Paris Fashion Week: Day four and five
10 a.m. – Team Kenzo has left quilted throws and little plastic bags of handwarmers for each of us on our seats. The venue isn’t heated, so this is a good thing. It’s also a testament to how cool Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are that everyone in the audience is wearing their freebies. Celebrities, editors, stylists and buyers rarely indulge in the swag gifted at shows because they receive enough in their regular working life, plus no one wants to be that girl dragging a gift bag from show to show.
10:20am – The press notes explain that Humberto and Carol went to ancient temples in India, Nepal and China to find inspiration for their new collection. That trip yielded a new batch of graphic separates worth coveting. For the past two or three seasons, we’ve been experiencing a moment, in which the statement print is a thing. The graphic is coveted as much as the item of clothing or accessory itself. Designers such as Miuccia Prada started this phenomenon years ago (remember when you just had to have that lipstick print?), but Kenzo is taking it up a notch. The new collection is teeming with pieces that are destined for ubiquity next season and I can guess which ones will be the next street style stars: a shearling leather bomber and matching skirt covered in all-seeing eyes, a boxy coat done in shimmery lurex and a blazer covered in swirly embroidery, are high on the list.
I knew that Joan Smalls would be taking a break from most of the runway season, but I didn’t know that just about all of the other black models would be taking a break right along with her. The autumn/winter 13 shows are the whitest I’ve seen in a few years. The homogeneity on the catwalk is especially disappointing after several seasons in which diversity on the runway was experiencing an upswing. I especially appreciate Vivienne Westwood‘s multicultural lineup of models, which is doing a much better job at reflecting the world that exists outside the bubble of Paris Fashion Week than any of the other shows I’ve seen so far. As far as the clothes, she’s mixed in a lot of Westwoodisms — the obligatory environmental theme (this go ’round it’s “Save the Arctic”), distinctly British references (medieval England meets the Scottish Highlands)— with her familiar silhouettes (the slashed, drapey dresses and the voluminous and the gathered frocks, for instance.) She’s not breaking any new ground here, but I’m betting her loyalists won’t mind.
8:30 p.m. – Outside the Yohji Yamamoto show, skater boys are shredding in the biggest bowl I’ve ever seen. But inside, a different picture of street youth is unfolding. As I watch Yohji’s dizzying array of mini-collections walk down the runway, I wonder if this is what it feels like to people-watch in Tokyo. The gothic Lolitas in intricately cut origami dresses, the arty hipsters in voluminous asymmetrical black coats and separates, the romantics in their softly twisted and tied pale blue frocks — each group is completely different and yet they are all linked by Yamamoto’s jaw-dropping workmanship.
8:20pm – The Lanvin show is running about 20 minutes late, but no one seems to notice because handsome waiters are walking around offering popcorn and champagne on cigarette trays. The snacks are fuelling the happy mood thanks to a blood sugar boost. The day began with a better than expected debut from Alexander Wang at Balenciaga and is ending with Alber Elbaz, who is always a favorite of the week. So the general mood in the room is smiley and high. -KH
8:29pm – The first model out is wearing a chunky gold layered necklace that reads “happy” in big script lettering. Sensing a theme here? She’s dressed in a black cocktail dress with tiered ruffles; its sweetness grounded by asymmetry and raw edges. It’s the first in a series of beautifully crafted nighttime looks: a simple, full-skirted, strapless dress worn over a stocking bodysuit, a chic bustier number embellished with dragonflies, a skirt and blouse combo covered in the lightest mille-feuille, the list goes on. They’re all underscored by those iced out necklaces, which are now coming down the runway in other feel-good words such as “love” and “cool.” Another is shaped as a heart with the word, “you” written inside. It’s almost as if Alber is projecting the feelings his gorgeous clothes are conjuring from the audience. The lust in the air is palpable. Across from me, an important stylist is beaming at the sight of a deep red jacket with dip dyed fur sleeves. And the woman sitting to my right in the second row drops the poker face and starts gushing as a satin dress, embellished with butterflies, floats past us. From my view in the second row, I can make out a single tear falling down the cheek of the last model out, dressed in nude, gathered satin. And she pretty much sums up the experience. The clothes are beautiful, fantastical and emotive. It’s fashion as escapism, the kind that makes you happy. -KH
5:45pm – The Vanessa Bruno is 15 minutes behind schedule and I’m not seated near anyone I know. So I spend the time people-watching. Street style star and fashion editor Giovanna Battaglia is sitting across from me wearing one of those dramatically full, floral coats from the Rochas show — which happened just two days ago. Does that count as fast fashion?
6pm – Vanessa Bruno’s show is a solid half hour late, which means that I’ll be late getting to everything else on my schedule for the night. Factor in Friday night traffic and the fact that the runway venues are all in completely different neighborhoods and you see the predicament I’m in. Oh well, I try not to think about it as the show finally starts and get lost in the clothes instead. Paris is a week of big, directional, and often challenging fashion statements with a capital F. But this collection is made up of just really, well-made, wearable clothing — no bells, no whistles. Her Annie Hall-style pinstripe suits are the biggest standouts. They’re notable because they’re so timeless. Granted, mannish tailoring is definitely on the list of trends for fall. But the cut of Vanessa’s suits will look just as fresh two or three years from now. I’m also struck by the sight of so many tiny little, leggy dresses, which close the show. I simply haven’t seen many this month, which has so far been the season of the knee-length skirt.
6:45pm — Blast! There’s a gang of us running breathlessly into Maison Martin Margiela, which is already packed. Arriving late to a show feels a bit like schlepping in tardy to school. You have to do the walk of shame past all of the others — in this case, top editors, major stylists and Frank Ocean! — who got there on time. Someone has taken my seat front row and I don’t have the energy to challenge squatter’s rights so I grab a spot by the photographer’s pit just as the music starts. “The show’s about to start,” a French clipboard hisses at me. And I’m tempted to wave my Vanessa Bruno invitation like a late pass. But I digress. The clothes! Tuxedo stripes, which I’ve noticed a lot of this season, get a Margiela twist here as giant, painterly brushstrokes down the legs. The graphic also appears as decoration on oversized cuffs, which get bigger and bigger and, still bigger on shirts and coats as the show goes on. The biggest takeaway from this is that the sleeve is definitely a key focal point for fall; Prada’s decadently furry cuffs from Milan come to mind. I’m betting we can all expect to see these Margiela shirts in magazine stories proclaiming the arrival of “Statement Sleeves!” six months from now.
7:30pm — The Sonia Rykiel show hasn’t even started yet and it’s immediately clear that the house is beginning a new chapter. For one, the party atmosphere is gone. Instead, the room is dark with moody lighting and dramatic background music. The clothes are noticeably different too. The new creative director, Geraldo Da Conceiçao, worked for Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford and Stefano Pilati before becoming design director of Miu Miu and eventually landing here. His background is apparent in the edgier, sexier tone of the show. The giddy, smiley, dancing girls who usually vamp it up in Rykiel’s shows have been replaced by serious, untouchable vamps who storm the runway in dresses with strategically placed triangles over their lady parts and jumpers with transparent patches that reveal bare breasts. The change is frankly jarring and seems out of sync with Rykiel’s cheery spirit. Also new: all the animal skin (Geraldo gets high marks in creativity for the leather slip dress and fur cardigan), which is a departure for the knitwear brand. Not that he’s completely abandoned the codes of the house. A series of double-breasted, knit trouser suits have that familiar Rykiel joie de vivre that the house’s longtime fans will love.