Paris Fashion Week: Day Five
The girl with the face of an avatar had two braids and preternaturally white teeth, and spoke in a variety of languages about Kenzo from LED screens installed in a Paris skatepark.
“She’s the evolution of humanity,” announced the label’s co-designer Humberto Leon backstage as he talked about this invention, a computer-generated humanoid figure. He and his design partner Carol Lim wanted to express the optimism they feel working in Paris, and what they imagine for fashion in the immediate future.
So what can we expect? Nothing too scary. The show opened with an ankle-skirting white dress in broderie anglaise, translucent below the knees and with silver zippers as tramlines on the bodice.
The programme notes talked moods and fabrics, citing “future”, “reflection”, “graphics” and “purity”. This all added up to a square-cut shirt and denim skirt or jacket. The designs were fresh, sporty and stood a little away from the body – which was cute for overalls with flesh seen from the sides.
The airy materials, sky-blue stripes to contrast with white, and the introduction of shiny or illuminated surfaces were light and modern. Pink patterns added a more girly sensibility and might have been to the “kawaii” taste of Knola, the name the duo has given their fashion avatar.
Knola seemed feisty and on message for Kenzo when she announced with a blink of her eyes from the multiple, colourful screens: “There is no Planet B.”
C?line: The Beauty of Indecisiveness
Shall I wear my trim, slim coat, belted in leather with a hard, gold pendant? Or maybe the smart tunic top and trousers – but with my ankles all fluffy with fringing? Flats or heels?
Perhaps ballerina slippers mounted on block heels? Do I feel like flowers? Which flowers? I like both the bright red and the faded ones. So what about the two of them together?
The powerful C?line show was an ode to indecisiveness. It was not a witty take on women’s supposed inability to make a decision. It was about rejoicing in those changes of mind and embracing fashion’s diversity – in style, fabric, decoration and embellishment.
Or as designer Phoebe Philo herself put it, meeting and greeting backstage while holding her daughter’s hand:
“I had a sense of a whole process of not editing and not needing certainty,” she said, explaining that the florals, when bright patterns took over dresses or two different pallid shades were mixed, were because “there is something warm about flowers”.
I am usually too frantic to pour over the sets at shows for long, but I did notice the different materials: hard, shiny, lacquered plastic as opposed to abstract shapes in plywood.
The collection seemed like that choice of offerings. It was not about a female designer thinking out a useful wardrobe for a working woman – although there were fine spring coats, their lapels outlined with stitching, and on a thin belt a rounded gold jewel, looking like a cross between a cowbell, a locket and a fertility symbol.
There was much of the designer’s streamlined modern wardrobe, but often with a quirky touch. Philo might scoop out fabric to create windows on the body, perhaps at the elbow joints, or slice a space around the breastbone, or display flesh at the midriff through cut-outs at the sides of the torso.
I like the idea that women can have it all – at least in their closets. This collection seemed very different from Phoebe’s bold African inspirations of a year ago. The prints for Summer 2015 might be red florals, but they were as likely to be a mix of faded flowers like ancient, much-washed aprons.
There is poetry in randomness – especially for crazy-busy women whose lives go through a daily grind. I would be unlikely to fish a pair of sloppy canary-yellow pants out of the cupboard and match it with a tailored jacket. But I enjoy the concept of a modern woman no longer feeling constrained by what she wears.
Anyone not convinced by this new fashion world of personal choice could always go for the C?line bags: oval, and in soft, gleaming leather in rich colours. I did not notice many other choices, apart from an orange croc. But that was significant too. The focus of this once-minimal designer had tilted away from bags towards characterful, elegant clothes.
Chlo?’s Free Spirit Lives On
How poignant that the Chlo? collection sent out on Sunday captured so well the sweet, free spirit of the brand.
For no one could have predicted the sentiment of a show that would take place one day after the death, at age 93, of Gaby Aghion, who founded Chlo? over 60 years ago. Her period with Karl Lagerfeld at the helm, when he invented “le flou” – a new kind of fluidity – changed the face of fashion.
By happenstance, the designer Clare Waight Keller sent out a collection that is the closest she has come yet to capturing Chlo?’s free spirit. It may now be a label for international – rather than specifically French – young women, but the British-born designer has reached a point where everything is working well.
As the show opened, the new feeling was evident: no hard, pulsating music with the models throwing themselves at breakneck speed down the runway.
Instead it was a gentle outing for lacy, racy little dresses. Although I must admit, it was not until I was backstage after the show that I realised the amount of work that had gone into fabricating the peacocks that spread their wings across the lace.
The clothes had loosened up. A lot of the inspiration seemed like hippie-de-luxe from the Seventies – a trend for Summer 2015. But the high quality of a fresh, full-sleeved white shirt worn with tailored shorts, or a shorts outfit in saffron and rust suede, put Chlo? in a class all its own.
The denim here looked designer-worthy – especially a skirt with the denim-blue dyed into a sweater. And what the designer called her minimum and maximum looks – billowing long dresses and short ones – created a nice balance.
In the end, it was the handwork that made Chlo?’s fresh, young clothes look classy, rather than just cute. Clare called it “modern folklore”, and a long dress with woven flowers had a fairy-tale quality.
Gaby Aghion would surely have been proud to see the Chlo? name that she planted all those years ago is an evergreen, and eternally young.
Givenchy: Tyrol Modern
Who are fashion collections for? The audience at Givenchy was worked into an intricate pinball pattern with chairs winding past high, draped stage-set curtains.
Perhaps the catwalk is now designed mainly for celebrities, their partners, their people and their kids – since Kim Kardashian and baby North, both in sheer black chiffon, seemed to be strategically positioned at the Givenchy show.
Or maybe the designer Riccardo Tisci was thinking about online, all those myriad viewers for the latest Givenchy collection who can watch and re-live the low-bosomed bodices, leaving ample space for a religious cross and the view from behind – gladiator skirts way up there and boots that left toes and the high thigh dangerously exposed.
That is what I glimpsed from my vantage point on a raking curve: about 2.1 seconds as the models raced to my left from one turn to another; less than a second as they came back round the corner. My subsequent smartphone images were a total blur and my notebook half a page of scribbles.
This was, in any sense of the phrase, a “peep show”. I glimpsed a laced-up chest that looked like Heidi had come down from the Tyrolean mountains to a sex club. There were lines of metallic rivets and centurion skirts, which recalled the gladiators and graphic black and white patterns last seen at Fausto Puglisi’s show in Milan.
The thing I grasped from the clothes was that they were hot – as in sexy – and intricately made with intense workmanship, beautifully executed.
It did not seem enough for the hour-long wait or to be able to make a judgement on such a fine designer.
Galliano Grows Green
There was a leafy, green story line for the John Galliano show, from the stylised jungle leaves on the invitation, to greenery prints on long dresses and short jackets.
With wicker gardening hats topping the fine tailoring of designer Bill Gaytten, it seemed as though there might be a green – as in ecological – message. The words "organic" and "crafted" appeared in the show notes.
But after the last olive and grass-green shaggy rug jackets or skirts and iridescent vinyl leaf decorations had left the runway, the designer came up with a single word: “jacquard”.
Since Gaytten had always played the down-to-earth structural master to Galliano’s fantastic imagination, perhaps a focus on fabric was not surprising. And it made a practical and pleasing summer wardrobe, using digital prints and modern materials so that no fashion leaf was left unturned.