We predicted this season would be one for Dries Van Noten‘s lyrical aesthetic to shine, but had no idea just how brightly, until his 50th presentation anniversary in La Courneuve, on the outskirts of Paris. As if the invitation to dine at a 500-person table covered with a 450 meter seamless table cloth and 150 chandeliers wasn’t wowing enough, Van Noten then turned the dining table into a runway, stunning guests with sublime looks in one of his best collections. This season, his signature skirts came intricately embroidered, voluminous, bustled and below the knee. Peasant tops and ’50s-feel structured jackets skimmed the body, and were all shown with a ’40s-style shoe (both flat and heeled). It was a showing where, when you see trends (the decorative skirt, the put together elegance), it only means the designer’s sensibility came full circle.
After viewing Alber Elbaz‘s Lanvin pre-collection back in August, we knew the label had vigor set to play out in the full-blown spring presentation. It did. Skirts were a big story here, too. Elbaz worked them in subtly with varied volumes; some slightly broken down, most sublimely beautiful. His raw-edge touch turned up in wide-lapel jackets and belted coats, and in to-die-for trenches with more than the usual volume below the waist. There were tunic dresses trimmed in gold and draped Grecian type dresses cinched at the waist with wide belts. We expected vigor, but nothing could have prepared us for these colors, which ranged from sober grays and milky creams to magical burst of purples, greens, and yellows.
Not so very long ago, it seemed that nearly every designer working under the oppressive umbrella label was struggling to break free. And yet this season, apart from being one of the greatest Parisian tours de force in years, was marked by a mood of harmony. Finally, it seems some designers have found a happy niche where they, their bosses, and those all-important shareholders can be content. McQueen, in one of his strongest collections, was the surprise winner, despite the turmoil at PPR after the departure of Tom Ford from the Gucci Group. Playing to his strengths of cut and construction in a well-judged, and spectacularly well-received, collection which shone in its chess-set staging — a subtle reference to pawns and gaining control, anyone? McQueen appears to have stopped fighting against the corporate power and instead gave the best of himself in a highly shop floor-friendly manner.
Elsewhere in the PPR empire, Stefano Pilati‘s debut at Yves Saint Laurent, despite widespread criticism, set in motion a return to the essence of an iconic brand. It may not have the raw sex of Tom Ford or the throwaway ease of YSL himself at his best, but Pilati seemed to have done something right in the
patriotic eyes of his French parent company. Whether those eyes are still smiling once the sales figures
start to roll is another story. Stay tuned!
But as a little person it is possible to survive the legacy of a big name when you take over the reins
of a design house. Phoebe Philo emerged from the Brit chick shadow of Stella McCartney and the longer shadow of Lagerfeld to turn Chloé, in a few short seasons, into a house with more muscle and voice than a booming Beatles bass line. Another huge hit this season, ranking up there with Lanvin, Dries Van Noten, Chanel and McQueen, Philo’s contract with Richemont, Chloé’s expansion-hungry owner, is proving most fruitful as she brings a personal vision of modern womanhood to the house while successfully managing to avoid becoming tired media fodder.
-Jason Campbell and Karl Treacy
Photos: Dries Van Noten spring 2005
Lanvin spring 2005
Alexander McQueen 2005
Chloe spring 2005