Paris Fashion Week Fall 2015: Day Three
Paco Rabanne: Enmeshed In His Mentor
"Stop! No right turn!" These words appeared in 3D digital prints of an urban scenario - and then vanished for the rest of the Paco Rabanne show.
Was this a veiled message from Creative Director Julien Dossena that he's had enough of going through the founder's fashion codes from the 1960s, when metal mesh, inspired by Rabanne's father's butcher's apron, became the brand's claim to fame for half a century? Or was Dossena thinking that it was time to play down futurism, in favour of simple, city-street clothes?
The result of his decision was a collection of good-looking clothes, but no great conviction to the style of 'wacko Paco' as he was once dubbed.
In Dossena's version of the metallic mesh, made of plastic discs, the dresses looked lightweight and dynamic, especially as a top to wear with trousers. The rest of the collection played with proportions of, say, a fitted tunic flaring out from a raised waist. Black, urban, and sporty, it set the tone for a show that was increasingly focused on his previous mentor Nicolas Ghesquière in his Balenciaga era.
It felt like Dossena should take a deep breath, ignore the 'stop' sign - and surge ahead on his personal fashion freeway.
Lanvin: Moroccan Memories
Cheered to the Beaux-Arts' rooftop after his Lanvin show, Creative Director Alber Elbaz explained the secret behind the rich textures, fringed cords, and Berber stripes. He had gone back to the place where he was born. "I've never done Morocco before and since 2014 was the 125 anniversary of Lanvin, I thought I would also celebrate my birthday - but I had to take inspiration from Morocco and not make it look like as if I had," said Elbaz.
He was referring to the Lanvin exhibition, which opens this week in Paris at the Palais Galliera, in which Alber's work of the past 14 years will not appear. All the more reason, then, for the designer to make his homage in a powerful but unexpected way. What Alber and founder Jeanne Lanvin have in common is a respect for women. While his recent collections had seemed effective enough, this one stood out for its visit to a new tribe - without being engulfed by ethnic influences. Or, as Alber put it, "What do I do so that it doesn't look like the desert?"
The answer was to take elements - especially silk cord - and work them into modern city clothes. Alber described his challenge as "to take the kaftan and put it on the body". It became tailoring with a hand-worked edging. The first strikingly North African influence was on a red coat whose lapel and front were treated to a blanket edge of fringe. Some effects were super subtle, such as cords twisted round the waist of a coat; others were more obvious, including a leather harness as worn by desert riders. A top that looked like a peasant blouse could be traced to the Maghreb by way of Yves Saint Laurent (where Alber briefly worked).
I was captivated by the skills the designer showed throughout, introducing triple-line stripes so that they might have been either a riff on formal pin stripes or that Berber blanket effect. In the programme notes that arrived a few hours after the cheers and applause had faded, Elbaz listed his contrary European/North African influences. "Opulent and strict; dry and warm; opaque and transparent; masculine and feminine," the description read. To these he added colours that might have been taken from the Beaux-Arts' tiled floor: pomegranate red, earth brown, burgundy and sun-baked earth.
But mere words are not enough to do justice to this fusion of an artistic mind with the ghost of a memory of his past. It was an unforgettable fashion moment.
Rick Owens: Molten Gold
The nobility of Rick Owens always gets me. However maddening his venue - up and down a scaffolding of steps - however late, or however much the strangled music sets my teeth on edge, one view of fabric wrapped round the body to create soft sculpture and I am smitten.
The autumn/winter 2015 collection was particularly elegant, if that is the correct word for clothes that seemed to be dipped in molten silver, bronze and gold. That metallic coating applied not so much to the cloth - although a black dress had a shining metallic panel at the front - but to the models' heads, which were dipped in gleaming make-up as if they were space-age sculptures.
The fall of fabric was mostly one-sided, as if a sudden wind had swept the material across the bodice. Occasionally there was a diversion, as when the mass of fabric at the front was hung with hairy ginger fringing. The clothes seemed to go back to a primeval past when wrap and drape was the way to dress. Yet the effect was ultra modern - and that is the exceptional skill of Rick Owens.
