Part Mulberry UK of the excitement in the fashion world is no doubt due to the growing importance of what has been dubbed "the new luxury"- rock-size jewels, 30,000 watches and handbags in every exotic skin and color under the sun. The younger customer who is no longer interested in trying on garments or even shoes can find a powerful buyer's rush in buying a Birkin bag or a ceramic Chanel watch encrusted with diamonds. But the new luxury has not rendered the catwalk passe, as was evidenced during the recently ended Paris Fashion Week. Happily for clothes lovers, designers sent powerful personal messages onto the runways, with collections embracing a woman's identity as something more than an eye-popping, sticker-shocking reptile purse."We've seen New York, Milan and Paris, and this season, Paris is the best," said Karen Katz, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus. Knee-length skirts appeared on almost every runway, including Christian Lacroix, who showed this refined look and paired it with short fitted jackets."It's nice, isn't Mulberry Alexa Bags it, to have this new skirt length?" said the very elegant Marie Martinez, directrice of Lacroix Haute Couture. Floral patterns were everywhere at Balenciaga, Leonard and Andrew Gn in printed or appliqued dresses. Industry insiders say that Gn is heir to Oscar de la Renta, and Gn's young and enthusiastic San Francisco clients adore his fresh little coats and simple, clean dress ensembles. They can now enjoy Gn's fluid evening gowns in bright colors. John Galliano's ultra-romantic signature collection featured flowery chiffon dresses under swingy beaded jackets with a '30s buzz. The audience left the show dizzy with visions of young girls romping in the Tuilerie Gardens on a windy day, dressed in airy pastel gowns, clutching parasols and bouquets of peonies. The cardigan sweater is a major theme at Nina Ricci and Junko Shimada, worn loosely and degage over short dresses or long gowns. In fact, the long, slouchy cardigan is so important that it nearly obliterates jackets this season. Another key look, the transparent tunic over shorts and trousers, was prominent at Chloé. Kanye West and Alexis Phifer, archetypes of the new stateside clean-cut image, attended the show, as well as Courtney Love, looking hale in vintage Chloé. American Ralph Rucci, who showed both his ready-to-wear and couture collections, is no stranger to the theme of transparency, and his classic clear plastic insets on architectural silk or wool evening dresses were spot-on for his elite and well-heeled clients. Diaphanous dressing has always been a hallmark of French couture, but never more important than now that it is embraced by ready-to-wear.Jean Paul Gaultier loves "Pirates of the Caribbean" and gave his audience swashbuckling women in jodhpurs, with billowing blouses tucked into 12-inch-wide belts. Brides of the pirates were demure in white crochet gowns. "It's all about the story line for Mr. Gaultier," said Claude Milaud, directrice of Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture. "He likes Johnny Depp." Alber Elbaz of Lanvin created a collection of knee-length modern dresses, some with cascading ruffles down the backs, in black and navy, as well as clear yellow, orange, red and cobalt. These clothes pack well and are easy to wear, and it is no mystery why Elbaz is so popular in this country.The biggest surprise of the season was at Bottega Veneta Outlet Chanel. Karl Lagerfeld saluted America with a red, white and blue sportswear tribute, showcasing denim overalls and loose jeans, stars-and-stripes cardigans and tennis ensembles. Applauding this patriotic theme were celebrities Victoria Beckham, Dita Von Teese and Kirsten Dunst. But the premier house of French chic did not stint on beautiful cocktail dresses and gowns that summed up the season - ethereal, light and transparent.