Trends from Paris fashion week

Image of Vanessa Friedman

Mel Gibson as Mad Max in the post-nuclear desert had nothing on the women of today – or next autumn/winter, to be accurate. The premise being that given there’s so much talk of an urban jungle, we might as well start dressing for it. And what better way than in trompe l’oeil armour, cut on a knife-edge, complete with dangerous-looking curves, right angles and fabric so tough that it looks like a protective casing? If life is a battlefield, these are the clothes in which to fight your corner. And it needn’t get violent: you just might overpower someone with elegance.

Sir Isaac Newton said it best: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, while some clothes are toughening up dramatically the fashion industry still needs to sustain its optionality; hence the proliferation on the Paris catwalks of people-as-posies, with enough flowers, frou-frou, chiffon, lace and three-dimensional blooms to put a springtime garden party to shame. It appears that sometimes nature, and designers, work in non-mysterious, but very pretty, ways. Not that it’s too surprising: Mother Nature loves diversity.

This season, the single most ubiquitous piece on runways from New York to Paris has been the camel overcoat. How’s that for a designer mind-meld? Overcoats in general are the item of choice to keep the winter chill out, and the more men’s wear-inspired they are, the better. Less a reaction to the anti-fur brigade outside Jean-Paul Gaultier’s show (there was more than enough fur elsewhere, see panel), the outerwear was an acknowledgement that it’s the layers beneath, as opposed to decoration on top, that counts. These coats are made for the cold.

Furry heels and satin ‘foot gloves’

The most absurd moment of the season may have belonged to Chanel, where designer Karl Lagerfeld imported 200 tons of Swedish iceberg to Paris on a truck to use as a melting backdrop to his show, only to reimport it the next day – because, well, he could? To make some sort of super-costly statement about global warming?

This was given a run for its money by a trend that appeared on runways from Céline to Yves Saint Laurent: furry shoes. I mean this literally.

The boots and pumps at YSL had ridges of fur running down the heels; at Céline, there were decorative tufts on the top; and there was more at Lanvin and Pierre Hardy, while Chanel went all the way with yeti boots, albeit in fake fur. It wasn’t such a good look, but it was happily off-set by the return of the kitten heel as seen at Valentino, Stella McCartney and Roger Vivier, where designer Bruno Frisoni predicted a general return to the more lady-like, less extreme shoe.

It makes sense that in a season where a no-fuss approach to dressing ruled the runways, footwear also focused on function. Shoes you can walk in! What an idea!

It didn’t end there. In his own line, Frisoni has introduced “foot gloves”: little socks of stretch satin or leather to slip on and wear with a sandal in order to extend the life of a shoe. Meanwhile, jewellers Marie-Hélène de Taillac and Tom Binns showed similarly clever brand extensions, the first embroidering her trademark candy-coloured gem necklaces on to cashmere sweaters and scarves, the second silk-screening his tongue-in-chic twisted chains on to T-shirts.

Lucien Pellat-Finet decorated T-shirts with swirls of feathers (very Givenchy) or rhinestone skulls for seductively easy luxe, while, at Moncler, designer Giambattista Valli covered the insides of puffa jackets with white wool, thick black cable knits or sequins. What you saw – a glittering evening style, a chic car coat – was only the beginning of what you were going to get.

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