers are its missionaries, and on Tuesday evening, Mr. Williams seemed exactly like the person to take us all to church on the way to the bank.

The clothes, to the surprise of no one familiar with Mr. Williams’s feel good music, were solidly commercial (“Every single thing will sell,” as one retailer said.) Much of it was rendered in a pixilated Damouflage pattern that owed a debt to an earlier experiment by Mr. Williams’s friend Nigo at Kenzo; lug-soled versions of the mid-calf rain boot Kanye West has been flogging for some time; Damier denim trench coats, suits, biker and varsity jackets; Mary-Jane shoes; and the all important Keepall, Alma, Neverfull and Speedy bags that, let’s face it, are what Louis Vuitton shows are really all about.

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Mohammad SHiblu

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