What with the hoo-ha surrounding Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond’s salary, and what Galleon Group co-founder Raj Rajaratnam did or did not know when he made certain trades, it’s little wonder the concept of transparency is concerning ateliers, too. From the high-minded questioning of Comme des Garçons to the YouTube kitsch of Mugler, it has appeared in almost every permutation imaginable. Sheer tops? Check. Skirts? Check. Trousers? Check. There’s nothing left to hide – though whether or not that equates to something worth buying is another matter. Spanx, prepare for an autumn windfall.
Yes, this is about drama, but we’re not talking Batman and Superman here, you understand, even though a new film of the latter is about to appear (which will surely get the pop culture world buzzing, and may lead to a costume renaissance). Rather, fashion has its own caped heroines, and they are elegant instead of athletic, soigné instead of steroid-sculpted, but entrance-making either way. After all, nothing makes a better visual statement than the breadth and sweep of a cape; just ask the Bat. Granted, it can complicate things with a shoulder bag, but given most of these cloaks are evening numbers we recommend a clutch in any case.
Graphic black and white
When life is steeped in shades of grey – and between the warring imperatives of revolution and oil, we are deep in these – isn’t it nice to think some things, at least, can be as clean, simple and easy to navigate as black and white? Whether it’s a print to add interest to a garment, a geometric patchwork or a simple one-two punch, the alpha and omega of the colour spectrum (the absence of any, and amalgamation of all, shades), was a theme on the Paris runways, proving that in fashion, if not in life, clarity is something you can wear as well as wish for.
Trompe l’oeil: designers play with perception
After his Balenciaga show, back at the beginning of Paris Fashion Week, designer Nicolas Ghesquière said he was interested in exploring “perspectives”, and the way a garment or fabric can seem different depending on the context in which it is used.
Turned out he wasn’t the only one. The biggest trend off-piste this week, whether at ready-to-wear presentations or accessory lines, has been games of perception, and the results have been win-win for everyone involved.
In her debut cashmere line, for example, ex-model Claudia Schiffer showed (along with thick cardigans and easy polo neck dresses) a terrific oversize lumberjacket shirt – in cashmere, natch – that doubled as a dress, and was a smart and enticing rethink of a weekend staple. Ditto the cable cashmere sweaters and scarves at Lucien Pellat-Finet, where the “cable” part was actually a trompe l’oeil silk screen because, he said, “sometimes you don’t want the thickness of the knit”, but you do want the style, as well as his “pilled” four-ply numbers; thick cashmere treated to resemble “your 20-year-old favourite sweater”.
Then there was the “tuxedo pea coat” at Azzaro by Vanessa Seward, which gave the evening classic a casual spin, and the macramé organza dresses at Vionnet, where designer Rodolfo Paglialunga gave a funky edge to bon chic bon genre daywear. And so it went.
At Roger Vivier, for example, Bruno Frisoni took his signature day bag, the “Miss Viv” (aka the one carried by Carla Bruni), and remade it in matte cracked leather with studs. Suddenly it became less jolie madame, more club-hopping cool, as did the elbow-length gloves that, when studded, looked less like they were going to the opera, and more like they could go – well, anywhere.
Indeed, the possibilities of gloves were something of a theme, appearing also at Tom Binns, who hand-sewed his black leather numbers (as well as belts) with silver chains and pierced them with safety pins, and Marie-Hélène de Taillac, who had the famous French embroidery house Lesage create trompe l’oeil versions of her rings and bracelets on long cashmere gloves, complete with moving charms on the bracelets.
Trompe l’oeil also played a part at Longchamp, where a collection partly inspired by the wild west included patchwork cowskin trolley bags and totes that turned out not to be patchwork at all but water-resistant, travel-friendly nylon.
“Simply rethinking the normal way of doing things makes people rethink what they see,” noted Victoire de Castellane at the presentation of her extraordinary “jewel sculptures” at Gagosian – the first time jewellery had ever been presented in a modern art gallery. Composed of rings, bracelets and necklaces in enamel and precious stones made in the forms of fantastical flowers, the pieces came with their own rock crystal boxes/ pedestals, and prompted the question: why do we all assume jewels need to be kept hidden in a safe?
“You know,” said de Castellane, “the first thing people say when they come in and see what we are proposing is: ‘but I could never leave my jewellery out!’ And then you can see them suddenly stop and think: ‘but why not?’” Why not, indeed.
In a final note about trends: it seems shoes, which reached more and more insane heights over the last few seasons, are finally coming down to earth. From Lanvin to Chanel and even Balenciaga, wild wedges were out, and flats – or at most, kitten heels and court shoes – were in.