Paris Fashion Week: Day One
Gareth Pugh comes down to earth
Stonehenge, that mysterious Druid construction in South West England, and the Wicker Man, a pagan figure from the same era, were inspirations for Gareth Pugh.
For his visual presentation in New York, by way of three separate films, and the collection he is now showing in Paris, the British designer delved deep into history yet made intelligible clothes.
Pugh is a profound thinker and his clothes are unique, even if they expressed similar ideas to those of other forward-looking designers: the importance of cut that relates to the body with as few seams as possible; and the use of tactile materials.
Those effects came together in two dresses: one in raw hessian with the texture of a sack, the other in fringed chiffon. They represented the ancient British tradition of corn dollies and the May Queen, and both were folded without seams, square to the body. The second of the two a modern woman could wear anywhere.
It was good to see a re-run of the movies, because there Pugh could present the clothes via dance, his original calling, and with ritualistic accessories like face-covering witchy hats. But as a designer he has matured, producing pieces as relatively simple as a black dress with an attached cloak-shaped coat, both decorated with pearl buttons, in yet another cultural nod – this time to British “Pearly Queens”.
“It’s about linking to long-forgotten superstitions that have a lot to do with creativity,” said Pugh, referring to ancient agriculture, harvest time, the goddess of the sea and “the idea of death and renewal”.
Since Pugh’s father is in the police force, the reference to the policeman hero of the 1973 movie, The Wicker Man, had a personal significance to the designer.
Also in the frame of this spring/summer 2015 collection were Pugh’s more familiar dresses in graphic black-and-white diamond patterns, so complicated in construction, but so streamlined on the body.
Since Pugh has been gradually making his clothes more accessible, this fine collection could not be described as a re-birth. But the clothes – like a chiffon top decorated with pearl buttons or the hessian weave – seemed down to earth, in both senses of the phrase. And the designer confirmed that trend.
“I wanted it to be more about the earth than something that landed from a space ship,” Pugh said.
Dries Van Noten's Green Dream
Midsummer Night's Dream," said Dries Van Noten backstage, wiping a tear as the audience cheered an exceptional show.
As if! Did he imagine that we had not instantly understood this ode to nature - a miraculously updated Arts and Crafts movement from the end of the 19th-century - translated as modern, sporty clothes?
Just the sight of the furry grass and foliage carpet on the runway had suggested a green dream, even before the first birds started tweeting and then chirruping to the music, or after the models had stretched out on this fairy green floor until their outfits created a floral bed.
It was one of those poetic moments in the spring/summer 2015 shows that will be etched in fashion memory and be part of the Van Noten oeuvre.
Maybe it was the overwhelming successful exhibition mingling artists with fashion that
Dries curated at the Mus?e des Arts D?coratifs, extended to 2nd November, that encouraged him to turn back to nature. Yet at the same time he made these new designs dense with artistry.
The general effect was of decorative clothes, but in easy shapes, the surfaces as rich and three dimensional as trees in a forest - not to mention that mossy carpet woven by Buenos Aires-based artist Alexandra Kehayoglou.
Texture or other surface interest was primordial to the show. There were colourful silken stripes on a swingy coat or a furry sweater. Sleeveless coats, the effect as mossy and rugged as on the catwalk, were worn nonchalantly with narrow trousers, while chiffon only rarely floated on a long romantic dress. More typical were breast bands warped round a top or over bare skin, leaving glimpses of flesh.
Shorts and the ever-present trousers, as well as those wedge sandals and nature jewellery, garnered a freshness that prevented the textiles looking like William Morris weaves.
Dries was really romancing nature: the colours, hot with pink as if in a flower bed; a pattern pallid, as if faded by the sun; or a skirt created in tufts of purple like a psychedelic bush.
If any of the effects were done digitally, it did not look that way: more as if an apple-print fabric had been found in a rummage in an attic, along with russet embroidery. It was as though they were planted together and grew into a coat.
