Young talents kick off Paris fashion

Young menswear designers Julien David and Guillaume Henry on Wednesday kicked off Paris fashion week with Raf Simons due to round off day one later when he busses hundreds of people out to the distinctly less than fashionable Paris suburb of Le Bourget.

On the first of five days of menswear collections, the pair gave the fashion world a taste of what's in store for spring/summer 2014, from socks with sandals to bow ties and boiler suits.

Tokyo-based Frenchman David presented a reggae-inspired mix of casual and formal.

Long "stadium" and military-style jackets were worn over shorts to create a skirt-like look while flamboyant neckwear was teamed with one-piece suits.

Elsewhere shirts and t-shirts were emblazoned with tropical motifs or the words "madness", "peace" and "war" and combined with low rise, jacquard or chino trousers.

At Carven, creative director Henry, who like David is in his mid-thirties, opted for short cut jackets and cropped trousers in dusty green, mustard, orange or grey, with models sporting floppy hats and an androgynous look.

It was the French designer's footwear, however, that stood out -- strappy blue and beige leather sandals worn with socks.

One Twitter user commented: "Anyone else feeling conflicted about the sandals and socks styling?"

The shows will be followed later Wednesday with the own label collection of Belgium's Simons, also the creative director of Christian Dior.

Unusually, the event will be held outside Paris at US art mogul Larry Gagosian's cavernous art venue inside Paris's main private air hub, northeast of the city.

Opened in 2012, it is the first major gallery to be set up inside airport grounds, aiming to showcase works too big to be accommodated by inner city Paris or London locations.

Simons' label said the Gagosian Gallery was chosen so the collection could be unveiled alongside the work of artists he "intensely relates to", adding that it would continue his "ongoing exploration of a young man in the city".

To emphasise this, it said, publicity images for the collection had been photographed by Simons' old friend Willy Vanderperre in a park in their hometown of Antwerp.

The men's collections wind up on Sunday with Saint Laurent designer and champion of the pencil-thin skinny suit Hedi Slimane's second menswear collection for the label following a grunge dominated debut.

The intense interest in the French designer's work comes as men's collections become ever more important commercially.

Indeed, until last year, menswear at London fashion week was restricted to a single day at the end. It has now been allocated four.

Then, on Monday, the highlight of the season -- Christian Lacroix's return to Paris fashion for the first time in four years -- will mark the start of four days of autumn/winter 2013/2014 haute couture.

The darling of 1990s fashion editors will present 18 pieces paying tribute to Elsa Schiaparelli, the Italian designer who died in 1973 and who was famed for her collaborations with Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau.

The label, which closed in 1954 after failing to adapt to post-war austerity, was officially reopened in July 2012 having been purchased in 2006 by Diego Della Valle, head of the Italian leather goods company Tod's.

Lacroix lost his his fashion house in December 2009 when a Paris bankruptcy court approved a plan to end production of the classic label's haute couture and ready-to-wear lines.

The house had run up losses of 10 million euros (about 15 million dollars) in 2008 after being hit by the sharp downturn of the luxury market.