It takes time a long time to digest fashion weeks, so, after a break of a few days, I feel like catching up with has been going on in Paris.
In the previous post on Paris Fashion Week I mentioned Balenciaga and Ghesquière’s Indian inspirations. Also Galliano had on his mind exotic inspirations for his Christian Dior collection. Yet, rather than travelling to exotic lands, he went back in time to the early 1900s when the French Capital experienced a boom in Oriental fashion thanks to the Ballets Russes and Paul Poiret, hence the hemmed-fur hobble skirts that narrowed around the knees and kimono sleeved astrakhan jackets with a side fastening and mandarin collar like in a qipao.
Chiffon dresses with paisley prints were a welcomed break, but Galliano soon went back to his Oriental opulence with evening gowns in yellow and turquoise, golden brocade jackets, floating and ethereal evening gowns in bright shades of orange, red, deep blue or fuchsia and ample harem pants paired with fur vests that evoked the costumes for Poiret’s “The Thousand and Second Night” party.
Accessories were also inspired by the Orient, with Quing dynasty hats trimmed in fur (alternated to 1920s hairstyles covered in bobby pins), multiple necklaces that looked as if they were made with antique Chinese coins, shoes and sandals with Persian dagger-shaped heels.
Though opulent and luxurious it didn’t stand up to Galliano’s extravagances for Dior’s haute couture collection, but, after all, as opulent as it can be, this is still ready-to-wear and had to take into account crisis-stricken retailers and buyers.
While Galliano unleashed his oriental fantasy, Alber Elbaz tried to be as realistic as possible. The models striding down the catwalk at Lanvin wore indeed very sensible dresses, skirt suits, tops and coats. The collection was predominantly black with a touch of red and beige.
Movement was created through superficially effortless draped motifs, folds and knots, while fur stoles, studded motifs and futuristic necklaces added a touch of glamour.
Elbaz should be praised because he has real women with real lives and in real social roles constantly on his mind and always manages to create exceptionally timeless pieces while showing great respect for the female body and form.
Throughout his career Jean Paul Gaultier played a lot with androgyny and his girls dressed like boys striding down the catwalks in bondage trouser suits that echoed the designer’s menswear collection, perfectly fitted in.
Chiffon dresses with prints of dollar bills criss-crossed by fringes and X-shaped organza windows that opened on black dresses or marked the shoes and sandals introduced the “X-rated” theme of the catwalk.
X-motifs then transformed into grids applied to masks, skirts, fur jackets and to Gaultier’s signature trenches. Leather and woollen capes with harness-like straps evoked once again the bondage theme that triumphed with a catfight and a dominatrix saving the day, which made you honestly wish the designer had left behind his S&M references and had safely stuck to his initial androgynous inspirations.
There was a muted exuberance at Christian Lacroix where the designer opted for draped dresses and blouses, cocooning black coats with big buttons, dresses with romantic bows on the shoulders and injected a moderately exuberant use of colours in his prints. Lacroix added a dose of glamour to his otherwise well-balanced chic collection with multiple necklaces and big flower brooches.
At Givenchy Riccardo Tisci got the Schiaparelli bug, mixed it with random inspirations and tried to unnecessarily outdo himself.
So while there were interesting architectural details such as the shoulders on his one-sleeved dresses and tops, the soft leather sleeves used for turtlenecks, coats and jackets paired with beautifully cut trousers, there were also perfectly avoidable feather and goat hair dresses that, while being the ultimate “must“ for gothic flapper girls, had a rather undesirable “cousin Itt” look.
Beige lace dresses with sparkling blue shoulder pads looked rather beautiful like the draped motifs that were also featured in a few outfits, but excessive ostrich feathered boas shadowed the perfectly cut trouser suits they were paired with.
Tisci’s passion for bondage emerged in the blouses decorated with ropes and feathers and in stud covered white dresses. White column dresses and black blouses with ostrich feathers and fan-like fabric motifs closed this collection that, while being a perfect proof of Tisci’s talent for dressing women with different tastes and body shapes, also lacked a much-needed cohesiveness.
At least that was what the long black cape worn with long red gloves or the black cassock-like coat made you inevitably think of.
There were echoes of Yves Saint Laurent’s Russian collection in the ample-sleeved red blouse matched with white trousers. Everything was well-executed but there seemed to be not too much heart in it at least until Valli’s evening gowns with beautiful peacock feather prints or entirely covered in peacock feathers arrived looking so decadently beautiful.
Well done to Stefano Pilati for re-launching at Yves Saint Laurent
black leather, and, moving from the classic biker jacket, he designed coats, skirts, trousers, and even leather overalls and a zipped bodysuit.
