Paris Fashion Week: Day Six
Stella McCartney's Confident Femininity
“Coming out of winter into summer is always a re-boot for me. I’m looking at fragility, a summer palette, and to translate that into the idea that a woman can have a quiet confidence,” said Stella McCartney backstage.
The show she sent out – with its culottes, shoulder buckles, and cut-outs peep-showing the body – was not as “quiet” as all that. But it was confident and had a sense of freedom as the models stepped out in sporty clothes or silken dresses rippling in the wind of movement on the runway.
There were even cut-outs on what looked like beige suede – a trend of the moment – but was of course, in tune with Stella’s ethics, a fabric dress.
The designer added colour and pattern – pale Madras checks or watercolour mixes of flowers – that seemed to follow a general theme for the Spring/Summer 2015 season of feminist turned feminine.
Although the McCartney vision may be based on herself, she has come a long way as a designer and the shaping of everything from knits to denim had fashion flare. The cut-outs, opening windows on the body, were particularly subtle. Perhaps only a strong female designer can associate visible flesh with freedom, rather than seduction.
Giambattista Valli: An endorsement from Amal
“This is the thing I am really proud of,” said an uncharacteristically shy Giambattista Valli as he showed us his smartphone and clicked on two images: the first of Amal Alamuddin in a bold, flower-patterned dress stepping out of a Venetian gondola with her husband of one day, George Clooney; the second of Cate Blanchett at the Zurich Film Festival in a white shirt and floral skirt.
Both were from Valli couture.
Giambattista has worked so hard to build a three-tier business. The latest was the youthful “Giamba” line he launched this month in Milan.
The Spring/Summer 2015 ready-to-wear, which the designer called “more conceptual and industrial”, was intriguing because almost every outfit – from a dress with outsize leaf applications to a guipure lace dress – had a three-dimensional effect.
This look even applied to the runway, which had different textures of carpet, some shaven, another fluffy.
Backstage, Valli talked about the concept of “art and craft”, showing a brightly coloured pair of trousers that were woven in macram?.
/>On the runway, a dress might be long and white but the skirt woven to an intricate surface, or have a cascade of cherry blossom on a slithery satin surface.
This almost 3D impression gave the collection not just an extra level of decoration, but also of emotion.
Saint Laurent: Simplistic Genius
I am fascinated by Hedi Slimane’s collections for Saint Laurent, not just for the mesmerising sets – this season a metal structure on which rainbow colours were projected in an eerie glow – nor for the designer’s choice of music, although two hours later I was still singing inside my head, “Un, deux, trois, Oh l? l?!” The electro-pop disco chanteuse Aleide had sung that over and over as the models in their flimsy dresses, too shrunken at the bust not to display a lot of little bosoms, walked the runway perched on gawky platform shoes.
What intrigues me is the idea that these Seventies-inspired clothes look cheap, even tawdry, in their skimpy shapes and gaudy glitter, but are actually perfectly made in fine materials.
This is the inverse of a fashion culture that has existed since fashion merchandising began – or before. Surely mediaeval types and even ancient Romans would try to ape the style of their social superiors? In the 20th century, the invention of nylon allowed the poor to look like they were wearing silk, and rhinestones have long mimicked diamonds.
But here is Hedi Slimane doing exactly the opposite. The “cheap” little dresses with scooped “U”-line bodices – a trend guaranteed to hit the high street stores in a heart beat – are classy pieces embellished with skill.
The boxy fur jackets that Hedi admitted backstage were inspired directly from Yves Saint Laurent’s “chubbies” were shocking in the Seventies because they were a reminder of the war years. On the runway here, as downy white feathers, they were adorable.
With taut suede and leather jackets, sleek pin-striped tailoring, Lurex sweaters and fireworks of embroidery on a velvet cape, Slimane went back to the YSL glory days – portrayed so graphically in the recent film, Saint Laurent, which revealed the designer’s wild years in the Sixties and Seventies.
Slimane, who currently has an exhibition of his photography at the Pierre Berg?-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation in Paris, took a particular vision of that period: the photographic manipulations of Los Angeles artist Robert Heinecken from 1963-74.
A slim book presented to the audience featured the artist’s re-appropriated “para-photography”: surreal juxtapositions and overlays of sexual imagery with magazine and newspaper pages. A MoMA exhibition of Heinecken’s work went on display this year at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, where Slimane lives, and must surely be seen as a major inspiration to the designer.
The concept of art feeding fashion has been going on for a generation. So what does this have to do with Saint Laurent and its brand image for Spring/Summer 2015?
Hedi Slimane captured on the runway the spirit of the Seventies that belonged, in fashion terms, to Yves Saint Laurent. Hedi interpreted that in a cherry patterned dress sloping off one shoulder, a pinstriped men’s jacket (but worn with leather shorts), little black dresses scooped to the rib cage, and a gold-buttoned navy blazer. There was even a Forties-style turban from a YSL collection that was considered a distasteful reminder of the war years in its time.
The designer re-envisioned this look as worn by young women just over the sexual threshold. And his audience, which included music legend Lenny Kravitz, Pete Doherty, and members of Daft Punk, cheered Hedi on.
The clothes are simplistic for those who prefer complex fashion. But they look accessible, which was Yves Saint Laurent’s intention in his youth before the brand became a bourgeois paradise.
I am prepared to bet a rhinestone cowboy belt that these modern designs will fly out of the stores. And I declare Hedi Slimane a genius of re-invention at Saint Laurent.
Ungaro: Put your money on a shirt
I am so often asked by friends and family, as the shows end, "What are we going to be wearing?"
For once, I have a ready answer to that pesky question: "Put your money on a shirt!"
It has been a great season for tailored shirts, which are the single item that, for day or evening, can transform your wardrobe – and your attitude.
I was thinking about the Ungaro collection from the Italian, Versace-esque designer Fausto Puglisi. I thought his Forties glamour-puss dresses, in colours including yellow, scarlet and turquoise, looked like the designer was dreaming of Hollywood. (Especially with Perspex hats conjured by milliner Stephen Jones.)
But when Fausto played with the summer blouse he really got things right. They came in blue cowboy check, sunny yellow patterns, worn plain with a tight-waisted full skirt, baggy with a pair of trousers – or even elongated into dresses. My favourite piece in the collection was a shirt in crisp white lace.
The most chic look was the "onesie", fitting the body perfectly from its clerical collar to its form-hugging trousers.
Emanuel Ungaro made hot, sexy clothes moulded to the body. Puglisi is much freer. And that shirt look seemed more modern than the slithering, only-on-the-red-carpet gowns.