The highlights of Saturday, the fifth full day of fashion week here, included one designer enthusiastically tapping into the glitter and glory of the disco era, and two others who just seemed to be having fun on the runway – practical, wearable clothes be damned.
In the first category was Elie Saab's "Standing on Stardust" spring/summer 2017 collection, that filled the tented runway space in the Tuileries with a constellation of star prints, star appliqués, star embroideries and the occasional star-shaped cutout on caped cocktail dresses, on tops paired with gold lamé tuxedos or layered under fringed leather vests worn with generously flared trousers (a trend seemingly everywhere during this round of shows – and one of the big trend take-aways out of last month's New York Fashion Week).
Accessorizing some of the looks were high-end, trucker-style caps -- some covered in gold glitter and others in star-shaped appliqués – and eye-catching sunglasses with glittery frames and cheery, yellow-tinted lenses that marked the label's debut eyewear collection.
"Everything I know I learnt from women," Andreas Kronthaler writes in the show notes accompanying his spring/summer Vivienne Westwood collection; citing the inspiration of everyone from a stylist (Sabina) to the goddess Europa to his wife (he's married to the label's namesake founder). It was one of many collections this week that referenced powerful women, though in this case it wouldn't have been all that obvious without the explanation. The most wearable pieces in the collection had a Mediterranean beach bum vibe to them – bikini bottoms playing peek-a-boo out of the back flap of a zip-front jumpsuit, floral print swimsuits and cover-ups, drawstring-waist trousers, some looks accessorized with immense straw hats that could easily have been cribbed from the wardrobe department on "Gilligan's Island."
The collection also had its share of wholly impractical, over-the-top pieces. One outfit was indistinguishable from a pile of straw, another used yards of colorful metallic fabric and a frame to make a model look as if she were performing a boxed-in puppet show of one as she came down the catwalk. One men's look (there were a handful in the show) consisted of nothing more than a cape that draped over one shoulder, slung across the opposite hip and ended at the groin with a drawstring pouch barely big enough to keep the wearer's dignity intact. (Maybe we're reading too much into it, but the snog-smeared lipstick on the face of the cape-pouched beefcake felt like a bit of long-overdue gender equality.)
Comme des Garçons
The Comme des Garçons show, which closed out the day, seemed to abandon the notion of wearability or practicality altogether, designer Rei Kawakubo choosing to fell the catwalk with over-the-top exercises in shape and size, some of which were so voluminous that models were forced to turn sideways to pass each other on the runway. A round, quilted disc of black fabric with a white Peter Pan collar made one model look like a grade-schooler's drawing of a turkey dressed as pilgrim. Another look consisted of a huge rectangle of red plaid fabric that jutted so far past each shoulder it immediately called to mind the famous 1976 "Gone With the Wind" curtain-rod dress from "The Carol Burnett Show." Another resembled, from the right angle, a bedroom slipper with legs.
Some of the outsize pieces seemed to have a half-dozen padded shoulders apiece – but lacked any discernible armholes. Other pieces had sleeveless arms buried up to the elbow in deep pleats that circled the body like a barrel.
After the show, reps for the designer released the following show notes (included here in their entirety): "'Invisible Clothes' – This is the purest and most extreme version of Comme des Garçons."
Sure, the clothes that came down the catwalk at Comme des Garcons are easy to laugh at and hard to understand. And while we're not sure we totally get what the designer's up to with her extremely visible "invisible clothes," we left the show thinking about something Rick Owens (who showed a gorgeous collection of his own here a few days back) told us a few years ago about the disconnect between the runway and retail. He called runway shows – and the most over-the-top looks showcased therein – a kind of "magic dust" that helps generate buzz and interest in a label's more wearable wares.
If that's what was going on at the Comme des Garçons show, the magic dust wasn't so much sprinkled as trucked in and dumped on the runway, making for one of the most memorable shows of the season bar none.
For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me @ARTschorn.