They’ve been sweating the small stuff in Paris. When the world at large lurches from one extreme to another, you focus on what you can control. On the catwalks, designers displayed an obsession with classic couture detailing, be it fluted sleeves, peplums, the curving back of a sac shape or the generous tent of the trapeze. Off the catwalks, however, this took another form: surface technique. Which is not the same thing as superficial.
At Roger Vivier, for example, creative director Bruno Frisoni discovered a way to brush leather so it took on the patina of bronze. This gave his classic Belle du Jour and Belle du Nuit shoes and clutches the look of having been preserved, like the brand’s first baby shoes, for history – except you can wear them. And lest you think this elevation of the ordinary to the extraordinary too self-important, he counter-balanced the weight with a crazy colourful mix of silks in jungle prints, stripes and spots, occasionally with a bejewelled monkey on the top for fun.
Indeed, the ability to use invention to take the stuffing out of a style is one of the hallmarks of the season – whether it’s Tom Binns’ “fluorescent collection”, his trademark tangles of rhinestones, pearls and other faux gemstones painted over in primary colours of fluorescent acrylic so they glow under blue light, or Marie-Helene de Taillac’s “revolver” ring: an ingenious two-in-one number that flips between a pink or green tourmaline via two gold bands.
Then there are Lucien Pellat-Finet’s white T-shirts embroidered at the neckline in American Indian beaded necklaces or folk art prints à la peasant blouse, designer Devi Kroell’s bristling porcupine of an evening bag-cum-bracelet for her Dax Gabler line, and Delfina Delettrez’s “ring bag” (a metal jewel of a handbag hung from a small gold chain that attaches to a ring).
Meanwhile, Longchamp has managed to mimic saddle leather in bags treated to display the aged, worn-in patina of said material, only without the cracks or necessity for time invested. They, like the Vivier shoes, are all trompe l’oeil, making you look once – and again.
Even Christian Dior is getting in on the act, having embarked on the fashion house’s first-ever collaboration with an artist: German Anselm Reyle. The result is a limited-edition collection for which he has remade totes and the classic, very BCBG (bon chic, bon genre) Miss Dior bag in neon camouflage prints or metallic gold. Reyle has also brightened up necklaces and resin bangles, and supercharged Dior’s make-up palette.
None of this is easy, of course. Claudia Schiffer, discussing the problem of doing a cashmere collection for spring/summer, noted that to achieve the cotton/silk mix that creates lightness in a sweater, it took approximately 10 sampling combinations. But the end result looks effortless, in an insider, know-what-you-are-doing-and-what-you-are-wearing kind of way. Even at the end of a very big week, little things, it seems, still mean a lot.