Words cannot describe dense detail worn so lightly, nor how the designer put together this 21st-century version of Arts and Crafts.
Dries Van Noten is famously proud of his Belgian garden. But this was more than a flower-strewn version of nature's beauty. It was a tour de force of design and imagination - and love.
Rochas: Lightening up
For his second outing at Rochas, designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua has lightened up – and then some! His outfits were, in this order, veiled, sheer and totally transparent, with those putting less flesh on show and leaving more of the bust and body to the imagination looking the most appealing.
All this sounds rather better in the designer’s own explanation of his theme: “between virginal shyness and blooming sensuality”. It translated as chaste, almost nun-like little collars leading downwards to visible breasts.
After a rather heavy, couture approach last season, the airy lightness was welcome and Dell’Acqua would surely say that a weightless organza belted coat could be worn with a slip underneath in the real world, to cover exposure. Other openings on flesh were beautifully done, as with a round, lace cut-out at the hem of an over-the-knee skirt.
Another idea to draw attention downwards was the footwear: socks and ankle-strap shoes fluttering with metallic green feathers.
The story for Rochas was written in the bold “R” symbol – a rather un-cool flirtation with a logo – and in the fine workmanship, as when little flowers would bud from neck to calf on a simple dress. There were other stories: black, more tailored pieces and a brief glow of gold.
The show had some sense of refreshing Rochas, without finding it a new position in a crowded Paris calendar.
Balenciaga: A sporty dynamism from Wang
Baby North West was silent backstage at the Balenciaga show, but her parents Kim and Kanye each had something to say to designer Alexander Wang.
“I loved the floor,” they said, almost in unison, referring to mirrored tiles making a pathway across a raised glass catwalk, where dry ice out billowed light clouds.
Fortunately, this exceptional set did not completely outshine the show. Although Wang’s use of mesh was repetitive, his premise – to dynamise the Balenciaga image via sport – was in concert with his previous collections and personal vision. And the net effects lightened up the concept of decoration.
“Opulence and embellishment – but I wanted to find my way of showing it,” said Wang, who took his usual run around the square stage.
I would defy anyone who claimed to see exactly what was going on in this high-octane, fast-paced show. But here’s the gist: a sport shirt and skirt woven in mesh, the top covered with a transparent glaze; a slim stretch dress, with ruching shaping the bodice into an “X” at the neck; a semi-transparent top with high-waist shorts; and various tailored pieces, such as jackets and coats, worn over dresses with filmy textures.
It added up to a youthful dynamism, with the strong sports element softened by pastel colours including lilac, pale blue and pinky beige.
It is to Wang’s credit that he has the vision and energy to keep Balenciaga running at high speed. But what exactly is the goal?
There are products for people to buy, including striking mirrored eyeglasses. The clothes are modern and streamlined, and if the prices are anywhere near affordable, they should sell well.
But the kernel of Balenciaga, what it stands for, is not Crist?bal Balenciaga, with his heritage of nobility. It is Alexander Wang himself. The clothes are an upscale version of his personal creative image. And seen in that light, it was a good, strong show.
Vionnet: Dancing to a Grecian Tune
Vionnet had a vision, a theme and sensitive presentation – and it took the brand a step forward in flat Grecian sandals.
The idea of showing pale Grecian-style dresses, wide cummerbunds at the waist, and having a shadow of the runway figure dance, stretch and walk differently that the real-life thing – by some digital wizardry – was smart, subtle and modern.
The story was, as ever – considering the history of Madeleine Vionnet – fine fabric draped across the body, perhaps in two different tones such as white and beige, black and white or with a dash of Grecian blue.
But there were many other elements added from Goga Ashkenazi and her design team, who all took a bow. There were brief dresses, shorts, narrow pants and short, pleated toga skirts.
And then, amongst all this grace, like the snaking belt that infiltrated a waistline, came the dreaded word: sex. Visible bras, cut-outs between the legs revealing stocking suspenders, and harnesses across the chest.
The elegant, balletic look of the collection just didn't need this sexing up.