Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior started us off for Paris Fashion Week with dance and Nicolas Ghesquière closed the week with space age, and we certainly had a million fashion options in between. PFW is undoubtedly a long haul and, for many, it’s only about the big names, the global brands and the advertising. In my opinion, this totally misses the point of the week and the way in which fashion has and still is changing.
As of late, two themes seem to be directing much of fashion – local versus global, and small versus huge. Mexican blogger Sofia Lascurain has 213K followers on Instagram. I sat next to her at Chanel. Her infectious excitement and her entire attitude link directly to her Latin and Florida followers. Rahul Mishra shows his prét a porter in Paris but his Haute Couture in India, where his clients for this specific product are based. Designers from across the globe are focussing on their home market, using Paris as a shop window yet not relying on a global business as a foundation but rather a solid based home business which they understand and are in direct communication with. The big brands will always survive, we assume – with fragrance, beauty, accessories and endless collections from womenswear and cruise to menswear constantly looking for new ways to lure customers in – but the sheer size of the operations is daunting, and having P.R. representation across the globe, keeping an eye on every retail outlet and creating advertising appropriate to many cultures is as much a part of their role as the clothes.
But regardless of global implications, what made this season of PFW good and what made it not so good? Many collections seemed to be based around street casting, diversity of models and the appearance of “real life” rather than a fabricated reality. The collections offered menswear alongside the womenswear, day and night pieces jumbled together and a mix of high and low, street and society – which reflects today, rather than old-style shows of polished glamour moving from daywear and coats through to finale evening wear. There was a great deal of recent retro from the ‘80s and ‘90s, reminding us of the bad news that 1993 was indeed a quarter of a century ago. Big shoulders wove their way back and forth in collections. Jumpsuits and cycle shorts, touches of Jean-Paul Gaultier and others of the era, including Thierry Mugler popped up at intervals and some soundtracks seemed distinctly disco. There were also attempts at futurism, with Balenciaga and its amazing Sensurround presentation in the lead, followed by Louis Vuitton’s space suits. Synthetics no longer frighten customers and shine and sheer also move from catwalk to store without difficulty. Below, in roughly the order they showed, are some key moments from the week.
Maria Grazia Chiuri presented a sensational dance-themed show which subtly developed her Dior. It was evolution, not revolution, with dancers mingling with the bar jackets and new look pleated skirts, soft flowing looks and some exquisite embroideries. The colours were like gossamer through ecru, sand, beige and nude to whispers of rainbows. Pictures look nice but this was truly a fashion moment to be actually sitting at rather than scrolling through on your phone.
Jacquemus is a designer who loves to make women look sexy, French and who eschews fuss and so many bits. The construction of the clothes is seemingly simple and in reality, much clever than at a glance. Another season in, his talent remains undoubted.
Marine Serre showed in a spectacular outdoor location – with trains actually moving behind the mile’s long runway. But the location wasn’t the only stunning element: from the first flirty almost Gypsy florals through the fabulous final evening gowns and coats, Serre showed she is well deserved of her growing reputation in what was undoubtedly her strongest show so far.
A.W.A.K.E. showed some lovely pieces, and the models looked very confident and happy in them. The whole collection looked as though it could move straight from catwalk to street, very much a key to many collections this season. The quality and finish were of a high standard. This is definitely a label to watch.
Rinna + Nina, in a showroom with models, showed the most fabulous prints and textiles, including silk hand woven in the Athens museum on antique looms. Brilliant, bright, top quality and flattering; these are desirable clothes and would lift any wardrobe with their panache and timeless appeal.
Anrealage opened with the most extraordinary pieces covered in a kind of mother of pearl armour embroidery. Like space-age creatures or futuristic mermaids, they sparkled and turned under the lights. The collection continued with amazing textiles, and stunning silhouettes – often shapes which floated and seemed weightless in their creation. In all, a really lovely modern show.
Koché combined clothes with personality and street casting, creating a striking show where flamenco spots could contrast with a bias-cut dress and a huge painted poncho could be followed by a sharp bright tailored jacket. The vision was eclectic, but surely today’s world is about that very eclecticism?
Fabrizio Viti’s shoes are beautiful. From flat golden sandals to pastelle pumps, the designer offers a divine range to suit all styles and occasions. Especially wonderful to see were these beautiful objects in the gilded salons of what was once the Grand Horizontal la Paiva’s Hotel Particulier, now the Travellers Club.
L’Uniform are the most French of bags. Made in canvas with the softest of leather trimmings, they are created to age perfectly and to be practical, something French women demand.
Unravel makes outwear that looks especially wonderful on the runway, as though created for Amazons, and, in reality, it’ss divinely practical and special. Brilliant colours and fabrics render the pieces modern, sleek and easy in its flowing and billowing shapes. The garments to wear under are slim, sexy and strong. It’s precisely these two silhouettes combined that make Unravel’s image so brilliant.
Rochas, designed by Alessandro dell’Aqua, presents itself as divine with great clothes for a chic, elegant and sophisticated lifestyle. Yachts, private planes, terraces at sunset, or supper at the hottest restaurant of the moment: this is where these clothes belong. Animal brocades, face powder pieces and acid yellow ostrich feather fronds made the collection. One that was beautifully made, perfectly balanced and has a timeless modernity where extraneous details are stripped away, silhouettes offer options from trapeze swing to slender seduction and the faces of the customers in the audience tell you how happy they are mentally shopping it.
