Fashion Week forgoes luxury in favour of classic

Christophe Ena/The Associated PRess


Models wear creations by U.S. fashion designer Marc Jacobs for the Louis Vuitton fashion house in Paris —a collection some are calling watered down.

Paris Fashion Week capped a ready-to-wear season overshadowed by fears of a U.S. recession that led many designers to shun ostentatious luxury in favour of a more timeless elegance.

Marc Jacobs, considered by some to be the most influential designer on the planet, has come in for a lot of flak lately — for starting his shows late, for referencing other designers, even for losing weight and getting a tan.

His show for Louis Vuitton on Sunday, the last day of fashion week, marked a turn. The invitation went out on grey recycled card, the set was stark white and the show started just 15 minutes late — a record of near-punctuality in Paris.

The problem was that the clothes, too, seemed watered down. The painterly shades of past seasons were replaced by a washed-out palette of icy blue, almond green and pale yellow.

“What I try to do is play as a New Yorker who loves Paris,” Jacobs said. “To me, this was a vision of what I thought French fashion shows used to be like, you know, very perfect, girls looking amazing, every outfit a shape.”

That translated into tulip skirts with finned seams running along the hips, or boxy pleated pants tapered and cropped above the ankle — hard shapes for most people to carry off.

Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal praised Jacobs for going against expectations.

“Although he’s the designer for this huge, huge label, and it’s a huge corporation, it almost feels like there’s something kind of subversive happening because he’s there,” she said.

Designers have responded in different ways to the economic turmoil and weak U.S. dollar that have caused North American retailers to tighten their purse strings this season.

Cedric Charbit, general merchandise manager at French department store Printemps, said some labels had ramped up the luxury while others were going down-market — and a few finding the right balance.

Alber Elbaz balanced creativity with commercial savvy in his Lanvin show, which focused on little black dresses of the oh-so-chic Parisian kind.

There was a cropped version of the black satin one-sleeved dress that Tilda Swinton wore to the Oscars, while a trim black shift featured a strip of fabric running along the spine.

Latest From ...