Paris Fashion Week Fall 2015: Day Two
Vionnet: Deconstructing Classicism
The poetry of flowers dying and dropping to the ground over the audience's heads was the first vision of the show's concept before it even started: "Beauty in decay." Those were the words of Creative Director Goga Ashkenazi, who seemed dedicated to taking the classic house and shaking it until it cracked open. But what was inside, behind the surface of the classically beautiful, blush-pink, silk-satin column that opened the show, followed by a second classic in light blue? The latter was the colour of the ice caps and bubbling lava of the North Pole, where Goga had gone for inspiration.
Cracks in the fashion ice flow began immediately: first another silken dress pulling open at the breasts; then the same material and colours reduced to a frontispiece to trousers. That look became an ongoing theme: a Vionnet drape paired with shiny stretch-leather trousers, or accessorised with a handbag turned into a pull-along trolley. It sounds confusing, and it was. The "destruction" vision has been around for two decades, from John Galliano through to Comme des Garçons. Galliano's face-off between elegance and S&M reappeared at Vionnet as straps across the bust. Or maybe Goga was playing a riff on centurion sandals.
The theme of destruction produced some fine pieces too, such as a cracked pattern that made the surface appear to be heaving with lava and a fur jacket in a jigsaw puzzle of pieces. But the problem in revitalising this house is profound. The original Madame Vionnet created dresses that caught the still centre of a turning world. Goga did the opposite, throwing in all kinds of ideas, mostly concerning transparent materials creating a window on the body.
The chaos theory so rarely works in applied art, especially fashion, where the ultimate test is what a woman looks like walking the runway - or in the real world.
Dries Van Noten: Going to Extremes
Dries Van Noten stood backstage looking at his conglomeration of fabrics – historic brocades facing off a plain raincoat, or a flower-embroidered apron tied at the rear over chinos.
“I went to extremes,” said Dries. “For me it was about translating the passion that women had in the past for fashion, like the historical icons, but now pushing them to our actual times. I wanted to say, okay, if you are passionate about fashion and fabrics, decoration and accessories – then how could you wear it now?”
The designer’s words – plus the all-female soundtrack, including Nancy Sinatra singing “Bang Bang” – further brought out the tension between the baroque grandeur of the Paris city hall, and the sense of freedom in the way the clothes were shown.
But this was not one of those scour-the-attic collections, either piecing together a would-be hippie style or revelling in fashion’s past glory.
Instead the show was about romancing the fabrics, giving them a new life that was as much about the casual way they were worn, as it was about the original embroideries and colourful patterns.
“Exuberant fabrics,” Dries called them, telling me that it was about “rethinking it all”. That included decorative materials, furs fluffy at the shoulders, and flowers in a bunch at the neckline. The result was an unlikely mix that Dries somehow pulled together into real clothes.
Compared to last season’s frolic on a moss-green carpet, this show seemed less carefree and convincing, although it was fun to see haute-couture shapes remade in cotton, such as wearable toile. They formed a literal backdrop to a gilded coat, which morphed into dull quilting; or splashes of gilt on a plain dress.
This game of high-low has never been played quite so elegantly, in that both the fabrics and the way the clothes were cut seemed in deliberate contrast. Occasionally, something with no apparent historical connection would step out – say a striped, fluffy cardigan jacket with just the clutch bag in fancy brocade.
The show was audacious, intriguing and quintessentially Dries. But this collection should have come with a warning: don’t try this magical mix-and-match at home!
Courrèges: Runway Return?
How amazing to imagine that the straight shapes that André Courrèges made back in the Sixties were regarded then as the sartorial equivalent of going to the moon. In fact, the moon landing was the late designer’s inspiration for creating such futuristic clothes.
Slipping discreetly back onto the runway with a mini show, team Courrèges made a good job of blending past and future. The A-line shapes, some now longer than miniskirts, were familiar. But the fabrics were twenty-first century, or at least modernised, as in a thick but light sweater. I liked a cape shape, drawn as if by a set square in a geometry class, but striking, worn with over-the-knee socks and flat shoes.
This surface interest would have been quite a revolution 50 years ago for a designer trained with Balenciaga in haute couture – even if Courrèges did invent the concept of white sneakers as high-fashion footwear.
Standout pieces were the moonwalker silver boots with leather bomber jacket to match; a lagoon-blue edging on a white top with pants; and blood red used in the same spirit.
Half a century on, there was nothing to shock, but streamlining is always in fashion.
Cédric Charlier: The State of Play
I feel for designers today who make wearable clothes with a personal and original twist – while those who were enfants terrible 30 years ago carry on stealing the limelight with artistic daring.
It was once so different: the French ready-to-wear designers in the Seventies faced off the establishment. They were the iconoclasts and providers of fresh clothes to a new generation.
They were joined by international names who produced clothes that shocked – and continue to do so to this day – especially Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, the Antwerp Six, and brave figures like Rick Owens or Vivienne Westwood.
These designers continue to push boundaries, even at the age of 60 or 70. But where does that leave the relatively young designers who need to sell the clothes they show?
Cédric Charlier sent out a perfect collection, for what he is aiming to do: clothes for a modern, youngish woman. The style is very French: tidy pleated skirts, smart jackets and quiet, even school uniform-style colours – oxblood, hedgerow green, navy, sometimes all three in neat graphics. Or perhaps the base colours would be livened by shrimp pink – pretty, but not a trace of sugar.
The concept of geometric design is not new, but Charlier made it work as vertical and horizontal lines, and the occasional graphic clash on a dress.
With models elevated on thick plastic heels, the show was clean and sharp, especially in the way Charlier played with the texture of shiny leather and worked lustrous pleating. Nothing here to frighten the horses or make fashion history. But all credit to the designer for making it real.