Hyun Mi Nielsen showed for the first time at ready to wear, not couture. Her collections are strong in an off-kilter narrative, which brings a splendid strength to the clothes. On the runway, the collection was fierce but taken apart the individual pieces are brilliant clothes to buy wear and cherish.
Hotel Vivier introduced its new creative director, Gherardo Felloni, this season and it was quite the introduction. From the titian-haired lady who ran the hotel from her tropical chambre filled with encaged singing live birds to the saucy maids with feather dusters and the wonderful diva who was a dead ringer for Bianca Castafiore in the Tin Tin stories singing with a harpist. The shoes and bags were with bow encrusted satin bags, bejewelled Vivier signature buckles and a divine boxy bag with double handles. Indeed, a stunning debut Monsieur Felloni.
Manish Arora believes that more is more. Minimalists take cover. The make-up, accessories and attention to detail in this collection were amazing and, unsurprisingly, they become even more polished every season. The cake handbags and the extraordinary pieces covered in pattern, embroidery, sequins and decoration can be added to simpler looks or worn in less extravagant ways but it’s the originality in its Burning Man excess which has the real power.
Moynat makes truly beautiful bags and under the guidance of creative director Ramesh Nair, they are also fascinating in their concepts. The mechanical cogs turning on the wall and the technical drawings of the tools of the trade gave the theme of the season: the mechanics of the creation of a bag. The leather and cane bag, the box bags in metallic finishes, the effortless elegance of the linings of the bags, the polish of the embossed surfaces of the totes; everything at Moynat is first class from the tiniest detail of clasp and loop to the stitching. These are bags to treasure.
Christian Wijnants delivered a stunning collection this season. His easy shapes were first layered in extraordinary colour combinations with floral feel: leaf green, fuchsia, geranium and daffodil. He then introduced checks which ranged from the softest of ecru shades through to brights and finally his florals in mix and match. The entire point of the collection resided in its options and the client who takes this as a starting point and plays with the pieces to brilliantly arrive at their own personal layering.
Lutz Huelle is a practitioner of the skills at the heart of fashion: cut, line, fabric, proportion, and balance. The amazing great bell-like sleeve construction is just one of his signatures, alongside his cutting and slicing into a simple jeans jacket or a military blouson. This season he added the flourish of a ruffle and softer jersey pieces alongside a rose print. In whole, the collection was a perfectly judged and edited show demonstrating a designer in full command of his skills.
A Plan Application was created by artist Anna Blessman and it’s the result of a woman looking at clothes for many years and realising she could create a collection which filled a gap. Pieces to live in, pieces for real women with busy lives, pieces to add your own personal stamp too. This season, the collection was strong, clean and desirable. It had an ease and a cleanliness of line and finish, which is perhaps akin to a canvas: the wearer makes their own mark on the pieces, not the other way around.
Rahul Mishra looked to tradition, memory and the women of India in his collection, whose craft pieces from Lucknow and Bengal brought magic to the pieces as they wafted through the salons of the Mona Bismarck Foundation. Every piece was exquisite from the white on white opening through the blue and white stripes and checks to the scattered flower gardens on black which closed the show. The beauty is that Mishra has a vision which merges tradition and modernity, romance and reality, as is evident in the many women wearing his clothes to watch the show.
Poiret, designed by Yiqing Ying, was simply divine. The soft rounded shapes and the fluid lines, the hints of exoticism and orientalism in the silhouettes of some pieces, the stunning colours from palest ecru through to marigold and the movement and seductiveness of the collection were truly beautiful. If for many the link to a long-dead couturier famous for elaborate couture was not apparent, I would remind them that many of his less famous looks are very simple, softly draped and constructed and that secondly, Poiret himself was a modernist. Ying’s collection was indeed both simple and modern.
Anton Belinskiy moved from Kiev to Paris to show a brilliant collection inspired by religion, despite it not being religious. The hint of a nun’s coifs here and the iconography of a chapel there were mixed into a collection full of ideas and twists and turns, proving that Belinskiy is certainly a talent to watch.
Beautiful People’s layer complexity and construction mean a quick glance on the runway does not reveal all but it does reveal beautiful and fascinating clothes. This season the shock of vivid lime after paper beige was terrific as was the addition of a shade of marrons glacé. The off-kilter ruffles, wrapped over pleated panel skirts and unfolding bodices all added to this fascinating label. If you don’t already know the work of Hidenori Kumakiri, check it out now.
Last but not least, this season Chanel was simply really, really great. Why? Well, beyond the hugely wonderful, as ever, sea set – real waves, sandy shore and Chanel lifeguards included – the clothes were terrific. From pale tweeds, swing and slimmer shapes to multicoloured tweeds with fun accessories and neat navy and white and red seaside looks, Chanel logs but in a clean beach-bar kind of way. A cascade of little black sheer dresses clearly all with a dance in mind (be it disco, waltz or tango) was also present, as were straw hats, great bags and witty Chanel slides – the models were barefoot carrying them and then popped them on to stroll along the boardwalk section of the catwalk. All in all, the collection referenced the heritage of the maison as only Karl Lagerfeld could, in a totally modern manner. Once or twice, there were also hints of Karl’s years at Chloé with a printed ruffle or a slight Art Decó influence. It was definitely a brilliant show deserving of its loud applause.
words. Tony Glenville