Pilati gradually moved on and introduced classic wardrobe staples such as pinstriped suits and high-waisted skirts paired with white blouses with ample puff sleeves and a big bow.
There was a lot of technical precision and great tailoring skills in the collection and a final beautiful homage to Yves Saint Laurent with a timeless tuxedo coat dress.
There was no space for grandeur, but, after all, these are the sort of clothes you could wear from morning till night and still look smart and impeccable in any occasion.
Style icon Beau Brummel, the arbiter elegantiarum who became famous in the 1800s in his native England for launching elaborately knitted cravats was the main inspiration behind Chanel’s "Belle Brummel" collection.
Echoes of Brummel’s passion for frivolous details were clear in the detachable white cuffs, ruffs and frills delineating the necklines that echoed in the pleats and folds the craftsmanship of the white paper cut outs from Chanel’s haute couture Spring/Summer 09 collection.
Yet while the tailored dresses and skirt suits showed precise silhouettes and dandy-like fluffy knits with romantic big bows paired with skinny satin trousers, (questionable) black and white printed bodysuits and dresses with plunging necklines showed an attention towards a younger audience, there was something missing, maybe a sense of lightness and originality that was so evident instead in the S/S 09 haute couture collection.
Two further colours were injected in this predominantly black and white collection, jade green and pink that, while adding a special softness to the collection, didn’t work too well, especially when used for an entire outfit. Jade green rings and necklaces à la Jacob Bengel, iconic hats that called to mind Coco Chanel and shoes with sculpted platforms or with green rings incorporated in the heel completed the collection.
A final mention goes to the Perspex bag that included quilted bag, an iPod, a pair of sunglasses, a bottle of fragrance, a lipstick and a blush, all obviously branded with the house logo. It was a bit like a crossover between a museum piece and a statement capsule you could send out to space to other civilisations to show the earthlings’ favourite capitalistic idols.
After their first haute couture show in January, this proved the second difficult test for Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, the new designers at Valentino.
But they definitely made the “master” partially happy by injecting in the new collection as much of Valentino’s spirit as they could.
A sleeveless sheath dress in Valentino red here, a fox-fur trimmed cape or cuffs there, crystal studded coats, tailored camel skirt suits, cocktail dresses in bright shades and evening gowns in shades of turquoise that were so perfect to be worthy of the haute couture catwalks.
There was a tiny bit of youthfulness, but no beliefs in the Valentino credo were shaken and Chiuri/Piccioli will soon have to choose what to do: keep their job and complete their Valentino cloning process or losing it while attempting to rejuvenate the fashion house.
Talking about finding new and young customers it’s inevitable not to mention Antonio Berardi.
The Italian-British designer has built a steady customer base and won the approval of many young clients thanks to his glamorous yet unkitsch designs. His mini-dresses covered in crystal sequins were sparkingly covetable for example.
Sensible cropped fur jackets were paired with short dresses with flat obis around the waist or delicate side ruffles while jackets and dresses with rounded shoulders were architecturally precise yet not too rigid nor robotic. Crystal yarns allowed Berardi’s design to sparkle and shine, but to do so in an elegant way.
What is left to say about Alexander McQueen, the last designer reviewed in this long round up? During the last few weeks the fashion media mourned the lack of proper shows, and McQueen finally brought back one, though he did so in his typical style.
Some critics complained about the misogynistic look of the models who wore heavy vivid red or dark lipstick that made them look like crossovers between inflatable dolls and well, Leigh Bowery, but McQueen used it with the same irony he injected in his pied de poule printed skirt suits with cinched waists evoking Christian Dior’s New Look or in the Harlequin print blouses with leg of mutton sleeves and goat hair coats à la Schiaparelli.
Fetishism was evoked in the bustiers, in the bondage leather dresses and Medieval chainmail catsuit worn under a long dress with prints of red, black and white banded California Mountain Kingsnakes.
You could easily write an essay on what the models wore as they strode down the catwalk, from their excessively gothic clown black and orangey red striped dresses, to bin bag evening gowns, crow prints, swan and crow feathered dresses, accessorised with lampshade, alloy wheel, umbrella, plastic bag, aluminium can and melting rubbish bin cover headdresses.
Ironic, parodic and extravagant, McQueen seemed to tell us that past, present and future fashion is at its core a pile of rubbish, a Frankenstein monster built from trendy debris and random parts of previous collections by various designers.
So far McQueen was definitely the only designer who managed to bring back an entertainingly shocking show on the catwalk. Yes, it must have been a torture for the models to walk in those constricting clothes and extremely high heeled shoes and, yes, it looked misogynist, yet it was fashionable. After all, if you think about it, there's probably nothing more misogynistic than fashion itself.
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