September 29, 2013 2:29 pm

Paris Fashion Week: Facing up to facts

Gaultier seems to be thinking about putting reality TV and disco together

Of course, it would be silly to insist every designer is thinking about climate change and the related need to address dichotomies and rework reality, even subconsciously. Some are, unquestionably, thinking about entirely different subjects. Which can be a positive, or not so positive, thing.

Jean-Paul Gaultier, for example, seemed to be thinking about reality television and disco and what would happen if you put them all together, and made Rossy de Palma, Spanish actress and Gaultier muse, a judge.

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Vanessa Friedman

What else to make of models in various Gaultier outfits, from zip-bedecked and flounced biker leathers to de-and-re-constructed trenchcoats/dresses/skirts, Breton stripes, fringes and sequinned flapper frocks, rockin’ it up (often very self-consciously) on the runway to soundtracks ranging from Grease to tango? Except this was a situation where the concept entirely swamped the clothes.

It’s too bad. Mr Gaultier is one of the master cutters of Paris and reality TV as a starting point could have been a rich vein for his imagination if he had really explored, say, the tension created by a situation where participants have to perform the Character Who Is Them, exaggerating different bits of their personality along the way.

Instead, he used it as a gimmick and took the easy way out – a charge that could never be made of Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, who has built an aesthetic empire by taking the hard route. This season was no different, as she said she “felt the only way to do something new was to try not to make clothes”. Really – she said that.

As it happens, at Sonia Rykiel, designer Geraldo da Conceicao also announced that his collection was “not clothes” but he then qualified his statement by continuing, “it’s pleasure and self-indulgence”. Which is to say: what he meant and what Ms Kawakubo meant were entirely different. At Rykiel, there were some nice elongated metallic tanks and pencil skirts, some culottes and swingy jackets. But at Comme des Garçons, there was exploration.

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Dressed up: Vanessa Friedman blogs on the fashion/luxury industry from both a corporate and consumer point of view

Of what? Of black storm cloudlike structures that enveloped the torso in different geometries (circular and trapezoidal), of a family of puffa wires curling round each other from the waist and suspended from the shoulders; an explosive burst of bright pink floral ruffles with a teddy bear hanging forlornly from the front; Puffa cages restraining quasi-Victorian frocks; and one creation that looked like an astronaut’s helmet from waist to thighs, out of which a skirt was attempting to escape.

Like a Rorschach blot you could make of it what you will. Which is, in the end, what all of us do with fashion anyway when it’s off the runway: interpret it for ourselves. Ms Kawakubo was simply making us face the facts.

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