PARIS — On the penultimate night of fashion month, amid the final paroxysms of designers attempting to define how women want to look today, there was a show of a different kind.
Emmanuel Macron, president of France, and his wife, Brigitte, hosted a dinner at the Élysée Palace in honor of the industry’s creatives. It was the fashion equivalent of the pre-Davos C.E.O. summit that Mr. Macron engineered at Versailles in January. News began to leak out early in the week.
Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of Valentino, who had come to Paris without a suit and had to go shopping at the Valentino boutique, emailed Haider Ackermann, creative director of Berluti: “Are you going to the dinner at the Élysée?”
“What dinner?” Mr. Ackermann replied. Then he got the invite. He had gone to Los Angeles directly after his own label’s show on Saturday to dress Timothée Chalamet and Mahershala Ali in Berluti for the Oscars, so after he got them ready, he got back on a plane and flew home. He wasn’t going to miss this one.
It was a big deal. French fashion hadn’t had this kind of official recognition from the head of state since François Mitterrand was president in the 1980s (another ‘80s revival trend! It’s inescapable). Natacha Ramsay-Levi of Chloé introduced herself to Clare Waight Keller, formerly of Chloé and now of Givenchy, because they had never met. Alber Elbaz hobnobbed with Vivienne Westwood. Joseph Altuzarra hung out with Olivier Theyskens. At the head table, Thom Browne sat near Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, who sat cater-corner to Simon Porte Jacquemus and across from Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior. And so on.
Among the very few designers missing were Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton and Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel, but then both had shows on the final day. It was O.K.: They were represented by their work. Mrs. Macron was wearing an elaborate Louis XVI coat from Mr. Ghesquière’s last collection, much to the amusement of some guests (“You know what happened to that king,” one said) — though she accessorized it with her own high heels, as opposed to the runway sneakers. Anna Wintour was wearing Chanel.
Before dinner (and after the family photo), Mr. Macron made a speech welcoming everyone and encouraging them to “choose France.”
“My deepest wish is that creators, whether they come from India, Japan, Africa, the United States or China, will consider coming to our country,” he said, adding that at a time of looming threat and rising nationalism, his choice was to “be more open,” to “believe in Europe and globalization,” because those values were French values, and fashion was, and could be, part of that.
In a room full of designers from all over — many of whom had indeed made Paris their adopted city — it struck a chord. But then, it’s been a strikingly diverse season, in terms of both the model lineup, which seems to have genuinely become more variegated, and the clothes. Change is on everyone’s mind: good, bad, what have you. You could see it on the catwalks that sandwiched the evening.
You could see it, for example, on the afternoon before the dinner at Giambattista Valli, king of the high/low party dress, who opened his show not with a flirt of chiffon but with a dark denim boiler suit, and then interspersed among the floral frippery and sequined minidresses some 1970s leathers, mini knit vests and long, narrow traveling coats. It’s a promising direction: Here’s hoping he does more of it, and that he has the courage to leave some of the ruffles behind.
You could see it at Alexander McQueen, where Sarah Burton (who went almost straight from her catwalk bow to her place at the table close to Mr. Macron) took the idea of metamorphosis, of emerging from the chrysalis, both literally and elegantly.
Tuxedo suits emerged from the exploded bindings of red leather corsetry. Silk dresses and coats were marked by monarch prints. A quilted green leather parka had a collar that folded down to frame the neck, like the upper wings of a butterfly; zippers undone at the waist dropped the coat’s skirt, suggesting the lower parts. Elaborately embroidered iridescent jeweled scarabs covered the body of a sheer tulle dress. Floor-length silk fringe created a motile surface on capes and gowns, ever adrift in the wind. A pink taffeta minidress sprouted two enormous ruffs at the shoulders. They looked as though they were about to start flapping and fly away.
And you could see it Chanel, held the morning after the dinner, though Mr. Lagerfeld had a more somber transition on the mind. Specifically a seasonal transition, a once-upon-a-time thing that seems almost shrouded in myth these days. So he took his audience, and his collection, into the woods in his usual way. The floor of the Grand Palais was strewn with browning, fallen leaves and tufts of moss, and surrounded by walls papered with pictures of a bare-limbed forest. The slightly sweet, cloying fragrance of rotting foliage hung in the air.
In the middle, a row of lone oaks stood, dwarfing the models as they appeared, striding in flat shoes and boots mottled in gold and bronze leaf. Their twiglike silhouettes were drawn by long, lean skirts and short boxy jackets, or tunics with unstructured peplums at the hips over straight knee-length skirts. The colors — in soft knits and tufted furs and tweed bouclés and one Matisse-like leaf print — faded into the ground like natural camouflage. At the end, a series of lacy dresses under Chanelized puffer jackets looked so delicate they could crumble at a touch, as if to remind everyone that change marks not only a beginning, but an ending.
Not that anyone was really thinking like that at the Élysée, where Mr. Macron happily took selfies as requested and where the dinner was buffet, so everyone was forced to mill around and mix and not stand on protocol. And where, in perhaps the most unexpected fashion moment of the night, Stella McCartney Facetimed her father, Paul McCartney, so he could speak to Mr. Macron, and everyone converged, in a fit of fandom for both, around her phone.
— With assistance by VANESSA FRIEDMAN