New strategies to stem the economic crisis could have been the overall message of Paris fashion week, which ended on Sunday with a show by Gareth Pugh.

Forty-six fashion houses showed predominantly black and gray collections over four days, matching the current economic climate in which even big players in the luxury biz have announced layoffs and cost-cutting measures.

There were several new names were on this season’s schedule, including Francisco van Benthum and Hugo by Hugo Boss, which moved to Paris to distinguish its second line from the main collection and opened fashion week on Thursday. Others such as Thierry Mugler, Walter van Beirendonck, Cerruti or Dunhill braved a return to the catwalk in these uncertain times.

Nearly every designer celebrated the concept of split ensembles, that is, pieces which could be worn separately or combined as layers. Surely one of the best examples was a collection by Raf Simons, which offered austere suits and neoprene jackets in bright colors such as pink, white, royal blue and beige layered on top.

Kris van Assche preferred a more urban-wear look of layered shirts, pullovers, suit- and bomber-jackets and coats in different lengths. Elsewhere, shirts were cut differently in the front and back (tails out) to create a more casual and less formal look, as in collections by Attachment and Damir Doma.

Other strong themes for the season were checks in black, white and gray (Hugo, Emanuel Ungaro, Ute Ploier) and colored pullovers in patterns (Véronique Branquinho, Gaspard Yurkievich, Jean-Paul Gaultier) – a welcome contrast to several predominantly dark and very classic, slim sillhouettes (Louis Vuitton, Cerruti, Dries Van Noten).

No less significant was a feminine spin on menswear, with handbags, accessories including jewelry, scarves, embellished gloves and patent leather shoes now considered an essential part of the male wardrobe.

But it didn’t end there. Design houses such as Van Benthum, Miharayasuhiro, Thierry Mugler, Givenchy, Number (N)ine, Masatomo and Henrik Vibskov also showed sarouel trousers, capes, ponchos, organza shirts, sequined jackets, knitted coats with belts and even skirts worn over trousers and leggings.

There were also new variations on three-quarter length trousers, worn over fine wool leggings and with pleated-like origami waistbands (YSL), as well as ultra-slim trousers mostly embellished, painted and shiny (Mugler, Givenchy). And there too were thick stockings (Ann Demeulemeester, Galliano), used to re-create an old English Lord look when combined with high boots.

The two fashion fairs Tranoï and Rendez-Vous, running concurrently with Fashion Week, noted a slight decline in visitors. Still, buyers wrote considerable orders, reflecting the ever-growing demand for menswear and an emerging optimism in fashion.

—Barbara Markert