Paris Fashion Week: 'Zoolander,' 3-D printed shoes and English roses

Everyone loves a fashion sendup and we got one Tuesday afternoon at Paris Fashion Week, when Derek Zoolander and Hansel closed out the Valentino runway show with a walk-off, hamming it up for cameras to announce "Zoolander 2," the sequel to their 2001 film, which will be released Feb. 12, 2016.

If we needed any more evidence that fashion has been hijacked by Hollywood, here it was -- a deal orchestrated between the house of Valentino and the film studio Paramount, spearheaded by the film’s star and co-writer Ben Stiller, who apparently is friends with Valentino's global marketing director. (Stiller and Owen Wilson, who plays Hansel, were clad in Valentino, of course.)

I'm not criticizing. I love these guys. (In terms of the fashion industry, they got a lot of it right.) And I can't wait to see the sequel, with the imperative blogger street style updates. (Derelicte!) Plus, Valentino is no stranger to Hollywood. Besides dressing every star in the universe, the designer played himself in the 2006 film "The Devil Wears Prada," and two years later he and partner Giancarlo Giammetti were the subjects of the popular documentary film, "The Last Emperor."

Valentino retired in 2008, turning over design duties to creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaulo Piccioli. And the tradition of collaborating with filmmakers is continuing.


The runway cameos were a welcome lift after a Valentino collection that was pretty, but took itself a tad too seriously. The inspiration was sensuality and independence, and the muses were art world heroines Emilie Louise Floge (Gustav Klimt's companion) and Celia Birtwell (the wife of Ossie Clark and subject of David Hockney). Hence the fusion of Vienna and swinging London to create a new take on Valentino's signature haute bohemia.

The over-the-top, "Zoolander"-ish references boiled down to elongated, high waist dresses and tunics with black-and-white patterns or earth-toned striped lace; fur-and-metallic thread coats, bow blouses and high waist skirts in floral and butterfly prints made in collaboration with Birtwell. The look was opulent but a bit dreary, that is until Derek and Hansel showed up.

Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen is one talent at Paris Fashion Week who is really working to push fashion forward, not with Hollywood tie-ins or stacked celebrity front rows, but with cutting edge materials, forms and 3-D printing. This season, she was inspired by terraforming (modifying the biosphere of another planet to resemble Earth's); light reflective materials; circular planetary bodies and more. (Again, it sounds a bit "Zoolander," I know. But bear with me.)

She collaborated with fabric designer Aleksandra Gaca on handwoven, grid-like textiles that spring back into form after they are squished (imagine the possibilities! No crushed pleats!); with architect Philip Beesley on digitally printed dresses made from fractal geometries, and Japanese shoe designer Noritaka Tatehana on 3-D printed negative heel shoes embellished with crystal clusters that gave new meaning to the term "spike heel."

The result made for some interesting pieces, none more so than a strapless, ghostly white ameoba-like dress with a prickly surface. I didn't know if I wanted to wear it or pick it up with chopsticks and put it in my mouth. Another piece, a dress with a clear optical lens for a bodice had interesting possibilities (could you actually minimize the appearance of your waist?), but didn't quite work. It distorted the waist rather than shaping it.

The bigger development may have been how Van Herpen brought things down to earth.

Winner of the 2014 ANDAM Fashion Prize, which included more than $300,000 in prize money and mentoring from Kering Chief Executive Henri-Francois Pinault, she proved she can translate her intellectual approach into more commercially viable pieces, such as a liquidy-looking, ochre-colored kimono dress, and an otherworldly landscape print skirt and jacket bound with a leather harness.

One quibble though: Now that she's made her point with several seasons of over-the-top footwear (one poor model was toppled by the heel-less shoes), I wonder if she might move on? I have to think 3-D printers are capable of making a more female-friendly shoe, and if Van Herpen truly is a fashion futurist, that would be real progress.

If Van Herpen is a potential successor to the late designer Alexander McQueen's avant garde mantle, where does that leave the McQueen label, now designed by Sarah Burton? That's what Burton has been working out with varying degrees of success over the past few seasons. She got one step closer with a  fall collection inspired by a fading English rose, both its strength and fragility.

Burton deconstructed the codes of feminine dressing like so many of her counterparts have done this season (Phoebe Philo at Celine, Stella McCartney) starting with corseted leather dresses with precise knife pleats, and going through to  dreamy, organza poufs that transformed models into gigantic, walking rose blossoms.

She didn't let the concept get in the way of wearability however, showing beautifully tailored jackets and skirts in lacquered rose jacquard or bonded leather rose cloque (roses appeared to be stamped into the leather), as well as knit dresses with vertical ruffles, all of which should translate into the real world much more easily than other recent collections.

There was no punishing headgear or footwear, either, suggesting that Burton may at last have thrown off McQueen's masochistic tendencies, to emerge like a flower, her own woman.

I've got the latest tweets from seats -- and more -- @Booth1