Paris Fashion Week: Day Four
Haider Ackermann: Crushed Flowers
“I am in a more tender place in my private life, that’s why it is all so soft, so pink and grey. And why I was thinking flowers – Les Fleurs du Mal,” said Haider Ackermann, referring to Baudelaire’s erotic poetry.
This was after a whisper-quiet show of clothes blending with flesh.
Instead of music starting soft and rising to a crescendo, the sound never grew much above a low hum. And in phase with that, the clothes were soft, gentle, never tortured into shape – even when short skirts morphed into shorts as the fabric wrapped one thigh.
The flowers were like blooms clutched and crushed to the chest, in whorls on a blush-pink silk jacket. That decorative effect, seen on models with identical cropped wigs, was at the heart of this show that included soft pantsuits and dresses.
Paradoxically, because the clothes were more ‘finished’ and put together than in previous seasons, there was less emotion. Haider has often said that he is always looking from afar at women against a horizon. But in this show his woman might step purposefully forward in a tailored pantsuit, the colour burgundy slithering across her body.
For buyers, these clothes – elegantly cut and gracefully stitched – will be a boon after previous shows of vague shapes and floating fabrics.
I liked it a lot, but to me the depth of Haider’s work has always been that something unknown, and left undone.
Junya Watanabe: A Journey into Space
If Andr? Courr?ges had married Polly Maggoo, from the 1966 film’s title, what would their progeny look like now – in the 21st century?
Junya Watanabe had the answer with his shiny geometric plates and 3D patent and PVC fabrics. The transparent helmets alone turned his models, with just one eye colourfully made up, into space-age astronauts.
“Graphic march,” said Junya backstage, after the show had closed with a skirt and top in vivid colours that looked almost like tracery of dress-pattern pieces.
The clothes were hard and vaguely futuristic, as the models stomped out on patent platform brogues. But they were not exactly unwearable. More… challenging. Remove the helmet and a yellow dress waffled like an egg box, or a round-shouldered, shiny red patent coat could be teamed with black cigarette pants. That would look modern, and not too other-worldly.
And there were simple things like a T-shirt with a jeans print or another in navy stripes – give or take its Minnie Mouse patent-leather ears at the shoulder.
Junya swings between sporty clothes and experimental collections. This was a big step forward into space. Or maybe that should be cyberspace.
Viktor & Rolf: Romantic Sport
The dense tapestries, geese and duck paintings by Dutch Masters, the gilded mirrors and green garden – Viktor & Rolf‘s show at the Paris residence of the ambassador from their native Holland was a big step in a new direction for the designers.
From a vast tent in the Tuileries Garden for F/W 2014 to this embassy was a change of place, as well as pace.
The duo responded with simple, sporty and pretty clothes, casting aside the witty themes that have filled the last decade of their fashion lives.
“Romantic sports,” said Rolf Snoeren to sum up the collection, for which he and Viktor Horsting ruffled a top with blown-up prints of yellow and coral flowers on a pale blue background, and teamed with black bicycle shorts with a stripe down the side.
Good stuff. But not when you keep seeing the same idea over and over. The print kept coming out on a one-shouldered short dress, a gathered-neck top, a strapless dress … And so on.
A couple of full tutu skirts – this season’s ever-present ballerina inspiration – changed the silhouette. But not that much. Ditto for the burnt-out stretch chiffon in the shorts shape, and some pleasing white dresses, with askew rushing, that dominated the show.
It was all quite charming. And the sun was shining. But this is super competitive Paris read-to-wear and Viktor & Rolf barely seemed to be in the race.
Comme des Gar?ons: Roses and Blood
The clothes were as bright red as fresh blood flowing, as red as roses plucked from the earth and as profound as fashion can be.
“Roses and blood,” said Rei Kawakubo after a Comme des Gar?ons show with an apparently unstoppable flow of scarlet women, hair in grey curls like eighteenth- century courtiers, and feet in red boots.
Every blown-up, twisted and cut-out piece of fabric making up each outfit was stained the same shade.
Yet the show, in its strangely noble way, was not gruesome.
The red tape strangling the body actually let light in to shine on the skin. And the red lips of a model were smiling inside a transparent hood. The lapels of a coat could be seen clearly above the rest of the outfit, made up entirely from belts with buckles hanging.
As the first figure, with white wings of a wig, walked through the abandoned industrial space in a coat rich in roses, a voice on the soundtrack said, “Keep moving on,” in English and Latin. The music was Scott Walker mixed with Sunn O))), arranged by sound designer Fr?d?ric Sanchez.
But there the flowers ended, to be replaced by leather pieces – by stuffed sausages of fabric curling across the breast or even long, curving cut-outs that were artistic, not bizarre.
