In the past 72 hours, five of the most significant collections of the season were presented in Paris. From the pinnacle of French luxury to the eye-widening progression of Japanese cult labels to the continually astonishing work of a deceased Brit, Rolling Stone offers a Paris Fashion Week cheat sheet to catch you up.
Yves St. Laurent
Signficance: The Parisian label that can radically change trends with a single showing, YSL has been under strain of late, with current creative director Stefano Pilati allegedly on his last legs for the house.
Notable attendees: Kylie Minogue, Salma Hayek
Theme: Arctic sex
Highlights: Some critics have been quick to call this Pilati's Belle de collection for YSL. That 60s cult film helped illustrate a specifically French ideal of sweet subversion (lady by day, streetwalker by night), and throughout this Spring 2012 showing, there was definitely something sinister at play. It was a cold delivery of sex appeal, and the frosty palette of blues, purples, and icy greens reflected that. But, predictably, the front row ignited as they set their eyes of the accessories, especially the expertly colorblocked heels.
Most Likely To Be Seen On: Madonna
Signficance: As the battle for creative director in John Galliano's wake rages on, France's premiere luxury label pushes onward with temporary designer Bill Gaytten at the helm.
Notable attendees: Leighton Meester, Orlando Bloom
Theme: Old school elegance, a veil of surveillance
Highlights: Less extravagant than Galliano, Gaytten showed a tempered version of Dior's magesterial glam. The palette was "jaunty," with whites, deep oranges, navy, and beige lending to a nautical undertone. While Galliano was obsessed with the late 40s and early 50s heyday of the Dior archives, Gaytten's focus is more Kennedy era-oriented. Think of how the women of Catch Me If You Can aspired to dress; this collection is the Continental retort to that.
Most Likely To Be Seen On: Beyonce, Rihanna
Comme Des Garcons
Signficance: Consistently the most inventive Japanese fashion label
Celebrity fans: Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Kanye West
The theme: Apocalyptic bridal
Highlights: In one of her most striking showings in years, Comme Des Garcons' designer Rei Kawakubo delivered what some may consider her nightmare wedding collection. When she chooses a theme, she runs with it, and that meant everything was raw-hemmed and in sheets of stark white this season. In some cases, that motif was quite literal: the models looked like they'd ransacked a ghostly boudoir and draped themselves in its contents, in an upside down tribute to the matrimonial sacrament. It was jarring, it was beautiful, it suggested violence and upheaval befalling a traditonally tranquil ritual.
Most Like To Be Seen On: Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga
Significance: Karl Lagerfeld's luxury empire is arguably the most recognizable in the world. Who hasn't coveted the double CCs?
Celebrity fans: Just about everyone
Notable attendees: Alexa Chung, Uma Thurman, Leigh Lezark (of DJ trio, The Mis-Shapes)
Theme: Aquatic paradise
Highlights: Lagerfeld literally transformed his perennial venue, Paris' Grand Palais, into an underwater palace, complete with Florence + the Machine's Florence Welch performing her tailor-made hit "What The Water Gave Me" on top of a giant seashell. The clothing followed thematically, with mother of pearl accents and gorgeous iridescent shimmers replicating the textures of the sea. Chanel's signature twinsets and light tweed suits radiated with a rare sense of youth. You couldn't ask for a more joyous Spring collection.
Most likely to be seen on: Adele, Florence Welch
Significance: Since McQueen's suicide in early 2010, next-in-command Sarah Burton has done a commendable job continuing his legacy of astonishing innovation, while even transforming the label's lofty visions into something a little more earthbound.
Notable attendees: Salma Hayek, Anna Wintour
Highlights: Like Chanel, Burton's collection for McQueen was of a sea-driven nature, but the difference between the two showings is tantamount to the difference between an opera and a pop concert. McQueen's showing was simply beyond terrestrial limits, and the result on par with a divine work of art: disturbing, emotional, and inspiring. Attendees were moved to tears. Where Lagerfeld used mother of pearl as an accent, Burton literally hand-ironed metal shells onto dresses, just one example of the painstaking efforts to make this collection the tremendous spectacle it was. It was utterly unique, utterly McQueen, and the most astounding Spring 2012 showing to date. One for the fashion history books.
Most likely To Be Seen On: Lady Gaga, of course