There’s only a hint of guilt in proclaiming how fun last month’s Paris Fashion Week was. As is the French way, champagne soaked soirees and lavish dinners drowned out talks of a bad economy. Dressed to impress show-goers scoffed at the recession by idling in cafés and shopping Marais side streets. But how did this air of defiance translate into the fall collections, as spotlighted by the crucial need to sell?
Alexander McQueen, for one, emphasized living in the moment while forecasting a flaunt-it future. Lacking any signs to stymied creativity, his models resembled sex dolls on crack wearing boldly striped evening dresses and head-to-toe houndstooth—suggesting that in six months women will get on with the extreme experiments they’ve fallen for in recent seasons. Rick Owens, meanwhile, proved why he is one of the expressive designers women follow like an obsequious retinue by pushing his tribal wear forward for fall. Models were shown in high neck confections that plumed into several wondrous layers. No look was too extreme from the designer whose radically shaped jackets and chunky boots comprise the fashion uniform seen on Paris streets—wearers will only have to grapple with the suggestions of pale blues and soft grays to soften up those head-to-toe black ensembles.
Many designers seemed to emit a Gallic pride, and, whether it was intentional or inadvertent, the flourishes showed just why there’s nothing more stylish than French sophistication. At Balenciaga, Nicholas Ghesquire turned to ’40s redingote draped skirts suspended from artfully molded tops with natural aplomb. Over at Louis Vuitton, the ooh la la spirit was in full effect. Models donned hiked up, frilly minis that would have been right on trend for a night out at La Palace in the late ’80s. At Chanel, the mother hen house of French sophistication, the designs were heaped with the label’s signature touches: camellias and frills circled the neck of chic day dresses and boucle in chic black, white and pink was on display for all ages. Meanwhile at Balmain, Decarnin’s rock chic credibility echoed the sexually charged shenanigans on the pages of French Vogue (fashion editors incidentally wore the designers looks all week). Decarnin’s follow up to last season’s widely copied collection was to show more crystal-encrusted minis, studded denim and rock blazers. Buyers, however, moaned about the astronomical price tag of even the most basic t-shirt.
Designers such as Dries Van Noten didn’t budge on a tried and true everywoman formula. Van Noten’s six month projection seemed optimistic, with bright milky colored tailored separates—one can only hope city streets will be populated with these sartorial peacocks next seasons. Other designers applied restraint that resulted in instantly classic looking collections. At Lanvin, Alber Elbaz reined in the flourishes and extracted much of the volume on his satin pretty dresses. Others such as Ann Demeulemeester held steadfast to her sartorial roots while still serving up fresh looking clothes. Sharp Edwardian jackets were slouchy and asymmetrical—just as we like them—but seemed more opulent this season when paired with embroidered vests and other familiar but shiny layers.
Dior showed recognizable astrakan coats and loads of the house’s standard suits (only a hint of bubbling in the skirts and fur trimming distinguished them from looks seen in previous seasons). And the paisley printing on wispy chiffon day dresses were so saccharine sweet as to hypnotize buyers with the easy flow of Dior’s iconic brand name.
At Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci kept to his fetishistic warrior woman aesthetic, but also showed sensitivity to those who don’t fall into the glamazons category. His studded dresses were standouts and there were smart selections across well-tailored trousers, coats and winning suits. At YSL, the trench underscored the classic core of the collection, easily making those round bottom coats a season must have. Over at Lacroix, the boxed trench opened Esteban Cortazar’s pared down second showing, while a sculpted cocoon like trench cape pervaded Comme des Garçons’ stellar collection.
Whichever road designers traveled this season—whether they played it safe or offered a challenge to the safe and sellable—their success will boil down to sales.