Innovation to the fore as Paris Fashion Week kicks off

Paris Fashion Week kicked off with psychedelic prints, metallic florals, an urban tux and a healthy dose of satin, latex and tweed, writes Divia Harilela

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 9:49am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 9:49am

The Paris shows opened with strong showings from brands such as Balenciaga and Lanvin. And the tailoring trend spotted in Milan continued with either mannish or oversized coats with rounded shoulders. Sporty cover-ups also abounded, but were updated through couture fabrics. Elsewhere, designers added depth to their designs by experimenting with innovative fabrics, textures and intricate embellishments.


Beijing-born Li seems to be the latest darling of the fashion world and we can see why. For his second runway show the designer added a romantic narrative to his usually sporty, minimalist style with a show inspired by the "dreamer" in us all.

Razor sharp tailored jackets with nipped in or belted waists came with asymmetric hems and zips, while double-faced wool coats were sliced at the back or decorated with folds to reveal their coloured linings. The silhouette below was all about volume, as seen in the wide-leg trousers or floor-sweeping skirts. As for the must-have item? Any of the fur belts backed with nappa leather.


This is a big season for Dries Van Noten, who recently opened his first full-scale exhibition in Paris at Musée des Arts Décoratifs. In light of this, one was expecting the designer to take us on a trip through his greatest hits. Instead, we got a trip of a more psychedelic kind as he experimented with op-art prints inspired by artist Bridget Riley. Funky swirls in combinations of pink/grey and black/yellow came printed on separates ranging from fluid cropped trousers to mannish coats and slouchy jumpers. Even his orange bomber jackets were rave worthy. He also played tricks on the eyes with surreal floral prints painted on a black dress in metallic silver paint, while 3-D floral corsages came draped over the shoulders of jackets and dresses. There was still plenty of classic Dries, from the painterly florals to the sequins tops and dresses. This is where the collection shone brightest.


It is more than likely that the majority of pieces you see in a Gareth Pugh show you can't actually wear in real life, but what's fashion without some fantasy? Pugh's winter white collection saw him experiment with technical materials such as metallic foil, iridescent pailettes and even plastic rubbish bags. The sculptural forms he created bordered on futuristic - from the kimono-sleeve belted jackets to the funnel neck tunics that stood away from the body and covered the face entirely. In contrast, sheer netting was swathed around the body like a cloud. It may have been Weird Science meets couture, but there were some beautiful tailored pieces in the mix.


Alessandra Dell'Acqua's debut at Rochas was a mixed bag. He kept many of the house codes established by previous designer Marco Zannini - from the voluminous silhouettes to the heavy brocades and textured fabrics. It was the simple pieces like the oversized alpaca peplum top, patent pencil skirt and layered double coats that seemed contemporary and fresh. Embellishments were used as accents on skirt hems and peplums before covering the entire body of a green sleeveless dress for a chic look. The matching skirts and tops in gilded jacquard, however, felt stuffy and dated.


Third time's a charm. It may have taken some time but it finally feels like Alexander Wang has found his groove at Balenciaga. His autumn-winter 2014 collection was about developing innovative fabrics that helped elevate his urban separates to a couture level. There was an element of sophistication that pervaded the collection, even though there was a sporty vibe in the utilitarian zips that criss-crossed or contoured jackets, trousers and tops. A puffa jacket even came with satin lapels for an urban take on the tuxedo jacket. His fabrics, however, stole the show, from the latex-coated cable knit jackets to the leather dress that morphed into wool at the waist. As for the accessories, forget the motorcycle bag. Instead, the Balenciaga girl will be carrying two to three shopping bags crafted from uber-luxe python and crocodile skin.


There were high hopes for the Paco Rabanne show, which was the first one styled by Marie-Amélie Sauvé who has famously collaborated with Nicolas Ghesquière. The house's heritage isn't easy to reinterpret, mainly because its founder was known for his futuristic creations featuring unconventional materials such as fibreglass, aluminium jersey and hammered metal. Designer Julien Dossena tried to give this DNA a modern spin as seen in tops made from triangular plastic pieces which were layered on top of basics like button down shirts and trousers. Instead of heavy chain mail dresses, he sent out lightweight skirts with asymmetric hemlines matched with zip-up jackets for his own take on sporty couture. For the evening, metal nets covered simple black dresses.



There was a sense of déjà vu during the Rick Owens show until the audience realised that the designer was actually sending out each look three or four times in a row. Perhaps he was lamenting the uniformity of fashion (which may seem ironic considering he has earned his keep from his leather jackets which are part of every editor's daily uniform). Or maybe he's hoping that next season they will adopt his comfy tunics and onesies instead. Worn by a cast of friends, staff and regular folk off the street, his offerings for autumn appeared simple, but the devil was in the detail. Some shapes were more structured than others and came with voluminous backs, while others featured funnel necks. Materials included wool, suede crocodile skin, buttery leather and stiff silk shantung. As an alternative, he offered fitted or oversized jackets with pleated panels. Everything was matched with zippered gloves and flat leather boots with white rubber platforms.


Designer Alber Elbaz knows his strengths, but it was refreshing to see him venture into new territory for autumn. The show opened with fluffy-tiered coats and skirts, thick tweed jackets with fringing and clingy knit dresses all in a monochrome palette. They may have recalled the work of Japanese designers such as Junya Watanabe, but the looks that followed were pure Alber. Exquisitely pleated leather dresses and flowing washed silk dresses in navy, light pink and teal were a lesson in refined elegance, their only decoration being thick metal chokers. As the show progressed he started to introduce embellishments, first in the form of metal fringes which trimmed dresses and later through colour blocked silk threads of various lengths.