PARIS - The first couturier to put men on the Paris catwalks back in 1958, style veteran Pierre Cardin earned fond applause, if not critical acclaim, Sunday at a comeback show on the eve of his 90th birthday.
The last active survivor of the great postwar French fashion houses, the Italian-born Cardin is today owner of a sprawling luxury empire, but his catwalk shows are few and far between, his last in Paris a women's line in 2010.
Faithful to the space-age theme Cardin has mined on and off since the 1960s, his men's look featured broad-shouldered, sleeveless tunics in navy felt, wool tartan or diving suit neoprene with futuristic visor shades.
Jackets had vertical slashed panels at the back, or were adorned with twists of black rubber tubing, like a prickly hedgehog across the shoulders.
Unlikely colour matches paired yellow with violet, or turquoise with purple, while the suit fabrics sometimes seemed too stuffy for summer.
Things took a kinky turn as a bare-chested model stepped out in shiny black patent trousers with a giant triangular bag looped over one shoulder through a disc in its centre.
Strutting their stuff in the old Paris stock exchange, Cardin's young models came off as oddly nonchalant, smirking at the cameras as if struggling to take the collection seriously.
By the time the catsuits arrived, in sequined black, brown or green velvet and leaving rather too little to the imagination, the audience was showing signs of strain as well.
But when a model lost his hat - catching it and jauntily holding it out for the audience - he got a friendly round of applause.
And when Cardin stepped out for a bow, after a finale of a dozen women models in futuristic tubular dresses with hula-hoop discs in their seams, the veteran designer earned a warm and genuine ovation.