The themes for the coming year’s fashions have never been clearer – but there are always designers who swim against the current. Susie Lau has the latest from Paris Fashion Week.
Do you think designers are in cahoots with each other? Is there a secret round table where everybody concurs about a theme for the upcoming season? You might think so after the shows that went down on the weekend in Paris, with strong trends emerging such as underwear as outerwear and dressing for the prairie. Yes while there have been common themes, designers have tackled them in very different ways. That means that a trend doesn’t necessarily feel repetitive. Instead ideas have been elaborated and recontextualised by some of the most pre-eminent designers working today.
It began in New York when Riccardo Tisci sent out an army of slip dresses at Givenchy. In Paris, the layers continue to be shed to reveal yet more variations on lingerie. At Dior, inside a lush rolling hill, adorned with over 300,000 delphiniums, Raf Simons dissected Victorian undergarments, stripping back his silhouette to a state of purity. The effect of seeing these sheer layers of bias-cut dresses over neat white bib tops and shorts repeated to the sound of New Order’s Elegia was hypnotic – seductive even. It made for one of Simons’ most restrained and focused collection for the house yet.
At Céline, Phoebe Philo had a wardrobe solution for every kind of woman. That’s been her calling at the house – to address the sartorial realities of a woman (of the very chic and rich sort of course). The nipped-in waists, corset trompe l’oeil stitching and lace-edged slip dresses of Philo’s collection will slot into women’s lives as essential pieces. For Alexander Wang’s final collection for Balenciaga, his Notorious BIG soundtrack said he was “going to back Cali” but his ruffled and frilled satin slip dresses in a uniform shade of cream felt natural at a house that has always explored volume. The rumours have been swirling about who will replace Wang but at the very least, we’ll remember him for this nymph-like collection.
Texture of life
As a fashion journalist, it’s hard not to over-analyse surfaces. Designers like to spin this yarn too – and some of them even ensure that there is something to read into, below the surface. Take Jonathan Anderson at Loewe for instance, whose collection for the Spanish leather brand featured subversive use of plastic, shattered mirrored decoration and light reflecting textures. Sure, those are also pretty surfaces, but it felt like Anderson was shining and reflecting a light on Loewe’s identity. He said he wanted to sharpen the image up and make things more clear, which is exactly what this luminous collection did.
But the master of imbuing fabric with meaning is Hussein Chalayan, who made a return to theatrics in Paris. The centrepiece of his show was two models in white paper shirt dresses which dissolved when the showerheads above them were turned on, to reveal crystal-embellished, ornate jacquard eveningwear. Chalayan was apparently thinking about Cuba’s transformation from a dictatorship into a more open country with reformed trade links. In any case, the dresses left you in awe.
I always go to the likes of Undercover, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo excited because I know there will be something strange and new. They clearly don’t sit at that designer’s round table that decides the season’s themes. In fact at Undercover, Jun Takahashi wanted to join the circus. His utility wear featured elements of clown costumes, and the Rolling Stones’ faces stared out from one pierrot-esque ensemble. These weren’t clown antics though – Takahashi’s clothes were actually a very successful mish-mash.
Yohji Yamamoto’s knotted, changeable and malleable dresses in black, topped off with crini-skirts were as poetic as you’d expect, especially as they swept the grand hall of the Hôtel de Ville. You might be able to wear them in multiple ways but they don’t bend to the trends at large. The mistress of Japanese eclecticism though is Rei Kawakubo. She enchanted us with a collection themed around witches – in lashings of blue velvet to be specific, inspired in part by David Lynch’s film of the same name. Lynch and Kawakubo have much in common in their surreal output. Enlarged fabric sculptures that engulf the body might not be ideal daywear but with just fifteen looks, they communicate plenty about Kawakubo’s ability to influence. It’s a sort of fashion magic that puts you under its spell without you even knowing it.