In this highly wrought drama there was seduction: a dress that turned to reveal a bare back, and frou frou ruffles on underpants.
As is so often the case with Rei Kawakubo, there was beauty in the mayhem. Even puffy duvet coats, splattered with red as if after a violent fight, were appealing.
A Comme des Gar?ons show cannot be viewed as a summer wardrobe or as products for buyers. It is about a visceral, emotional reaction. And that was felt as the designer stood, a small figure in black, repeating over and over the same words: “roses and blood.”
Mugler: An Icy Scent
Mugler is one of those brands – and between Jean Paul? Gaultier, Paco Rabanne and Victor & Rolf there are a few of them – whose business success is intrinsically linked to fragrance sales.?
Since the original Thierry Mugler left the stage, there have been various designers, all trying to reincarnate that icy, angular world that reached its apex in the 1980s.?
David Koma, the latest Mugler designer, did a reasonable job of carrying the flame – literally in the case of two slimline dresses with a fiery pattern.
The collection was played out mostly in black and white, with a geometric cut that did a compass swirl to set the bodice askew. Add silver decoration or a shiny silvered skirt and there was that hard, metallic feel.?
If this had been a pre-collection, I would have been impressed. There was plenty to buy between the skewered cuts, scooped-out backs and subtle shades of glacier blue. The long black dresses with split sides and silver trimming could have been from anyone, but were well executed.?
Having had the good fortune to see Thierry Mugler’s groundbreaking moments, it was hard not to reminisce.
I reached for the programme notes. The bag also offered up a much welcome bottle of cold Mugler water and a pile of miniature fragrance samples from Clarins, the owner of the Mugler brand.
Jean Paul Gaultier: A Fun, Freaky, Full-On Finale
Boy George, with his sweet smile, doffed his hat, while Catherine Deneuve wiped a tear from her eye as Jean Paul Gaultier, his face covered in lipstick kisses, ended his ready-to-wear career.
The crowd in Le Grand Rex roared with delight, cheering on Spanish actress Rossy de Palma – a long-time Gaultier muse – who, stuffed into one of the designer’s infamous Madonna-style corsets, staged a faux beauty contest.
It was ‘won’ by model-actress Coco Rocha, in another nude coloured corset. But that was not until a freaky parade of ‘mature’ models had been led onto the stage by hunky young guys, and after a line-up of “femmes de footballeurs” – footballers wives – had shown JPG clothes at their most deliberately vulgar and risqu?.
Ah, the clothes! The nonchalance with which Jean Paul concluded his own ready-to-wear career made it seem so simple: all those severely tailored tuxedos, sliced away at one side as one of the JPG symbols of sexual freedom, and of women taking control of their own bodies.
Gaultier divided his collection into that perfect tailoring, which is the cornerstone of the haute couture that he will continue to show, and sportswear. The latter was a tumble of silk and stretch, decorated with a “Loco Logo”.
Another band of figures were on the stage before the show ended in a blaze of golden confetti and Jean Paul took a wild run towards the audience.
I and my fashion editor colleagues were all lampooned/honoured on the runway: Grace Coddington with her ginger locks, Carine Roitfeld with her sculpted cheekbones, the rock-chic of French Vogueeditor Emmanuelle Alt, and Franca Sozzani, editor of Vogue Italia, with her mass of Botticellian blond curls. I considered it a mighty compliment from a great designer that my quiff hairstyle made it to the stage.
It is too soon to talk of Gaultier’s legacy, because he will already be showing couture next January. But he must be applauded for bringing to the stage the issues of ethnicity (he was the first designer to mix races on the catwalk), and of sexuality, with that conical bra that brought underwear to the street. There was also his invention on the catwalk of what later developed into Gay Pride, and his deep knowledge and understanding of the essence of fine tailoring and Parisian chic.
The Paris ready-to-wear shows will be paler, duller and so much less fun without him.
Olympia Le-Tan: Schoolgirl Antics
“We don’t need no education,” the famous Pink Floyd lyric, was written in chalk on the blackboard at the back of the stage, as Olympia LeTan‘s naughty schoolgirls walked the runway. The designer, who started her career with witty handbags mimicking books, has brought her irony to clothes. And Olympia was quick to prove her skills with a reinvention of the pencil skirt. The slender style was printed with – pencils.
“My school had no uniforms, so my main inspiration was St Trinian’s,” said the designer, referring to the fictional girls boarding school that is a world away from Harry Potter.
Olympia used collegiate stripes, humorous prints, buttons and truncated neckties to give a faux innocence to girly clothes. The well-cut dresses and oversized blazers proved how chic French girls would look if their schools demanded uniforms.
Bags were, of course, witty, from pencil cases to books and globes – which may have been from a geography lesson or a signal that the Le-Tan brand is going global.