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Only a day into the Paris shows, and the message is clear. Underwear is the big theme of the season. In fact, it’s been there all along; from the first show in New York, Givenchy, where deconstructed tuxedos were dressed up in lingerie silks and antique laces, to the Jean Harlow-homage slips at Calvin Klein, all strung up in fetish chains and tiny lockets with the word “sex” inside. It was there in the louche pyjama suits at Tommy Hilfiger, DVF and Alexander Wang, and in the belladonna basques at Dolce and Gabbana. It’s skirt suits versus skivvies next season as womenswear keeps one foot in the boardroom — and the other in the bedroom.
However alluring it might be, lingerie doesn’t make for the most progressive of wardrobes, and the feminist in me has rather rankled at the sight of so much nightwear as outerwear. I suppose one could argue it’s a reflection of the modern world, where so many women work at home they simply don’t have to get dressed any more. But I do wonder how all this lingerie lace and gauzy sheerness will work for those of us who do occasionally like to leave the boudoir?
At least at Dries Van Noten, the Belgian designer offered his 1940s-style slips, tulle baby-doll dresses and Schiaparelli pink bra-tops with a power shoulder and a pair of finely tailored strides.
“Flamboyant, bold, impulsive, vivacious, observant, infatuated, jubilant, kinky, fearless, flirtatious,” read the show notes. His SS16 collection was a vivid kaleidoscope of jewel-coloured jacquards, mannish jackets, dresses and luxurious three-quarter-length skirts. There was a mix of masculine and feminine shapes: a slouchy pair of pleat-front jeans with a Prince of Wales-check coat followed a whispery pink print slip hemmed in canary yellow tulle, and solid silhouettes were feminised with exaggerated bows and asymmetric ruffles. If there was flirtation here, it had a sense of post-war propriety about it: the bra tops were worn over tattoo-print sleeves of colour, shirts were buttoned up and fastened with a jewel at the neck. Fearless and flamboyant maybe — but it wasn’t flaunty.
All was adorned with a Mohawk motif: like a badge of flair, it was woven as a golden brocade on an emerald skirt, printed in pink on a grey skirt, sequinned on to shirt fronts and sweats, like heraldry, and stitched into flame-red epaulets on jacket shoulders.
The models walked slowly but assuredly to the urgent squeaky strumming of the Balanescu Quartet (who performed live in the centre of the show space). With their hair set in a 1940s quiff, cat-eye sunglasses and long tattoo sleeves, they looked like Technicolor Land Girls cast in the saturated tones of Oz. No ruby slippers here though — just some rather lethal wedges in shocking pink and brocade.
For more reports from the shows, go to our fashion weeks page on FT.com