Fashion’s eternal magic

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The day after one English newspaper fashion editor sawed another into tiny pieces, and the editor of French Elle got squashed and stretched, and the creative director of American Vogue was made to disappear (this is all true), Paris fashion week came to an end. Well, that would do it, wouldn’t it?

The media illusions had come courtesy of Jean-Paul Gaultier and his 30th anniversary fete and had been inspired, he said, by the fact that “fashion is magic”. Presumably he was speaking of its transformative ability – the power of a dress or suit suddenly to make you feel more desirable or powerful or confident, and thus change the way you interact with the world – but, truth be told, over the past week such alchemy had been in short supply.

And then came Lanvin.

Short, faded cotton sheaths with a fan of pleats appliquéd on the front and a slash of primary colour at the throat; liquid geometric shifts; washed silk shirtdresses with sportswear snaps; parachute silk sacks with face-framing cowl necks; draped silk jersey goddess gowns with open arms and belts that disappeared inside. These were clothes for a tough, modern woman: easy, elegant and no-nonsense. Abracadabra.

But in case you weren’t that kind of woman – say you were a softer, more romantic, less 21st-century than love-child type – there was Louis Vuitton, where Marc Jacobs produced one of the gentlest, prettiest collections in Paris. Against an LED backdrop with clouds roiling and churning as the sun rose and set came deceptively simple draped lace and cotton skirts, dresses and suits, sometimes with the quirk of a corset lacing up the back, often set on clouds of billowing silk or hills of tiny pleats. Jacobs is famously good friends with Sofia Coppola, who spent most of last year filming her Marie Antoinette in Paris, and you could see the relationship in his clothes.

Not that they were historical, however: part of their allure was their ability to blend the suddenly ubiquitous 1980s sportswear pieces such as anoraks (here in mattress ticking with slashes of shiny plastic) and baggy silk shorts with decor-ative details, from silk roses to lace jabots. And they never obscured the accessories: double headbands garnished in flowers; giant bags of quilted Vuitton symbols with ivory chains and plaited leather handles, or the monogram leather over-appliquéd with gold lace; necklaces of floral baubles; cloudlike sequined scarves. Even if you only want to buy into part of the image, it won’t be a problem. Hey presto.

Finally there was Miu Miu, where Miuccia Prada’s intellectual imagination took flight. Colour-blocked shirts and jackets that married the tiniest of Peter Pan collars to petal-pleated skirts, batik sheaths and skinny, high-waisted trousers had the luxury of scholarly kitsch plus the chic of old French Bohemia, all under a lavish veneer of jewel-toned duchesse satin. The company has been trying to elevate Miu Miu beyond diffusion line status to a brand equivalent to the mother ship, Prada, and with this collection it has at last come into its own (indeed, in some ways the Prada show in Milan now seems like a developmental pit-stop on the way to Miu Miu). You could say that was magic, of a kind.

It certainly will be when this afternoon the hordes of editors and buyers who have overrun the fashion cities over the past month at last slide into their aircraft and trains and disappear – poof – in a cloud of smoke.
Shazzam.

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