Paris lived up to its status as the least commercial, most creative of the fashion capitals with a day-one ready-to-wear lineup on Tuesday that was heavy on emerging, little-known talent and conceptual offerings.
The nine-day-long spring-summer 2011 extravaganza kicked off with a challenging display by Aganovich, the brainchild of Serbian-born designer Nana Aganovich and her partner and muse of sorts, Brooke Taylor - which channelled as apparently disparate influences as withered poppies and shipbuilding - and a solid effort by Spaniard Amaya Arzuaga, making her Paris debut.
Portuguese designer Fatima Lopes' baffling show, which paired futuristic cabin crew dresses with prehistoric platform shoes, and the all-black hardcore gear of Nicolas Andreas Taralis were less convincing.
Paris' ready-to-wear week moves into day two on Wednesday with shows by Belgian critical darling Dries Van Noten and veteran French designer Pierre Cardin, who by the mid-1950s was already pumping out the Space Age designs that have become his trademark.
After weeks of shows in fashion's more commercial capitals, New York and Milan, the high-minded Aganovich display was a something of a palate-cleanser.
Models sported outfits that were like half-put-together puzzles, with cutout bolero jacket tops layered over half of a pleated schoolgirl skirt.
The idea, the label's design duo explained, was to create a collection made up of mix and match-able parts.
"We don't want to be 'conceptual designers' that make a few 'difficult' pieces for the catwalk and then churn out hundreds of T-shirts," said Taylor, who was credited in the collection notes as providing the label's "narrative".
The duo earned their stripes with a display that could only be described as non-traditional - models paraded around an oversized rusted anchor reported to have been brought from Holland especially for the occasion as water poured down on their heads from spigots overhead.
About a dozen other outfits were displayed on wooden mannequins set into the windows of the courtyard where the show was held, as a soundtrack of bubbly, undersea sounds echoed overhead.
Lovely looks included a tunic dress in cream-coloured silk with red and purple streaks streaming down from the neckline - a print culled from photographer Irving Penn's images of withered poppies, the designers said.
"The poppy led to the idea of opium, heroine, a liquid dream, water, femininity, and the anchor was there to give it some solidity," Taylor said.
"But maybe it only makes sense in our heads."
In an era dominated by mega-productions, where the luxury supernovas stage lavish displays that come off without a hitch, inside Aganovich's quirky head was a novel place to start Paris fashion week.
For her debut effort in Paris, emerging Spanish designer Arzuaga delivered a collection of wearable origami, feather-light folded concoctions in organza and silk.
Sheath dresses sprouted a collar of menacing dinosaur spikes, while a peplum of sharp-edged petals adorned a hot-pink hotpant. A dainty cocktail dress was shaped like a birdcage. The puffy form of another abbreviated dress, in flaming fuchsia, conjured up a human heart.
"If you think origami's hard to do in paper, try it in organza," Arzuaga said.
She said each piece represented countless hours of work.
"Just the patterns alone take forever because they're really elaborate."
So elaborate, in fact, with their fantastically folded skirts and oversized spiky collars and shoulders, that it would likely prove out of the question to do anything but stand in them: You wouldn't want to muss up all those precise pleats by sitting on them.
Still, questions of practicality aside, it was a convincing effort from the 40-year-old designer - a native of the northern Spanish city of Burgos who has shown in past seasons in London and Milan.
Only the footwear - towering platforms made from hunks of wood and crude straps - put the collection on shaky ground. After several close calls, one of the models took a hard fall and then struggled to find her footing. Another model put her arm around her and escorted her off the runway, as the audience applauded warmly.
NICOLAS ANDREAS TARALIS:
You could tell it was striving to be avant-garde, but the Taralis show fell sorely short of its mark, feeling only deja vu.
There were some nice pieces, including carrot pants in a patchwork of opaque and transparent black silk, but most of the angry, all-black unisex looks seemed like they could have stomped directly off the catwalks of US badboy Rick Owens or Japan's Yohji Yamamoto.
The preponderance of see-through looks - like a poncho in vaporous silk - left a cloying aftertaste of deliberate naughtiness.
Between the elaborate but awkward staging, the unremarkable dresses and the heels that looked like they'd been fashioned out of adobe, the message of Lopes' show was frankly baffling.
Were the models, in their abbreviated V-neck dresses with wide sleeves cut with useless vents, supposed to be channelling futuristic stewardesses? If so, why were they wearing those prehistoric heels?
And what was up with the muffled, underwater soundtrack, the trapezoid-shaped scrims at the end of the runway and the weird geometric patterns the girls traced on the catwalk - almost careening into one another as their paths met?
It was all one great big mystery.