Paris fashion shows offer autumn looks for the no-nonsense woman

In herIf the Paris fashion shows are anythingto go by, next autumn will be all about the no-nonsense woman, writeDivia Harilela andFrancesca Fearon

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 9:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 9:11am

Confidence reigned on the catwalks at Paris Fashion Week. There were bold and decisive colours at Dior, dark influences at Kenzo, and strong tailoring at Givenchy and Margiela. Even the most feminine of looks had an air of self-assurance. Here are our reviews of the best mid-week shows.


People often assume that Hussein Chalayan doesn't create wearable clothes, but his recent shows, including this one, are changing that perception. The inspiration for autumn was beauty products. It's certainly not the stuff that fashion moments are made of, but there was a tongue-in-cheek glamour in the sheer long organza dresses decorated with rows of fake press-on nails in black and silver, and later in red and pink. A make-up palette was re-envisaged on a black dress covered in swatches of multicoloured threads. For the finale, he made a statement with long gazar gowns that were sliced open to reveal carefully constructed corsets underneath. Other highlights included a series of coats that fell open across the shoulders, and some colour block dresses which had asymmetric folds.


Raf Simons sent out a confident collection that really honed in on his vision for Dior. The Musée Rodin was transformed into a cyber garden with electric flowers that shone from the ceiling like bright city lights. The Dior woman was also different - powerful yet feminine, but never too soft. Precise, masculine tailoring in the form of flannel or wool double-breasted suits, was given a feminine touch with lacing up the side, or brightly coloured jackets or furs thrown over the models' arms. For the evening, Simons sent out beautifully constructed double-layered dresses, one short and one long, decorated with a simple floral embellishment. More red-carpet worthy were some embellished T-shirts that were layered under sheer embroidered dresses.


Geraldo da Conceicao's latest collection for Sonia Rykiel proves that the Macau born designer is finally getting into his groove. There was an easy elegance in his innovative knitwear, which ranged from waffle knits to a patterned rose knit jacquard. Separates came in soft shades of yellow, camel and violet, and were worn with coats with contrasting outlines. The fun side of the Rykiel girl could be seen in the "moi" print which covered a series of chic skirts and sweaters. While layering was often taken to the max, Da Conceicao showed a sexy side in the series of blouson dresses which revealed a flash of skin at the back.


Masculine dress codes were reinterpreted at Maison Martin Margiela, but the result was definitely more wearable than experimental. It was all about deconstructing a classic men's suit and adding a feminine twist. Fabric traditionally used for suit linings was layered under lace to create off-the-shoulder tops or slip dresses, while one black jacket came with the top half cut off. Harris Tweed and herringbone was cut into jackets with peaked shoulders (a Margiela signature). For the final touch, a Harris Tweed label replaced the brand's signature of four white stitches on the back of each of the garments.


You never quite know what to expect from a Comme des Garçons show but that is all part of the fun. This season, Rei Kawakubo used the word "monster" to explain her lumpy and bumpy silhouettes which included bulky knits made up of dozens of sweaters, many with their sleeves tied together. Others wound around the body like soft serve. Proportions were also distorted as seen in an oversized Prince of Wales checked blazer which looked 10 sizes too big. Some of her looks bordered on suffocating - a black jumper was pulled over the head to completely cover the face.


After channelling the energy of the street last season, Phoebe Philo created a collection that was about Old World elegance with a modern edge. Black 1930s-style fitted dress coats were brought into the 21st century with a clever use of buttons as decoration. These formed diagonal lines on the fronts and backs of coats in contrasting white. Tailored tops flapped open at the neckline and were matched with wide-legged trousers. She also played with knitted tunic and boot leg trousers which were stretched out to form long, lean silhouettes. The details, however, were pure couture as feathers appeared sprinkled on jackets, while coats came with fraying hems and seams, and vertical slits behind the elbows.


Riccardo Tisci left behind his exotic tribal goddesses of last season to embrace the house's French roots with a romantic collection that still looked into the future. His sheer silk blouses and pleated skirts came with ruffles, which fanned out across the torso in a butterfly shape (the insect also appeared in the prints, alongside faded leopard and other abstract shapes). It may sound overly feminine, but strong tailoring anchored the collection, including the boxy jackets and evening coats. Many came decorated with fabric strips in bold colours across the chest, back, or even across the hips of trousers for a graphic, Bauhaus-inspired look.


