There are two warring design crowds in Paris this weekend and they’ve got the Champs-Elysées in a logjam. On one side are the fashion folk, who have been here since Wednesday; on the other are the car crowd, who descend on the city today for the Paris Motor Show.
Both are in search of great design moments that will elevate their profession and justify the trip (and give them hope for future consumption patterns). While it’s unclear yet how the car people will do, the fashion people spent day three largely idling.
Aside from Hussein Chalayan – who zoomed forth with a streamlined collection of sportswear that had the elegant lines of couture (think the simplest sheath dresses veiled by a tabard of chiffon, culottes with languid jackets, and one perfect little black dress sliced under the arms like a warm-up jacket) – they weren’t stalled but they weren’t exactly speeding onward either.
At Nina Ricci, for example, Peter Copping quoted Baudelaire’s “On a Woman’s Airs”, which equates beauty and charm with “detachment . . . boredom . . . condescension . . . malevolence . . . nonchalance and mockery”, and then sent out a collection of his trademark lingerie-inspired pieces pulled askew, undone and otherwise, well, treated as the poet described.
Silk crêpe jackets were finished in mini zips, teeth out, over sheer tops and asymmetric skirts; leather trousers were fronted by a drape of rough-edged chiffon; fringe hung like hair off silk slips; and a sheer polka dot chiffon gown was backed
As a departure from the frou-frou norm it was interesting – the mess of the morning after as opposed to primping for the night before – but ultimately it lacked the conviction of its own naughtiness; you got the feeling these girls snuck out in the wee hours of the morning not to avoid questions about what they’d done but what they had perhaps been too nervous to do.
And so it went. At Rick Owens, a lyrical opening of strapless bubble dresses over long chiffon underskirts that wrenched couture into the contemporary was followed by a familiar series of elongated oily silhouettes with trekky shoulders and racing stripes. That was in turn followed by elegant fluted skirts undulating with ostrich feathers under supple leather shells sprinkled with tiny knots, and then an oddly shapeless series of lamé gowns.
At Roland Mouret, the signature hourglass was formed via futuristic origami folds and transported into new territory with cool silk numbers that had been muddied and treated to resemble the most pliable leather, while jackets came with sharp padded shoulders (increasingly a trend of the season) before it all took an unfortunate detour into tricksiness with external pockets on the hips and odd, playboy-bunny-like cut-out collars on bare-shouldered shirting.
Even at Lanvin, Alber Elbaz seemed to veer between looks that screamed, “Go big or go home”, and ones that were in-your-face with their simplicity.
So blouson leather trousers met bathing suit tops in all sorts of cutaway configurations; blown-up tuxedo proportions had an asymmetric, Japanese edge; crystals crept over the shoulders and then exploded on a bling-blinding trouser suit – and then, while your eyes were still blinking from the refracted light, out came a one-shouldered foam-coloured jersey dress, the skirt simply ruched across the body, and a group of cocktail dresses in contrasting jewel shades.
It was a little restrained and a little over-the-top, and, as a result, ended up somewhere in the middle, unlike Balmain, where Olivier Rousteing veered entirely off the edge and landed in a retro 1990s morass of giant shoulders; bumblebee-toned prints that looked very old Versace; and stiff crystal-bedecked minidresses that seemed as if they had been woven from basketry fibres.
This made for a change, no question, from the punk-luxe tailoring that has become associated with the brand. Rousteing has been trying to ease up on the schtick for the past few seasons, generally successfully, but this was a more dramatic move in a different direction. If you’re going to switch gears, you need to be fully in control of your vehicle. Rousteing might want to pop over to the other big trade show, and take a driving lesson.