PARIS -- Paris women's fashion week began Monday bracing itself for climate and animal right protests and with one of its biggest star designers -- Virgil Abloh -- missing.
Animal rights group PETA also took to the streets before the first show to denounce fashion's love affair with leather, saying tanneries were among the world's worst polluters.
Activists poured "toxic mud" on their heads in front of the Eiffel Tower to hammer home that "leather is a dirty business."
"The leather industry produces dangerous toxic waste and is responsible for the deaths of more than a billion animals a year to produce fashion accessories that are destroying the planet," Marie-Morgane Jeanneau of PETA told AFP.
Another rights group, One Voice, released an undercover video of "appalling conditions" at a mink farm in France, where they said up to five animals were kept in each small, dirty cage.
Earlier this month, Extinction Rebellion activists had called for London fashion week to be cancelled entirely because of the "climate emergency" and the damage done by the industry.
Other protests are likely in Paris over the nine-day marathon of spring summer shows -- by far the world's biggest and most important fashion week.
But there were signs the environmental message is getting through.
Many of the big luxury brands are abandoning fur, and 150 brands led by Chanel, Hermes and the French luxury giant Kering -- owners of Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga -- signed up to a "Fashion Pact" last month to reduce their environmental impact.
While the biggest conglomerate, LVMH, has not, Dior -- which is owned by the group -- made sustainable development the core of its show on Tuesday.
The 160 trees that will be the centerpiece of its "inclusive garden" show will be replanted afterwards in three new urban gardens in the French capital.
Abloh forced to slow down
Paris, however, will be without Abloh, the hyperactive American streetwear guru behind Off-White, who has managed to hog the headlines on both the men's and women's runways over the past year.
The 38-year-old -- who also designs Louis Vuitton's menswear line as well as working with Nike and Ikea -- has been forced to curb his manic globe-trotting schedule because of "health considerations."
With his doctor advising him not to travel, Abloh will stay at home in Chicago, where a retrospective of his work at the city's Museum of Contemporary Art has been extended after breaking box office records.
"Being busy isn't working," the architect-turned-designer confessed to Vogue in a remarkably frank admission in an industry where creative burn-out is something of a taboo.
Abloh's Paris Off-White show will go ahead Thursday without him.
Last week Paris' other big new star, Demna Gvasalia, quit Vetements, the rebellious uber hip brand where he made his name as the bad boy of fashion.
But Gvasalia is staying at Balenciaga, the venerable Paris luxury label he has also shaken up, the brand told AFP.
Koreans are coming
Kiminte Kimhekim, who cut his teeth at Balenciaga, will make his Paris debut with his eponymous label Monday a few hours before another Korean newcomer, Rokh, will present its second collection.
Kimhekim -- known for his use of giant bows -- has already caught the eye of Hollywood star and fashion icon Elle Fanning, who wore a pink transparent dress belted with a giant bow to the premiere of her new film "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" last month.
He told AFP that his show -- cheekily called "Buy it if you can" -- mixes the chima, the long traditional Korean skirt, with high school uniforms worn there, spiced with an extra touch of "provocation."
Fellow Korean Rok Hwang, a protege of the ex-Celine creator Phoebe Philo, shares much of the British designer's discreet modern chic.
Having deconstructed the classic wardrobe staples of trench coats and suits in his debut Paris Rokh show, this time he is going outdoors with a show he calls "Field Trip."
The other newcomer is Japanese designer Maiko Kurogouchi, who eight years after leaving the "King of Pleats" Issey Miyake, is bringing her own Mame label to Paris.
© Agence France-Presse