Designers behaving badly, official statements issued, endless speculation about replacements ... Is fashion the new Hollywood or what? At the second half of Paris Fashion Week, which ended Wednesday, the Twitterverse was still on fire with rumors about who will succeed John Galliano successor at Dior, why Balmain's Christophe Decarnin was AWOL and who is making Kate Middleton's wedding dress. In between, there was a lot of fine fashion. Here's some of it.
View all of Booth Moore's Parish Fashion Week coverage here.
Galliano without Galliano
There was a big crowd at the John Galliano label's presentation, held at a private mansion on Paris' chichi Avenue Foch, because there was a lot of curiosity, morbid and otherwise. The designer's career went down in flames during the last two weeks. He was dismissed from his post as creative director for Dior after he was arrested on suspicion of making anti-Semitic remarks to patrons at a Paris bar and a video surfaced documenting a separate incident.
He issued an apology, was charged by police under France's anti-Semitism laws and departed the country for rehab — all before Dior's formal runway show.
By the time the show for the designer's own label rolled around, everyone wanted to see the clothes, which were reportedly left for the house to finish in Galliano's absence.
The presentation was a lot more low-key and, frankly, more dignified, than Galliano's usual shows, which are often held at night in raw studio spaces on the outskirts of Paris. There was no dry ice or fake snow. There were no gimmicks at all, save for the trays of mini madeleines that waiters passed around.
During several mini-shows, held every 20 minutes or so, models walked slowly through the gilded rooms, striking poses for guests, who included press and buyers. There was a significantly smaller number of looks than usual, only about two dozen.
The format allowed for a close-up look at the clothes, including a stunning sheer black Deco beaded gown with feather trim and a pale green kimono coat with fur cuffs.
Pencil skirts, colorful print blouses with open backs and soft coats, one in a ribbed cream wool with a fur collar, had Galliano's signature 1930s-'40s flair. And there was at least one nod to his more subversive side — a black rubber trench coat.
With Dior as the majority shareholder in the John Galliano business, which has never performed well, the future of the label is uncertain. That is especially true this season, when stores may shy away from having the Galliano name on the racks.
The biggest shocker of all was that Dior exec Sidney Toledano attended the presentation — to support the staff, he said.
Alexander McQueen lives
During the Paris shows, word spread like wildfire that Sarah Burton, the creative director for Alexander McQueen, would be designing Kate Middleton's wedding dress. Burton's people emphatically denied it.
Which is too bad, because Burton would be an amazing choice, judging by the look of the snowy white dresses in her fall collection, inspired by an Ice Queen and her court.
The show was held at the Conciergerie, which was the antechamber to the guillotine during the French Revolution, holding thousands of prisoners, including Marie Antoinette. It was also the site of one of McQueen's most memorable shows several years ago, when live wolves walked the runway.
So it was suitably eerie. And from the first look — a white handwoven degrade tweed coat that dissolved into fur at the hems and shoulders — it was clear that the late designer, who committed suicide last year, was there in spirit.
Burton continued to play with tweed and checked velvets as the collection took a dark turn. Armor-like black dresses, traced in zippers, were fitted with elaborate harnesses and hardware evoking torture devices and worn with bondage boots. Coats cinched the waist, in woven and studded velvet.
Then, the fog lifted and out came angelic-looking gowns in fraying organza embroidered with pearls. One of the most extraordinary pieces had a bodice made from cracked pieces of bone china. And the finale gown, with its enormous tulle skirt, seemed to carry the model down the runway, as if on a cloud.
It was quite an impressive second collection for Burton, and a terrific prelude to the upcoming McQueen exhibition opening at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in May.
But mostly, when the snow queens rounded the runway to applause, it was nice to see a happy ending at the end of a very dark fairy tale.
At YSL, Stefano Pilati fires back
Dogged by rumors for months that he is on his way out at Yves Saint Laurent, Stefano Pilati showed a stellar collection that should quiet the naysayers — at least for now.
The clothes were wearable, but they also had attitude, beginning with pieces in Prince of Wales check, including a new, longer-length, double-breasted blazer, a baseball jacket with knit insets and skirts with flyaway pleats.
Pilati echoed the 1960s sentiment that's been blowing across the runways this season, with low-belted jumpers trimmed in perforated leather.
White evening looks with gold chain-link details, on the other hand, had the kind of born-in-Hollywood glamour that is timeless. A white halter gown with skinny gold-chain straps was stunningly sexy, and an oversize feather chubby, worn over white flared pants, was pure hedonistic fun.
