Fall’s unanimous return to black was forceful and deliberate, with several important collections making their show-opening mark with the color: Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Sonia Rykiel, Yohji Yamamoto, Celine and Y3 among them. Veronique Branquinho and Jean Paul Knott turned out their entire collections in the color and it dominated the palette at Paco Rabanne and Rochas. Black was shown mixed with white (Chanel, Issey Miyake, Viktor and Rolf, Christian Dior, Chloe, Comme des Garcons, Yohji, Lagerfeld Gallery, Lanvin and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche) or softened with strokes of reds and camels at Giambattista Valli, Valentino, and Lanvin.
It wasn’t about rendering black in matte jersey; designers sought out the color (and other dark complementing hues: browns, deep reds, and navy) in textured fabrics (lace, velvets) and sumptuous embellishments (furs) to convey their version of a new moody femininity. It was all there at Louis Vuitton. After the sober opening looks of a Shetland pencil-skirted suit, peacoat and shift dress (all in black), Marc Jacobs turned up the volume on his chic modernity with an eye to mid-century proportions a la Norrell, Mainbocher and Balenciaga. Silhouettes in the form of above-the-knee alpaca coats, velour skirts and pants, and cinched-waist organza veiled tweed jackets skimmed the body but looked thoroughly put-together, and accessorized with suede gloves, ostrich belts, and teetering python pumps. At Rochas, Olivier Theyskens has been working in an oeuvre of structure and restraint inspired by mid-century couture. While New York designers have just begun to take that path, this season Theyskens moved to a light Edwardian reference that focuses on a high neckline and a giantess silhouette. Elongated wool dresses invaded by ruffles, chic day suits (the suit is back), and glamorous evening gowns (mostly in black with touches of gray, satiny greens, and chocolate browns) comprised the season’s romantic standout collection.
Fall leaned towards wearable and commercial clothes; at Chanel, for example, every look was runway-to-street ready. Sonia Rykiel’s French chic looked effortless and desirable — and they were — if we’re to go by the happy models laughing and bouncing down the runway in elegant knit dresses with matching floral appliqués. Lanvin fit the commercial bill as well. Coming off of last season’s high, Alber Elbaz pared down the directional silhouettes with easy coats and pretty satin dresses.
Velvet made a stunning appearance — it was beautifully used for a swingy red-orange coat that opened the Lanvin show and it cropped up across many other collections.
The textile was evident not only in the smoking jackets and skirts at Costume National; it was also used for bows, sectioning and trimmings. Running a close second was fur on everything. It bordered voluminous skirts at Dries Van Noten and Costume National. Mink-trimmed coats were shown at Louis Vuitton, and fox-accented jackets were seen at Balenciaga and Celine. From Boudicca’s moody use of lace in New York, it was clear that the fabric seemed a seasonal right, and teaming it with the velvets and furs, several designers chose these fabrics – instead of using prints and colors — to achieve the bells and whistles of the season’s dark romanticism.
A weird whiff of boho hippie touched down in enough collections including Chloe, Costume National, and Tsumori Chisato to warrant mention — but we’ll chalk that up to a take on the Victoriana that threads through fashion’s current vocabulary, or to the aping of what Christopher Bailey is achieving at Burberry Prorsum. More compelling is the surfacing of a right-looking avant-garde as ethereally rendered by the Japanese: Comme des Garcons’ broken-down Victoriana wedding, Issey Miyake‘s black/white-ying/yang lyricism, Jun Takahashi’s trompe l’oeil childlike collection for Undercover, and Yohji Yamamoto‘s rockabilly romance all fall into this category.
Read the interview below with Barneys’ Julie Gilhart, who weighs in on fall’s new direction from the Paris runways.
Photos: Chanel a/w ’05-’06
Rochas a/w ’05-’06
Louis Vuitton a/w ’05-’06
Issey Miyake a/w ’05-’06
Lanvin a/w ’05-’06