PARIS - Urban elegance with a twist was the watchword at the autumn-winter menswear shows in Paris on Friday as city suits met workman's blues, ninja neoprene, luxurious leather and slinky knits.
The Belgian designer Kris Van Assche took two "cliches" of menswear -- a banker's suit and labourer's overalls -- as his starting point, combining them to create a look part white- part blue-collar.
Slim-fitting black and grey jackets and crisp white shirts were paired with giant-legged pants in bold boilersuit blue, cropped at mid-calf over low, chunky laced boots.
"Workers need protective gear, but now with the crisis it is the bankers who need that protection," Van Assche told reporters backstage following the show at the historic Beaux Arts art school on the south bank of the Seine.
Hair slicked back for the city, his models' heavy shoes suggested a metal-capped boot, with protective sides to their glasses, and tiny backpacks in the same color as their pants clipped to their rear pockets.
Wide-leg pants also came as low-slung dungarees, in black, blue or speckled grey wool, worn under a fitted jacket or ample black overcoat.
The designer acknowledged an "obvious" Japanese influence -- a trend at the Paris shows so far -- visible in the wide pant cut, but also in colourful silk scarves folded neatly under the collar in lieu of ties.
At Yves Saint Laurent, copious lashings of leather -- used from head to toe in hats, coats and gloves -- gave the urban-feeling collection, dubbed "Sex and Money", an ultra-luxurious edge.
The French house's designer Stefano Pilati used leather on a jacket lapels or to highlight pockets. Draped leather collars wrapped the neck and wool overcoats were reinforced with leather shoulder patches.
Brazilian designer Gustavo Lins also said he aimed to "refine the male wardrobe", injecting slinky knitwear and athletic touches with the focus squarely on comfort.
Fitting his models in full view, Lins showcased his covetable autumn collection in a historic courtyard in the Marais quarter.
Fine-ribbed, draped cardigans in charcoal, black or blood red were paired with beautifully tailored grey suit pants and jackets in light or slate grey, black and deep blue.
Likewise, Lins layered a light halter-neck sweater over a slinky long sleeve black top, with suit pants and a strong-shouldered charcoal overcoat.
And conversely, he paired luxurious knitted jersey tracksuit-style grey pants with black brogues, a polo neck and a suit jacket, for a look both elegant and athletic.
South Korea's Juun J took the athleticism one step further, sending out urban ninjas whose futuristic wardrobe worked in leather and diving suit neoprene.
Clad in close-fitting balaclava-topped sweaters, with high cloche-like hats, the models wore outsized coats and thick bulbous jackets, paired with slim grey pants, or high-waisted, deep-pocketed wool pants.
A mix-and-match approach to fabrics produced a grey wool coat with leather sleeves, or another with geometric neoprene panels, or oversized, rounded biker's jackets in black and camel cut entirely from neoprene.