First in Delhi and Mumbai, now in Paris, Manish Arora is a longtime fashion showman who says he likes to raise his stakes each season. This time he did so with a dramatically bearded magician dressed in billowing black who conjured model Ashley Smith on the runway, out of fire, then out of thin air, and finally split her in two.
But Arora's tricks aren't meant to divert your attention from his clothes. As if that were possible. Still, the fox fur stole with glowing green eyes aside, the designer was actually in a slightly subdued mode. The cuts on coats and dresses to the knee had round leg-of-mutton shoulders and lightly sculpted sleeves, but were for the most part as classic as he gets. All the better to see Arora's riot of embellishment and prints, this season done in collaboration with German artist Amrie Hoffstater. They had a kind of complex kaleidoscopic or fractal-like quality, mixed with the dense craftiness of a Mexican Day of the Dead altar.
Last season Arora wrapped dresses in bright gold claws, the most famous being the one worn by Nicki Minaj. (She must have given a tip to her friend-collaborator Kanye West, sitting front-row today.) This season's versions were flexible metallic carapaces that fit like futuristic corsetry—a possible clue that Arora is already thinking about his first collection at Paco Rabanne this October.