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Paris Fashion Week: practical magic

Timeless, wearable collections signal a reality check at Paris Fashion Week, writes Divia Harilela

 

Designers saved the best for last as Paris Fashion Week, which followed those in New York, London and Milan, stole the show, as it were, with everything from a “supermarket” stocked with branded groceries to an intergalactic adventure courtesy of Jean Paul Gaultier. Best of all, the clothes were more wearable than ever before.

Even front-row editors ditched the heels for flats, including the ubiquitous Nike flyknit racer.

Star-spotters who missed the Oscars to be here were not to be denied; Academy Award winners Lupita Nyong’o and Jared Leto made guest appearances at Miu Miu and singer Rihanna outdid Kanye West by attending even more shows than he did. The celebs, however, played second fiddle to the clothes, as designers combined innovative fabrics with flattering silhouettes to create pieces that will definitely outlast the season.

The search for timelessness and wearability came as a surprise, but perhaps even designers had become weary of fashion gimmicks. Karl Lagerfeld created a true-to-life shopping centre in the Grand Palais, for Chanel. You couldn’t help but think he was making a comment on mass consumerism as his models stalked the aisles, picking up Chanelbranded eggs and Coco flakes (get it?). These happy shoppers were dressed in comfortable, chic stretchy knits, oversized boucle tweed coats and trainers.

Also embracing elegance and comfort was Christophe Lemaire, at Hermès, whose oversized slouchy coats were paired with mannish trousers that were the epitome of quiet luxury.

In fact, there was an abundance of mannish tailoring in the collections, best exemplified by Dries Van Noten, who was also celebrating the opening of his first retrospective at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts).

His signature masculine coats and trousers came covered with optic prints and swirls in psychedelic colours.

Others added a feminine twist to their menswear influences.

Maison Martin Margiela’s classic men’s suits were deconstructed, with traditional suit linings appearing on tops and Harris tweed and herringbone cut into jackets with peaked shoulders.

“It” items had been abandoned altogether for some collections, the focus instead being on trans-seasonal wardrobes, with designers moving away from the outlandish and towards stylish practicality. Even Haider Ackermann left behind the twisted leather of previous collections and replaced it with simple silhouettes, including wide-legged trousers and floor-sweeping coats in grey flannel. There were no gimmicky sweatshirts at Givenchy – in their stead were ruffled sheer dresses and skirts with leopard and butterfly prints, and some razorsharp tailoring.

Phoebe Philo sent out her most wearable collection for Céline to date, featuring 1930s-inspired dress coats updated with contrasting buttons, fraying hems and vertical slits behind the elbows. Portrait-style jackets flapped open at the neckline but were matched with more wide-legged trousers, for a 21st-century look.

Alber Elbaz said his collection for Lanvin was about extravagance and extremes, but there was something alluring and classic in his all-black shaggy coats, tiered skirts, thick tweed jackets and pleated leather dresses.

His signature washed-silk dresses flowed against the body like liquid.

The most desirable jackets of the week came from Raf Simons, who continued to play with Christian Dior’s iconic Bar jacket. This time he re-envisaged it as flannel or wool double-breasted suits, with lacing up the side or in bold colours such as fuchsia and green.

Nicolas Ghesquiere may have risen to fame on sci-fi creations for Balenciaga but his highly anticipated debut at Louis Vuitton began with a “quest for authenticity” and a “desire for timelessness”. Gone were Marc Jacobs’ dark, dramatic showgirls as Ghesquiere shed some light on the modern woman’s wardrobe, featuring a beautifully crafted black leather coat with a wide, contrasting collar; sporty tops with geometric prints and industrial zips; skirts with patchwork pockets made from luxe materials such as suede; and the new petite-malle mini-trunk handbag.

Ghesquiere’s silhouette harked back to the 60s, a theme that was echoed at Carven, where A-line dresses, short jackets and swinging skirts came with contrasting leopardprint collars and were matched with thigh-high boots. At Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane was still wooing the young, hip crowd with beaded 60s shifts, velvet dresses with Peter Pan collars, slouchy pea oats and glitter go-go boots.

Knitwear was a hot trend but the look was never bulky in Paris, except at the Comme des Garçons show. Viktor & Rolf decorated its tops, coats and dresses with cable knit.

Sonia Rykiel’s creative director, Geraldo da Conceicao, went back to the brand’s roots with innovative knits ranging from waffle textures to a patterned rose knit jacquard, while the word “moi” was printed on jumpers, for a bit of fun.

Form-fitting clothing with long, lean silhouettes won out. Stella McCartney’s comfy knit dresses and jumpers were decorated with floral motifs made from zippers.

At Chanel, Lagerfeld’s models shopped the aisles wearing skintight orange knit trousers and a matching cowl neck jumper, accessorised with pearls.

While there was plenty on offer for our daily wardrobes, some designers did focus on craft and decoration, to create pieces that redefine luxury. At 

Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton’s dark, magical nymphs wore dresses made from intricate broderie anglaise or embroidered organza, and handmade feather-covered coats. At Valentino, the eveningwear bordered on couture and included sheer tulle gowns embellished with butterflies and flowers, or covered in colourful patchwork.

The past few seasons had seen an increasing number of innovative fabrics and this time they came with a futuristic leaning. At Balenciaga, Alexander Wang showed cable knits laminated with latex or bonded with leather.

At Chloé, black dresses came with colourful fringing or hammered-gold geometric pieces. Chalayan’s sheer organza gowns were embellished with rows of press-on nails painted red and pink. Meanwhile, mix-master Chitose Abe, designer at Sacai, combined velvets with cable knits and scarf prints with kilts.

For once, designers had the weather on their mind, and created fashionable clothes that would stand up to the fiercest of typhoons. On the last day of fashion week, Miu Miu brought out see-through plastic raincoats, lightweight quilted jackets and colourful rain pumps, which proved that a girl can still look polished in the rain. And while black may still be the colour of choice this autumn, don’t be afraid to experiment with anything from sweet pastels to bold and bright shades.

All in all, then, the future is bright – with the chance of a few fashionable rain showers.

 

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