Always intent to make its own statement, Paris Fashion Week’s spring/summer ‘12 collections have managed to divert attention. Some designers dispensed sensual collections with measured, revealing details, while others opted for layers of delicate fabrics and more subtle exposure. Superbly exaggerated accents and unexpected materials also made their not-so-subtle way into catwalk looks with amplified details that also played a role in the focus-stealing trend.
Labyrinths of fine materials emerged as a crucial look for s/s ’12. Nicolas Andreas Taralis’ ethereal presentation evoked a mille-feuille of sheer and solid whites in modern cuts, while Damir Doma amplified folds with sequins and gold threading. Former Balenciaga artistic director Josephus Thimister experimented with the visual effect by placing knitted vests under torn silks followed by loose flowing jackets gathered tightly under wide leather belts with metal straps.
Rising talent Anthony Vacarello delivered an all-black assembly of thigh-high hemlines, asymmetric straps with peeking busts and hip-hugging zip pockets. Thierry Mugler’s Nicola Formachetti presented clean, tight silhouettes with deep angular cut-outs and slits sloping from the hips down. Elsewhere, conceptual British designer Gareth Pugh evolved from last season’s hand-cut leather petals with dramatic grids set against bare skin in black and white
Despite the shift in seasonal temperament, many designers found creative ways to integrate last season’s autumnal influences into s/s ’12. The most notable example of this reappropriation was the abundant use of leather, which proved more substantial than any mere accessory. Maison Martin Margiela sent out floor-length skirts, tailored long vests with exposed zip seams and a short sleeved, multi-zip top all in dense leather. Similarly, Christian Dior featured tangerine tulip skirts and flared belted tops made of skin, while models donned tilted black leather caps to compound the look. Carven delivered school girl skirts and high-waist short skirts in leather and some rather interesting buckle details that oddly resembled a strait jacket, while Peter Copping incorporated a rather chic biker outfit between the assortment of crisp white and silky navy looks at Nina Ricci.
The runways also boasted theatrical creativity with eye-catching details that made major impacts. Viktor & Rolf showed an uplifting display of floral textured jackets in grapefruit with wildly large black threading throughout. At Celine, Phoebe Philo—who is currently rumored to be jumping house—attached extravagantly wide cuffs to tailored maroon, black and white trench coats. And Balenciaga creative director Nicolas Ghesquière ventured into similar territory by opening his s/s ’12 show with a series of wide jackets in iridescent silk satin with front pockets that started at the breast and ended at the hip.
The most anticipated shows of the season also opted for the purest of hues. The pale Oceanic backdrop at Chanel set the stage for Karl Lagerfeld’s white runway looks. The show included highlights like a partially perforated partially pleated dress, a quilted tulip skirt and a knitted “fish scale” fitted dress, all of which were accessorized with white pearl belts and spacey silver flat ankle boots. At Stella McCartney, tank dresses featured curling hemlines resembling that of rolling waves. In the midst of violet and royal blue silks, YSL sent out four memorable looks made from white brocade with silver stitching. Clare Waight Keller, the newly appointed creative director at Chloe, surprised and charmed critics with her flowing tunics, billowing blouses and slouched trousers as well as subtle colored pleats that transformed into delicate stripes against the blank background. Rick Owens presented snow white floor-length gowns in his distinguished avant-garde aesthetic, while at Valentino models donned Heidi-inspired braids with white doilies and lace. Even dark horse Riccardo Tisci seemed blinded by the light, layering sheer and solid whites for Givenchy.