One thing to always remember about Paris is it offers so much diversity of thought and such an abundance of fashion that, firstly it is truly is impossible to get to everything, and secondly there is literally a fashion look to suit everyone. Trench coat, tick; ball gown – yes; minimal black or riotous colourful print, it’s all somewhere lurking in the avalanche of shows, showrooms, ideas, and designers.
So, what can we distill from eight days of on schedule show, many installations, and events, and in some cases, simply a rail of clothes? Let us start with the question of quality which has become increasingly important at this tip top level of ready to wear clothes; great fabrics, great colours, beautiful finishes and exquisite details have reemerged as part of the seasons story in a broad range of collections. This is led both by the heritage houses and by newer names. This search for integrity and quality is also reflected in the trend to use models older than just those in their 20s, thus shifting the focus from girls to women. The type of style a woman, as opposed to a girl, is looking for when she shops at designer level is based on maturity, confidence, and the self-awareness of how clothes can be used in each individual’s life.
Cost isn’t a factor for quality or versatility but how any individual piece might really work is an important consideration. These women are confident, self-possessed, and not swayed to buy by sales talk, seasonal whims, or instant gratification. The customer who, for example, buys a Max Mara coat, will see the value in a piece from Cyclas, something artisan from Rahul Mishra and a knit from Barrie. The pieces at Nina Ricci, Rochas, or Guy Laroche are not designed to change the face of fashion, or to grab the front page, they are designed to be bought and worn. This is new, it’s modern and it’s extremely difficult to pull off.
Paris of course has wild creativity as always with Comme des Garçons; clothes for a museum, Maison Margiela/John Galliano; clothes for the Galliano faithful, Balenciaga/Demna Gvsalia ; clothes for those who must have something from the hottest name of the moment, Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen; clothes for those to whom the name eternally spells magic, and a few others who view the catwalk and the show as an opportunity to self-express and which many see only as the pinnacle of creation. Great yes but today often oddly not as impactful as in the past and I am wondering if this very approach to fashion, like street style is beginning to reach either saturation or fatigue. However, one extraordinary moment did occur within this group of designers- Jun Takahashi at Undercover. This was not a fashion show but a performance whose magic and direction swept all other presentations of this genre away. In series of choreographed sections his warriors, amazons and creatures passed in front of our astonished eyes as in a dream. No words to describe the clothes, simply find the images and marvel.
This season it seems the true were Valentino, a beautiful collection of soft silhouettes from reed slim to fluid trapeze, with neat clean long line coats and swinging pretty dresses.
Lutz Huelle moved his brilliant signatures forward by somehow splicing the key elements of last season into a collection whose newness never jarred. Maison Rabih Kayrouz was stunning, inky black clear scarlet and winter white in architectural and sculptural shapes with amazing techniques and finishes.
Yet I want to focus and concentrate on the core of Paris and on another rediscovery within the season, silhouette, and proportion. Long since dismissed as irrelevant and often discussed as outdated the idea that a designer can explore lengths, shoulders and waists as a key to making a statement harks back to the past, yet is surely at the heart of fashion design? The strongest collections explored shape and line and the options a collection might offer customers. The slim body skimming line, the waisted flirty full skirt at opposite poles of the silhouette spectrum. The soft rounded shoulder or the hard-aggressive line extended as in the 1980s or the high tight armhole often teamed with a long narrow sleeve extended almost to the fingers. The slim neat trouser or the full palazzo pant? In offering variations shown in confident layering’s of proportions and silhouettes designers seemed to approach the season with confidence. Show women great clothes beautifully made in a realistic colour palette and top quality fabrics and they will smile, and buy.
Top shows included Vanessa Seward who threw a ’70s element into her polished, professional collection of pieces in which clearly every woman in the room found something to desire. Brown, blue, grey, white, and black with injections of dark chartreuse and shocking pink was shown striding through the chandelier hung salons looking perfectly at home with its long sexy skirts, full sleeved dresses, and shoulder slung coats. Pascal Millet also embraced a ’70s aesthetic and then created a totally modern collection. Silver, white, khaki, brown, grey, black and shots of deep orange came in soft curved shapes whose lines moved and flattered. The waist was a strong feature without over emphasis and the design elements which may have had hints of both the exotic and the nightclub were secondary to great clothes.
Guy Laroche designer Adam Andrascik explored short to long, slim, and slender silhouettes with great proportions and colour, black was used as a highlight not a basic turning its use upside down. The show had a certain swagger and confidence in the models attitude, something also seen at other shows, such as Lutz, Rochas, and Seward. Alessandro dell’Aqua’s Rochas silhouettes included a Watteau type swing back, and many back details and features. The house signatures of lace and bows were re-mixed with tiny clusters of bows and blown up lace patterns, the entire collection once again showed the confident woman.
Nina Ricci designed by Guillaume Henry was simply the perfect modern woman’s wardrobe: with a palette that ran from grey, navy, and camel to hot coloured accents; with silhouettes that went from a sharp tailored trouser to a swagger. Wanda Nylon designer Joanna Senyk had fun with a range of types of women from disco diva to boardroom boos. The clothes were, as with all these collections, beautifully made and finished in close up. The fast-paced show with a full winter wardrobe of shiny vinyl, sexy knits and strokeable shearlings came in coats, trousers, and sweaters to move straight into many a woman’s wardrobe.
Agnès B. had women friends modelling: models with character, the clothes are familiar but it’s what a creative eye can do to them and the relationship to the world around them, and the women wearing them, which makes them appropriate to the season. Paris showed its strength by hitting the target fair and square.