PARIS — The fashion world can be a cruel place.
No one knows this better than veteran Jean Paul Gaultier who decided to turn his spring-summer 2014 collection on its head and do the criticizing for himself.
With a tongue in his cheek, the irreverent designer turned his catwalk collection, one of Saturday's most popular tickets, into a high-octane pastiche of "So You Think You Can Dance" — the U.S. dance competition show.
Rossy de Palma, the muse of filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, sat on a panel inside the cabaret theater venue holding up signs such as "boring" and "no thanks" to auditioning models such as Karly Kloss who vogued in vain to energizing music.
A theatrical Almodovar-esque scene of wife-beating interrupted the presentation, with de Palma striking the assailant down — a moment of pure pantomime drawing whoops from the crowd.
Such was the audacity that even the normally poised Catherine Deneuve, who sat in the front row, was clapping in time and laughing by the end.
In other shows of the day, presentations were distinctly more restrained — such as that of Belgian designer Veronique Leroy, whose delicately constructed clothes in black and white did the talking for themselves. Monochrome was also seen in a surreal collection by Comme des Garcons.
Elsewhere, Vivienne Westwood stayed true to her natural eccentricities and channeled medieval peasants, whereas Viktor & Rolf's collection disappointed by losing the creative energy achieved in their last, abstract couture show.
JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
Such was the creative mayhem of the Gaultier presentation, it seemed as if the clothes took second place.
The collection opened with several looks in black lace, studs and leather with asymmetrical paneling.
They seemed to channel the movie "Grease," with the reference brought home loud and clear when two models danced like Sandy and Danny on the podium to the sound of "You're the One That I Want."
The best of the rather confusing collection were the parts to not use gimmicks.
A series of stones colored coats cut a stylish look, one hanging over the torso in circular, diagonal strips as if ripe for the peeling. Elsewhere, an on-trend metallic jacket and baggy pants came in a great burnt bronze, with a complementary dark orange top.
But the late '70s punk looks and floral sections were harder to reconcile with the collection as a whole.
VIKTOR & ROLF
Viktor and Rolf are going back to school.
At least, it appeared so in the Dutch design duo spring-summer 2014 show in Paris which had a vibe of fictional girls' boarding school St Trinian's.
Blazers with badges came in scholarly navy and knee-length double skirts featured knife pleats (layering is the duo's forte), as well as several looks in a black and white plaid, reminiscent of English boarding school uniforms.
Since designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren returned to the couture stage this July after a 13-year hiatus, there was an optimistic sense that they were trying to revitalize themselves after playing it safe in recent seasons.
Sadly, instead of moving on their couture musings, Saturday's show not only went back to school, but brought them back to where they were last year.
The best look in the show was one that captured this abstract mood they excel at: A deceptively-simple white bustier dress, with folded, almost origami-like pleats giving it a shard-like jagged silhouette.
Medieval pilgrims that Vivienne Westwood imagined during a visit to Canterbury Cathedral were the unlikely muses for the British designer's collection.
Muddy faces, colored earth-splashed knees, hanging girdles and earthy brown canvas cotton and yarn upon yarn of glamorous flowing rags provided the peasant-inspired wardrobe.
These features — sometimes minimalist, sometimes festive — combined with colorful page's stripes, medieval short tabard coats and Juliette sleeves to produce a veritable display from yesteryear.
There was even a saintly halo hat.
But collections from eccentric Westwood elude definition — and indeed to define her would be to limit her art.
So, breaking out of the medieval shackles the designer also included a Latin colored headdress, a gaucho look in yellow ochre and an ode to punk in bright blue — plus her famed peaked shoulders for good measure.
Bags in the show, for example, were made in Kenya in a project organized by the U.N.-supported "Ethical Fashion Initiative."
But Westwood flits between the serious and the gay.
After describing the origins of the fabrics, the designer chuckled that she'd created a style she referred to as "sexy nun."