PARIS, Jan 22, 2010 (AFP) - "Bad boy" of French fashion Jean Paul Gaultier lived up to his reputation Thursday, throwing swaggering macho models into a boxing ring as Paris kicked off four days of menswear shows.
Fashion addict rapper Kanye West and model girlfriend Amber Rose turned up in oversized fur coats and refused to talk to press. An aide said West, who is into designing his own lines, planned to attend half of the 42 shows scheduled through to Sunday.
Fellow superstar Chris Brown, also known for bruising Rihanna, flew in from the Milan men's fashion shows for Gaultier's boxing-inspired autumn-winter collection, telling AFP: "I really wanted to see this one."
Known for rollicking catwalk parades that keep even the most cynical fashionistas on edge, Gaultier took the boxer's robe as role model, throwing out hoodie shirts, hoodie jackets and hoodie coats on anything from streetwear to evening dress.
As two women in shorts and flesh-coloured tops staged a mock fight in a boxing ring, and boys punched away at bags on a stage, a bunch of well-built male models - not the androgynous adolescent types often on catwalks - trotted out a darkly coloured collection to a packed house.
Sporting fake cuts, bloodied bruises, and 48-hour stubble, muscle-bound models strode in large bermudas, tight pants and even a couple of Gaultier's trademark skirts to the sound of punches and the songs of Edith Piaf.
The aim of the show, Gaultier told AFP, was "to put up a fight against boredom and the general climate of gloom."
"The whole world is in crisis," he said, "not just fashion which lives a little in autarchy, with only people involved in fashion buying fashion. But the crisis means you look for ways out, for new solutions."
Thanks to the crisis, several leading houses, including Emanuel Ungaro, Yohji Yamamoto and Thierry Mugler, are not staging catwalk shows this season, saving tens of thousands of euros in the process.
A score of labels instead are showing their new collections in showrooms.
The current darling of the Paris men's scene, according to a panel of international buyers queried by France's Journal du Textile, is Dior's Kris Van Assche, who trots out his new designs on Saturday.
Though it is early to spot trends, seen throughout the main shows on Thursday were a plethora of puffa down jackets and vests for next season's cold days - a sign its current popularity is not about to go away.
Even highly elegant top-of-the-market Louis Vuitton liked the puffa in a collection of emblematically chic male garb whose touch of eccentricity was provided by geometric inserts and panelling, as well as flashes of shirt left hanging untidily out.
Inspired by early 20th century Vienna's mix of business and leisure, the house invented the word "Bleisure" for the collection it says combines formality with comfort.
From the outset designers had a field day of creativity with trousers.
Edgy Belgian-born designer Dries Van Noten coupled old-fashioned "Long Johns" with tailored jackets, while Gaspard Yurkievich, a cult figure on the Paris scene, harked back to the 1980s with hound's toothed bell-bottoms.
"I wanted to play with traditional clothes such as the trench coat, and traditional fabrics such as twill, to renew them for young people today who've probably never seen them," Van Noten told AFP.
He cropped skinny pants well above the ankle to give his collection "a young dynamic feel", and sent models out each carrying his own music "because young people are both very individual and very social nowadays", he said.