Editors have often accused Haider Ackermann of creating difficult clothes as his layered, twisted silhouettes don't suit every woman. This season he stripped everything down to create a simple yet sensual collection that was still in keeping with his style. The palette was subdued with shades of grey and taupe while he also introduced knitwear and easy pieces like the funnel neck grey jumpsuit made from a menswear fabric. The washed cotton zip-up jacket still had the sporty appeal of a sweatshirt, but looked chic. The floor-length sweeping coats added grace and drama, but there was still plenty to wear underneath.


Sweater dressing has turned into a key trend for autumn, and Viktor & Rolf's show was dedicated to variations on draped grey cable knits. Many were classic easy-to-wear sweaters that dipped below the knee with asymmetric hems, and then slipped over shorts or miniskirts. Cable knits featured as a digital pattern on jackets and trousers, and were blown up as a motif on a T-shirt. Even a grey coat featured insets of cable knit. But in the hands of Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren not everything is what it seems. There were trompe l'oeil effects on velvet tops, floaty dresses that resembled twinsets and T-shirts printed on long dresses.


There was a pagan spirit to Vivienne Westwood's Gold Label collection that provocatively combined her love of historical costume with tribal references. She is a noted environmentalist who, in this instance, is campaigning on behalf of the Asháninka tribe in Peru, which she visited last year. It seems to give them a purpose to their work outside her familiar plundering of historical archives. Charles Frederick Worth, the "father of haute couture", inspired her silhouette with nipped waists and sweeping skirts. The tribal embroideries, feathered headdresses and blue woad face markings brought the spirit of the rainforest to the catwalk.


Frogs in space, said Gaultier's silver spacesuit when he took his catwalk bow, and there was an abundance of jokey nonsense to his collection of extraterrestrial fashion. He clearly likes to have fun. Quilted blousons with satellite dish-shaped collars belted over filmy trousers appeared on a cast of characters with alien hairdos. Gaultier has been indulging in a bit of Anglophilia. He had punks in tartan tailoring and Union flag fur jackets featuring crowns. Meanwhile London Calling and God Save the Queen blared out on the soundtrack.


The pale palette suggested springtime. The fluttering geometric printed dresses seemed destined for warm and balmy days, although the carefree attitude of Chloé's double-faced wool coats, and a few kaleidoscopic mesh knits, were the only items that anchored this as an autumn collection. But it was a very pretty one. Clare Waight Keller has just renewed her contract with Chloé and the collection displayed a confident handling of the label's signature 1970s boho flirtiness. "I feel as though Chloé has a unique place as a feminine brand, and we stand apart because of that," she said to Women's Wear Daily. The silhouette she created was loose, sometimes just around the upper body, while skirts hugged the hips. Deconstructed fabrics, some drop-panel skirts, and a few shaggy furs which gave the collection a breezy laid-back attitude were also in evidence.


David Lynch worked with Humberto Leon and Carol Lim for their latest Kenzo outing. The film director created a set with warped mirrors that distorted the models' reflections, along with an equally unnerving soundtrack for the show. "I wanted to try to get a different feel for a runway show, having mystery and emotion swimming together," Lynch said in the show notes. The designers focused on playing with volume, either elongating the silhouette with high-waisted skinny pant suits and two-tier tunics, or widening it with balloon skirts, padded coats, and peplum-style cuffs on pant waistbands. Best were the patterned ribbed knits (a key trend), occasionally overprinted with copper or gold metallic motifs, and the schizophrenic zigzag optical prints, which had florals on textured fabrics. They were eye-catching and often exhilarating.


It has been five seasons since Bill Gaytten took on design responsibility at John Galliano, and there is a greater sense of realism emerging. His creations are not fairy tales brimming with romantic escapism and vampish beauty, like those of his predecessor. His silhouette is built from the curves of a woman, with sculpted sweetheart necklines, moulded sleeves and fitted waistlines, highlighted with belts decorated with large agate discs. A ladylike look underpins fluid printed panne velvet dresses, chic pant suits and a lot of long gloves.