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by Timothy Hagy, Paris Editor

PARIS, January 17 - The more times change, the more they stay the same. It used to be said that the big three of Paris men's fashion were Dior Homme, Saint Laurent Rive Gauche and Helmut Lang. In January of 2005, Helmut Lang is not showing a men's collection, and Saint Laurent Rive Gauche has become a troublesome thorn in the side of its owner PPR (Pinault-Printemps-Redoute), leaving Dior Homme powering on as the single remaining superpower.

Perhaps that comes as no surprise, because Hedi Slimane has always been something of a visionary, able to nimbly adapt to changing times while still enlarging his vocabulary. A major shift occurred at Dior Homme one year ago, when the collection broke with the past in many ways - emerging leaner and meaner, lightly subdued while bubbling with energy. And the genius in it all is Hedi's ability to take street-smart style and to refine it until it shimmers with natural beauty.

Elsewhere, the Paris men's shows for fall / winter 2005 / 06 are likely to be dominated by Japanese intellectuals, the classic labels, and John Galliano doing for men what he's already done for women. Jean Paul Gaultier is out this season, while his eponymous label is restructuring.

Apart from all of that, there is Raf Simons, whose futuristic take on how men will dress in the 21st century has earned him acclaim from the international press. His dark, interplanetary style has become a symbol of the change that is always hanging in the offing. Simons' late night shows attract crowds of youth from all over Europe, every high-powered editor from the four-corners of the world, and a sprinkling of everyday fashionista anxious to see what might be on the menu. Ever since the designer all put predicted 9/11, he's been regarded as a sort of sartorial mystic, as much as iconoclast designer.

Another name to watch is emerging Japanese designer, Masaki Matsushima, whose fusion collections mingle Eastern and Western codes, often with dramatic results. And then there is Dirk Schönberger, a Belgian designer, whose style is a mixture between goth and gorgeous, always pulsing with an underlying sensual beat.

Paris has changed in just three short years' time, but the underlying theme has not budged an inch. If the future of men's fashion is what interests you, then this is the place to look for an advance copy.





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