Paris Fashion Week Spring 2014 Take aways: Pleats and painterly palettes

PARIS — Step-dancing hijinks, jungles of flowers and enough art world inspiration to fill a Chanel-branded gallery.

The spring 2014 collections shown at Paris Fashion Week this fall were entertaining, to say the least.

And between philosophical discussions about how best to reinvent old brands for the 21st century, whether what’s on the runway should be transporting or merely commercial, and what is going to happen to Louis Vuitton now that artistic director Marc Jacobs has left (Nicolas Ghesquière, late of Balenciaga, is poised to take the helm, rumors say), several trends emerged.

Pleats, please. Issey Miyake, founder of the 1990s-era Pleats Please label, was the unlikely muse of the fashion season. Pleats of every fold — micro, sunray, box and knife — were all over the runways. Chloe’s Clare Waight Keller’s take on the trend was boho, with a knockout pleated white silk cloque dress, knotted over the arms, and khaki micro-pleated silk pants with loose ankle ties. At Lanvin, Alber Elbaz’s metallic Lurex pleated dresses were candy wrapper glam, so exceptionally folded and sculpted they had a corrugated quality. And at Celine, Phoebe Philo showed pleats as part of a key new silhouette, layering long-line graffiti swirl tunics over pleated skirts in brushstroke or microstripe prints.


Bold strokes. With graffiti swirls at Celine, Picasso-inspired primitivism at Alexander McQueen and Henri Rousseau-worthy tropical blooms at Hermes, the runways were an infinite canvas for painterly inspiration. But at Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld took it to another level, creating his own art gallery for a set filled with contemporary-looking works celebrating the design codes of the French fashion house. On the runway were muticolored tweeds, airbrushed handbags and rainbow-hued, paint-stroke dresses.

Cool blue. If there was one color that rose to the top, it was blue. Blue lace dresses at Stella McCartney, macrame versions at Chloe and the most gorgeous strapless, duchesse satin cocktail dress at Nina Ricci in “Bleu de Sevres,” after the famous French porcelain.

Ethnic mashup. The look was Tokyo Pocahontas at Junya Watanabe, with shredded, braided and fringed draped jersey tops, dresses, ponchos and blue jeans crackling with the DIY energy of the street. At Dries Van Noten, gilded Spanish ruffles mixed with French tulip prints and Byzantine star necklaces. And at Valentino, tapestry jackets mingled with embroidered lace evening dresses, suede fringe capes and ornamental sandals on what the design house described as “a journey amid elements borrowed from imaginary ethnic groups.” The message? It’s all in the mix.

Boyfriend shirts. Alexander Wang introduced them as part of his repertoire at Balenciaga last season, and he showed them again for spring. Crisp white cotton poplin shirts with capelet backs or volume through the sleeves were worn with bare legs on the Balenciaga runway, though one imagines, in real life, pants would be a good idea. Almost hidden in the florabundance at Dior was a pair of incredibly constructed, pale blue shirt dresses, one scooped out at the shoulders, with a twist-bodice and asymmetrical hem. And on the street, forward-looking editors were already wearing white button-downs tucked into ladylike full skirts for a look that was very Audrey Hepburn.

Good sport. Athleticwear was also seen on the runways and off, where editors were pairing Nike running shoes with skirts and dresses in a throwback to the days of “Working Girl.” Alexander Wang spun sportiness into Balenciaga’s architectural heritage, showing hand-braided leather mini skirts, moto-jackets and haute dolphin shorts. At Kenzo and Sacai, performance materials such as Neoprene and nylon mesh were incorporated into tailored pieces. Rick Owens’ collection was really made to move, with plenty of zippers, laces and slits. And it was modeled by step dancers recruited from all over the U.S. All body types and sizes took to the runway dancing, clapping, stomping and scowling for the cameras in a high-octane celebration of real beauty.