Balmain: Sparkling Diversity
The colours were popping, the sparkle was twinkling, the music was pounding, and a newly blonde Kim Kardashian was in ecstasy at the Balmain collection.
Designer Olivier Rousteing was more than an orchestrator of this 3D-style glamour, which teamed pants falling liquid in silken pleats, fur in all its puffy lightness, and Lurex stripes tracing the torso.
He has reinvented the once-staid house of Balmain as a glittering prize for audacious (and wealthy) women. But backstage, before the arrival of Kim and Kanye, Rousteing, who was handpicked for Balmain by the late Chairman Alain Hivelin, explained that his feelings ran deep. He said that as the only mixed-race designer among the classic Parisian houses, he tried to establish a diverse look. This season he was inspired by the 1970s to create flared pants that drooled and formed molten puddles across the catwalk, but was also interested in its exoticism and diversity.
The confidence exuding from this show was exceptional and put a fine spirit into clothes that shone as bright as the rippling lamé. From the Seventies came fringes dancing at hips and hem, but from the horizontal pleats to the semi-transparent lace, all was sensual and body conscious.
Does Rousteing go too far with his women, who seemed to me more like the glass-ceiling breakers of the early Eighties than fey hippies? I liked the spirit of pieces that included the designer's bold tailoring, his craftsmanship in slicing patterned jersey and the placing of abstract geometric prints. The clothes are not for everyone. But fashion needs the Balmain brave heart.
Roland Mouret: Keeping It Real
In his programme notes, Roland Mouret wrote something sensible: “I have tried to be true to myself, to make an honest collection with the clothes themselves as text, as narration, as a story of my life and travels. I after all much like the women I dress.”
So clothes for the reality of stepping off to work in a dress with a flaring skirt or a pinafore shape that could be worn over a transparent top at night – always with the zipper down the back as the designer’s signature.
By day, the texture message was complex, with a tapestry effect of geometric patchwork quilting – a hyper-sophisticated interpretation of folklore.
Knitwear even displayed patterns inspired by the individual stitches used by fishermen’s wives to identify their husbands. Without these extra dimensions of artistry, the daywear, with its repetitive short skirts, would have seemed very same-y.
Once again, there was no reference to the ‘Galaxy’ dress that brought Roland to stardom a decade ago next year. I wish that the designer would feel the urge to re-visit his invention and all it stood for: a glorious Silver Screen past; a modern feminist look; and a galaxy of glamour.
As it was, I saw a perfectly OK collection in signature Mouret colours: red, from scarlet to wine; and dark shades with touches of yellow.
Carven: First Stab at a Fresh Identity
The ever-present underlying drama in Paris is how to keep alive the maisons – fashion houses whose glory days are in the past.
We have watched the big groups cream off the best, feed them with money – and hope it will work. But when it is a small business, founded by a woman from another era whose vision was herself… How to go forward?
I remember the first mini-presentation at Carven by its previous Creative Director, Guillaume Henry, and the effect was of high school girls who might have been great-grandchildren of the founder. The clothes were fresh, decent, slightly cooky – and very French. Above all, under that designer there was a sense of innocence.
If the new Creative Director duo of Alexis Martial (formerly with Italian brand Iceberg) and Adrien Caillaudaud had a premise, it was not offered in show notes.
There were celebs in the audience, including Beyoncé’s sister Solange and socialite Olivia Palermo, which produced the usual frenzy among photographers and a shrug from the rest.
Then came the clothes: cute, bright colours, un-memorable, not particularly French – just wearable.
The show started with short skirts and skinny stretch trousers, best with frilly lace blouse or woven knits. It then moved to texture, with satin brocade in a floral pattern. Colours came in pops of blue, red and orange.
And that was about it. If you need a coat for Winter 2015 there were a couple – an apology of outerwear. If you wanted to experiment with a longer hem line, or any daring departure, it was not there.
If this duo want to make an impact on Carven beyond creating OK clothes, they need to have a concept – and above all to indicate their message clearly and concisely.
Manish Arora: Mediaeval Pop
You can just imagine the Hollywood pitch: A prequel to Game of Thrones, focusing on a woman in a psychedelic world of hallucinogenic colours dreaming of men in armour, their bodies decorated with skulls.