Pilati also scored in the accessories department, showing boots and kiltie loafers with wedge soles for day and strappy gold sandals with wedge soles for evening. The ones studded with colored cabochon stones may just be the best runway shoes of the season.
At Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci steps up
Riccardo Tisci is another designer for whom the buzz is becoming deafening. In his six years at Givenchy, Tisci's ready-to-wear shows have been hit or miss. But he's been on an upward climb over the last year, thanks to two critically acclaimed couture collections and several impressive red carpet hits. (At the Academy Awards, Cate Blanchett's lilac Givenchy haute couture gown, with chartreuse beading at the shoulders, was among the most elegant and interesting looks of the night.)
Add to that a robust accessories business, with the "Nightingale" still holding onto "it" bag status, and you can see why Tisci is riding high.
His name was among those short-listed as a successor to Galliano at Dior. So, understandably, this collection was an important one.
He scaled back the number of guests and cleaned up the set, decorating the runway with romantic purple floral arches. And then, with a piercing roar over the sound system, out came his most commercial collection yet.
The runway was crawling with cats, as the black panther head on the invitation was incorporated into colorful, Baroque-looking jungle prints on dresses, pencil skirts, crystal-embroidered blouses with tidy collars and crew-neck pullovers with gold zipper details at the shoulders.
There were a lot of interesting layering effects, such as a short black pleated skirt worn over a longer, crystal-embroidered sheer pencil skirt. And the slimline black skirt suit with patent lapels on the jacket served as a reminder of the designer's tailoring skills.
But the real message of this collection was that Tisci is capable of producing a bonanza of saleable merchandise — sweaters with gold-chain intarsia designs, black velvet baseball jackets, high-cut black pumps with gold metal ankle bracelets.
Caps with cat ears and sunglasses with panther motifs added a touch of whimsy that isn't always part of the designer's output.
Chanel hits the mean streets
Karl Lagerfeld went from his spring-summer show's manicured gardens last year to the mean streets, steaming asphalt and all.
With the Cure's "The Forest" on the soundtrack, Stella Tennant set the tone for the glam grunge collection, opening the show in a terrific-looking salt 'n' pepper boucle cape over a red cardigan, black silk crepe leggings and biker boots.
The silhouette was relaxed, schlumpy even, which meant loose-fitting jeans with houndstooth cuffs or distressed leggings, under Chanel's signature boxy houndstooth jackets or long, chunky knit cardigans.
Trousers were rolled up over low-heeled black satin pumps and worn with cropped cardigans over long blazers, for a cool layered look.
The new bag was a tougher version of the 2.55, sans quilting, and with a chunkier chain. And fans of Chanel cosmetics will be interested to know that the new nail polish shade for fall is a metallic gray called "Granite."
Haider Ackermann's moment
Haider Ackermann is the name on everyone's lips. The Colombian-born, Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts-educated designer, has been showing in Paris since 2002. But only recently has the buzz reached a roar.
He won the Swiss Textile Award and last year was invited to be the guest designer at Pitti W, the women's wear counterpart to the Pitti Uomo menswear fair in Florence.
In November, Ackermann got a stamp of approval from Karl Lagerfeld, who told an interviewer that Ackermann was the only designer he could imagine succeeding him at Chanel.
And in Paris, Ackermann was considered to be a top contender to head Dior, post-Galliano.
The collection represented draping at its most artful, using silks so richly colored and light-reflective they could have jumped out of a Renaissance painting. Not that this was the goddess-like draping of yore; instead it had a modern edge and a sexual charge.
The silhouette was long and languid, with oxblood, emerald green and midnight blue silk wrapping the figure with such fluidity that it looked as if the clothes were dripping off the body.
Floor-sweeping coats in black silk or white boucle came with cape backs, or trains, over long, narrow skirts.
Meanwhile, a green mohair sweater, wound around the body and slipping seductively off the shoulder, topped a burnished, brick-colored sequin skirt with cutouts baring flashes of skin.
Next, he managed to bring a new level of elegance to pants. Boucle and stovepipe-thin, they were the foundation for asymmetrical, long-and-short drapey dresses and coats, cinched with extra-wide leather belts. And indeed, there was a whiff of Chanel to the look — Chanel in 10 years perhaps.
Other pants were full-cut and jewel-toned, one pair in deep green under a liquidy burgundy silk top with a halter neck and a scarfy end left trailing.
All of the models had conical 'dos, with a single reed-thin strip of hair hanging down the back, bringing an otherworldy quality to Ackermann's beauties.