The ANDAM award is all about encouraging new French design talent - the only question raised by the first fully-fledged on-schedule catwalk show of its latest recipient, Anthony Vaccarello, is why he wasn't given it earlier. He's been on the Paris schedule for a few seasons now, presenting his clothes in arresting quasi-catwalk statements that in retrospect seem like statements of intent: give me a catwalk, I'll show you what I can do. This season, he got it, and we got it. Vaccarello kick-started Paris fashion week on a mile-long catwalk with a show as short, sharp and - in its own way - shocking as an injection of vitamin B12. It was also just as energising.
Vaccarello's programme notes talked about Herb Ritts imagery and the idea of a girl plunged into water. But as soon as the first model hit his very, very long catwalk in her very, very short dress, we knew exactly what Vaccarello's point was. Glamour, power, and sex - with three x's. It brought to mind early nineties Versace, or more to the point Azzedine Alaia - there was the same sense of timeless trend-less, eternally sensual garments. We also had an Alaia moment when postmodern supermodel Karlie Kloss pony-stepped out in Vaccarello's final number, a cut-out black dress that tumbled to the calf on one leg and rose thigh-high on the other. The intake of breath at that sight was audible.
But despite the Kloss cameo, the focus was on the clothes - no mean achievement when the toned body of one of the world's number ones is trussed in a few cubic centimetres of viscose-crepe. Vaccarello's dresses were attention-grabbing, but not just in the way they reinvented that Robert Palmer Girl formula of full-frontal seduction. They were cut with surgical precision, and more than a little innovation, tiny taut little frockettes twisting and turning around the body in manners which simply defied gravity. Skirts were sliced into lappets at the side that should be flapping, but were instead suctioned to the models' thighs. There were tops that appeared nothing more than cat's cradles of elastic, a big fat brass buckle in the middle pulling everything into place.
These will be difficult clothes for many women to pull off, no doubt - although, no doubt, many men will want to pull them off said women. To satisfy the buyers, however, there were a few separates - sleek shorts and skirts worn with souped-up swimsuit-and-bodysuit tops, and a couple of bloused semi-transparent shirts. Those are a portent of things to come, namely racks of wearable, saleable alternatives in the showroom (make a beeline for the outerwear, a hit carry-over from his winter collection). But that wasn't what we were here to see. This was Vaccarello showing his strong points to a new audience - and by the end of this outing, he was preaching to the converted.