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“Slightly” was the key word here. There were some subtle nods to rebellion, like dropped waist lines and short flared minis (a clever play on peplums.)

But at times it felt like the boundary-pushing quirkiness that made them famous in the `90s was in hibernation this winter. Perhaps they are tapping into their commercial potential?

Elsewhere, beautiful three-dimensional effects in fabric were sometimes hard to make out because of the flat black and white.

As ever, though, there were some great abstractions, like their signature bows blown up in leather smothering the torso.

JEAN PAUL GAULTIER

Clothes as body armor was the concept behind Jean Paul Gaultier’s rather dizzying Paris show.

A play on voluminous layers of leather, fur, silks, chiffon and even knits _ both hanging and enveloping the body_ constructed a protective silhouette over models. It all made for a varied collection with some great looks, but one that was frustratingly hard to pin down.

Graphic `80s elements, such as Polaroid-type prints, followed a long sheer chiffon dress in eggplant with `70s pleats. Long stripy scarves accompanied a tartan dress. And studded leather bustier tops with `50s peplums could easily have come from another collection altogether.

Gaultier explained backstage: “It was also the idea of patchwork.”

Indeed, patchwork _ the mixing up of contrasting styles or fabric _ did show there was a method in the madness.

When interpreted literally, it made for one of the show’s high points: a sumptuous patchwork fur coat in panels, with a stylish cinched waist-strap. But the collection remained elusive.

VERONIQUE LEROY

Veronique Leroy’s fall-winter show was inspired by a disturbing Claude Chabrol movie called “The Ceremony.”

It produced a strong, subversive collection with broad and surrealistic downslope shoulders; with oversized pockets and exaggerated cuffs adding to the off-kilter feel.

Fabrics expressed what the program notes call “schizophrenia” style with plays on matt wool versus shiny satin; and two-colored graphic toes and heels.

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