Sculptural silhouettes, with rounded coats and bulbous-sleeved jackets; blown-up volumes teamed with narrow ones and with short skirts; legs anchored to the ground in those ubiquitous platform-soled shoes and boots; and riffs on the masculine and feminine divide all mattered to designers showing in the French capital for fall.
Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga still continues to set the pace. This time he turned spring’s opulence on its head with a collection examining the house founder’s groundbreaking work in the ’60s — short, tubular jackets; bubble coats; slim dresses. Ghesquière’s take tweaked tradition with the miniscule, undulating miniskirts, skinny pants, and a black cap-sleeved jacket that will create a stampede to the Balenciaga stores.
Sculptural silhouettes suggest shapes that aren’t specifically the body’s own and thus necessitate all available tricks of dressmaking and construction. The challenge is how to carry these off without a cloying result. Lanvin‘s Alber Elbaz rose to that challenge and met it. His padded hip jackets, mannish cuts with feminine softness, and use of juicy color in a somber season attested to a designer with a solid knowledge of his craft and of the female form. Stella McCartney, unsurprisingly, knows a woman’s body, too. Her focus on sweater dresses, skinny/slouchy tailoring, and fusing fine pleats and finer knits into easy wearability spoke to an eager fan base. Sonia Rykiel has an established pedigree in such fare, and her fall offerings were a marked return to form, all tucked knit dresses evolving into shoulder-straddling bows and a finale of sexy lingerie dresses. Her knit pants were in a less sexy vein.
Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel also played with voluminous pants, creating a challenging silhouette by putting them under floaty black dresses or under lean back coats that — on their own — were the essence of perfection. But among the miniskirts at one end of the spectrum and the LBDs (weighed down with striking rhinestone bibs) at the other, Lagerfeld continues to cram as many plots as possible into his expansive sartorial tales. Jean Paul Gaultier‘s stretch went from the enchanting and gothic exploration of fabrics paired with pets in his own-name show (Galliano at Dior also dipped into a gothic vein), to the spectacularly seductive sobriety at Hermès where — amid the buttery leathers — the lightly-handled minks, and his way with a column of black crepe, he demonstrated how his appointment to the saddlery house might be one of the wisest decisions ever made in fashion.
Next fall will be a season of extremes. Encompassing the new diktat of an assured silhouette are looks each as strong and diverse as the next: Alexander McQueen with his Elizabethan Mrs. Miniver style; Ann Demeulemeester with a powerfully poetic dark line slithering around the body and spilling with llama; Stefano Pilati’s lightly bloused ’80s-ish jackets and belted tunics for Yves Saint Laurent; Louis Vuitton‘s Salvation Army chic (reprising Marc Jacob’s own New York collection) of expressly hidden luxuries; Martin Grant‘s dirndl skirts and hooded pea coat gathered into a back yoke; Olivier Theysken’s Rochas pantsuits that were blessedly modern and desirable; Valentino‘s graphic ’80s-inspired color blocks and Basquiat-decorated sportswear; and Miu Miu‘s take on short and sharp modern Baroque.
Riccardo Tisci, on his second ready-to-wear outing at Givenchy, delivered the goods. A bit of sequin sparkle aside, the goods were predominantly black. By limiting his palette, Tisci tasked himself with creating interest by emphasizing construction and decorative technique; the results included subtly shaded feather coats that melted from black through midnight blue and the volume created through belted pleats erupting with origami-like details. It says a lot that by bucking the trend for the dark, Dries Van Noten‘s show was a triumph. Just because everyone else was doing it didn’t mean he had to go the all-black road, too. Soft masculine jackets, coats cut away from the body and caught with a ribbon bow, burnished brocades, and a dab of gold at the foot to mimic the gold leaf catwalk. In a season of darkness, hope sprang eternal.
Balenciaga a/w ’06-’07
Chanel a/w ’06-’07
Jean-Paul Gaultier a/w ’06-’07
Hermès a/w ’06-’07
Yves Saint Laurent a/w ’06-’07
Givenchy a/w ’06-’07
Dries Van Noten a/w ’06-’07