There was a paparazzi scrum the likes of which we haven’t seen so far at Paris Fashion Week, a front row pileup that included a newly platinum blond Kim Kardashian, hubbie Kanye West, Kris Jenner and Solange, and a disco’s worth of fringe and beads on the runway, worn by some of the biggest models in the business, namely Karlie Kloss, Alessandra Ambrosio, Adriana Lima and more.
Yep, it was the Balmain show alright.
In light of recent events (the Charlie Hebdo killings, for one), Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing wanted to remind people of France’s history of artistic freedom, he wrote in the show notes, and celebrate Paris as a global melting pot. (Hence the disco-tribal fringe and the sequin kente cloth in the collection.)
It was a lovely sentiment that didn’t quite bear out on the runway.
More party decorations than party clothes, the collection was full of gaudy color combinations (orange, purple and green), and cartoonish silhouettes (pleated palazzo pants that squeezed all the wrong places and furs with out-to-there shoulders). It was a look only a Kardashian could love.
Belgian designer Dries Van Noten brought divadom down to size for the rest of us, mixing individual, look-at-me pieces with the kind of thing a woman might already have in her wardrobe or want to upgrade--khaki pants and cargo shorts, for example.
Van Noten built on the music theme of his spring collection, only this time turned his attention from the festival-going crowd to the idiosyncratic style of performers on stage. He highlighted “true style icons of recent generations” in a soundtrack featuring iconic a cappella voices, including Bjork, Debbie Harry, Destiny’s Child and Courtney Love.
And I could see a little of all of them in the clothes -- in the marvelous grunge-glam, shaggy, powder pink faux fur coat, the sweatshirt dripping iridescent sequins worn over cargo shorts, with electric purple crushed velvet booties. Concert diva-like fabric trains were tied over utilitarian-looking khaki trousers, fringed Lurex knits that twinkled like stage lights worn over baggy trousers, and hip hop chain necklaces festooned with sweet hand-crafted flowers and feathers. It was a lesson in modern glamour, casual-meets-embellished-to-the-hilt, which really is a fun way to dress.
At Rochas, the look was much more of a throwback. Designer Alessandro Del’Acqua was inspired by a 1934 collection by house founder Marcel Rochas that centered on birds. That vision translated into ruffled sweetheart necklines, fur-belted shift dresses, Chantilly lace details, sheer, swallow printed silks, and fur- or bead-trimmed high heels. The effect was a bit too costumey and contrived, except maybe for Hollywood, where I could see some of the dresses playing well on red carpets.
Carven’s new designer team, Adrien Caillaudaud and Alexis Martial, also looked to the past, but with an emphasis on sportswear. Their first collection for the house was inspired by a London girl living in Paris, and had a ‘60s jet set, apres-ski spirit with high-waist pants, turtleneck sweaters, floral jacquard bomber jackets, double slit miniskirts and chunky clod hopper mules. It was a serviceable debut, playing on the French label’s heritage beginning in the 1940s, for making “leisurewear” for the youth set.
Roland Mouret was ruminating on cold weather dressing, too, trying no doubt, to figure out how his signature, sexy bodycon style can live below 60 degrees. The answer involved layering sheer turtlenecks underneath everything. (The turtleneck could be the must-have of the upcoming fall season--we’ve seen them on the runways layered under everything from mini dresses to evening gowns.)
Mouret gave his architectural designs a textural, tribal turn, with geometric patchwork quilting worked onto asymmetrical skirts, shift dresses, slim coats and shawl tops. The trouble was, the clothes had too much going on--texture, pattern, pleats, darts, tucks, zippers, leather piping and more. It was overly engineered. Who has the time or energy? Better to just throw a fabulous faux fur coat over khaki pants and go.
Paco Rabanne, the label founded in 1966, and associated with futuristic-looking chainmail, plastic and even paper clothing, should have something to say about modernism and utility. And designer Julien Dossena certainly did. He showed a smart collection of updated sportswear, pairing plastic chainmail tops with cool-looking denim, screen-printed sweatshirts with urban streetscapes, even riffing on work pants, worn with tops that fastened with D ring straps. It was a good mix of dreamy and down to earth, sportswear and couture-details, modern and heritage. What more could a woman ask for?
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PHOTOS FROM PARIS FASHION WEEK: