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PARIS (Reuters) - The earth moved at designer Hedi Slimane's womenswear ready-to-wear debut at Yves Saint Laurent on Monday - or at least the ceiling did.
The palpable excitement among those gathered on Monday around a dark runway inside the Grand Palais in Paris to witness how the grand couture brand would look under a new interpreter cranked up a notch as the show began. Individual ceiling panels shifted upwards one by one to create a cathedral ceiling, eliciting oohs from the crowd.
The temple may have been to Yves Saint Laurent - who died in 2008 after a decades-long career in which he put women in tuxedos, invented streetwear and democratized fashion - but Slimane did not copy blindly, instead bringing a modern, edgy yet elegant feel to the YSL classics.
Here again was the fringed safari look, the finely tailored trouser suit with lean legs and fitted jacket, the sheer black blouse and the ruffled dress with peasant collar - all given an up-to-the-minute urban sensibility that never felt dated.
Even the famous black dress with white cuffs and sleeves worn by Catherine Deneuve in Luis Bunuel's 1967 film "Belle de Jour" was given a new lease on life as Sliman offered up two different lengths for front and back.
"The house is going to live again," said Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent's business partner and former companion. "This house is finally saved ... by someone with immense talent."
Berge said Slimane brought to the brand a more supple approach than Saint Laurent, who was grounded in the culture of couture tailoring. "He doesn't copy, he modernizes," he said.
Slimane's YSL readywear debut had been hotly anticipated by the fashion world, anxious to see how the former creative head at Christian Dior menswear would meld with the brand that once counted Deneuve, Bianca Jagger and Loulou de la Falaise among its greatest fans.
Slimane took the reins of the brand earlier this year from Stefano Pilati, recently hired at Ermenegildo Zegna after a seven year stint at YSL. Slimane has already re-branded the label as Saint Laurent Paris in a move that has frustrated some purists.
But the fashion world came out to support Slimane on Monday, including Lanvin's Alber Elbaz and Louis Vuitton's Marc Jacobs, as did Valerie Trierweiler, the companion of French President Francois Hollande.
"I don't know the terminology of fashion, but I found it sublime," Trierweiler said after the show.
With floppy, wide-brimmed hats on their heads and flounces at the neck, models looked like bohemian, urban gunslingers in tight leather trousers and fitted jackets. Others in long tunic robes of blood red, green and royal blue and black capes swept onto the runway with the exoticism that characterized Saint Laurent's work in the 1970s.
At Stella McCartney's spring/summer 2013 collection, eye-popping shades of orange sherbet, canary yellow and Kermit-the-Frog green made their way down the runway inside the Opera Garnier in long, sporty silhouettes.
McCartney's airy nod to geometry featured sometimes severe cuts softened by see-through fabrics and peek-a-boo reveals.
Brightly hued circles of silk organza took center stage on whisper-thin dresses cut at the shins, while exaggerated, deep V-necklines exposed skin beneath boxy jackets, some with pronounced shoulder pads that Joan Crawford would have loved.
"I really champion women, I admire women," said McCartney after the show. "I want my collections to empower them."
Yet despite the hidden structure in cotton bustiers and crisp pique dresses, the show from the British designer - whose autumn/winter looks presented in March featured edgy, tight-to-the-body dresses - highlighted fluidity.
As relaxed as a gin and tonic after an afternoon round of golf was an all-green ensemble of slouchy trousers and pullover with roomy sleeves, while pure white trousers and blouses cut at the elbow imparted a fresh, tennis-club vibe.
All eyes before the show were on supermodel Kate Moss, who entered the gilded salon in sunglasses and a black fringe dress, offering a breezy "Morning, everyone!" to the front row.
The A-list seating included a spot for the designer's ex-Beatle father, Paul, who just three weeks earlier received from the Legion of Honour, France's highest award.
Additional Reporting By Leona Liu, editing by Paul Casciato