Celine and Lorde show how to do Paris Fashion Week

A look from Celine's show at Paris Fashion Week, left, and singer Lorde at the Chloe show.
A look from Celine’s show at Paris Fashion Week, left, and singer Lorde at the Chloe show.
(Bertrand Guay, Pascal Le Segretain / AFP/Getty Images)

It’s appropriate that Phoebe Philo showed her fall collection for Celine on International Women’s Day, because her genius is in designing clothes that feel like they are made for women by women.

The quirky self-assuredness of Celine is a far cry from the peep-show lace we saw on the runway at Nina Ricci, the tush-squeezing palazzo pants at Balmain, the hobble skirts at Balenciaga, and the nipple-exposing sheer shirts at Acne Studios.

And thank goodness. Because while there may have been a place for nudity and body constriction on the runways at one time, it’s the 21st century, people. We’ve been there, done that. How about showing us clothes with dignity and integrity, and while you’re at it, a new idea or two?


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That’s what Philo did at Celine; she stepped out on that plank and dared to be different. From the very first looks, boiled wool knits dotted with black-and-white flowers that hinted at the kind of pretty-ugly avant-garde pieces we expect to see from someone such as Rei Kawakubo rather than a big luxury house, it was clear this wasn’t going to be a cut-and-dried collection of controlled lines and rigorous minimalism.

Philo let go creatively, unleashing a more imperfect, real beauty -- starting with the usual palette of orange, yellow, red, cream, ivory and black. All the clothing seemed to be coming undone or to be slightly askew -- padded coats pulling apart at the shoulder seams, tromp l’oeil ribbed sweaters with buttoned bra fastenings in back, even chic asymmetrical leather skirts or exaggerated, thick-waistband trousers peeking out from under generous tunics.

Leather trenches came with drawstring waists, shifts with a smattering of leather patches, and blouses with animal prints (literally, sketched images of foxes and badgers). And those critters were cute!

And if you don’t want to be burdened with one of Celine’s new zebra-striped bucket bags, how about a leather holster instead? The anti-status status bag, it read more nerdy utilitarian than haute fashion, just like those fur Birkenstocks Philo showed a few years back, which totally changed the luxury footwear game. Again this season, the shoes were equally pragmatic -- white high-top sneakers, or chunky low-heeled, open-weave leather ballet flats, some dripping crystals from the heels.

Philo also dabbled in eveningwear, showing a couple of color-blocked silk slip dresses that skimmed rather than hugged the body, with a string of fur pompoms thrown over the shoulder, rather than a stole. It was wacky, but sometimes wacky is good. Instead of giving lip service to the idea of individual, idiosyncratic style, like so many other designers have this week (ahem, John Galliano), Philo showed idiosyncratic pieces guaranteed not to already be in your wardrobe.


And that’s reason enough to go to a store, because Celine isn’t sold online. You have to go just to check this stuff out. Forget all the hoopla around celebrity front rows, elaborate sets and live music; this was a real fashion happening.

Things were way more predictable at Chloe, where designer Clare Waight Keller has a lock on the feel-good bohemian look. Even though the floaty silk Stevie Nicks gowns, patchwork ponchos, denim jumpsuits, ankle-grazing shearling and cashmere military coats weren’t revolutionary, they were covetable in their casual effortlessness, for when a woman doesn’t necessarily want her clothes to speak for her.

Pop songstress Lorde was in the front row, all of 18 years old and looking like the most mature person in the room in a pretty white blouse, black trousers and simple high-heel sandals, and refusing most photos and interviews. She knows something a lot of celebs don’t; there can be great power in sitting quietly and choosing your words wisely.

Kenzo designers (and Opening Ceremony founders) Humberto Leon and Carol Lim showed their fall collection at a concert space on the outskirts of Paris on Sunday morning.

And it was a show all right, with a live performance (at 10 a.m.!) from the band Saint Etienne and huge, mirrored monoliths that moved up, down and around the runway stage, who knows how.

The clothes were what you’d expect from Kenzo -- color, pattern and layers. But this season, the collection was more refined than street, and less complicated than in past seasons. Progress.

The designing duo touched on a few of the season’s trends, namely long, knife-pleated skirts, oversized shearling bomber jackets, silky varsity jackets and storm-ready ponchos. They also showed a few sleek-looking pant suits, one in burgundy with orange-and-black racing-stripe details, that could help bring Kenzo to an older, more sophisticated audience.

The mirrored monoliths and live music were really beside the point, but they sure jolted people awake -- and generated buzz online. Look, something shiny!

I got the feeling that was what was going on at Givenchy with Riccardo Tisci’s over-the-top face baubles, nose rings and other piercings.

I guess that’s what you need to get clicks, that and celebrities in the front row (Kim Kardashian, of course, as well as Kanye West, Kris Jenner, Katy Perry, Jessica Chastain and Amanda Seyfried -- talk about a full house). If that wasn’t enough entertainment, there were working pinball machines and vintage arcade games strewn around the set. Look, bells and whistles!

The clothes were gypsy boho extravagant, for the type of woman who lives life in front of the paparazzi cameras, including alluring cut black velvet and lace dresses for Kim K, matador coats for Madonna (the corset is having a moment this season), beaded mesh gowns for Cate Blanchett, plus sensual, peacock-feather print dresses, amazing hourglass-shaped fur jackets (one with a peplum of swinging tails) and romantic slit-front flounce skirts.

Tisci has gone down this gypsy road before, but not with a collection so straightforwardly rich-looking and well-executed.


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