Fashion month comes to a close in Paris
Fashion month has come to a close, and Paris did not disappoint. The grand finale of the month was just that – grand, full of surprises, first times, sweeping exits, and baby North West.
At Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquiére left no doubt that he was qualified. Shown in the new Louis Vuitton Foundation (designed by Frank Gehry), the show was called by some the best of the week. It started off simply enough: a girl in a white woven mini-dress with a high collar and long sleeves, black ribbon tied at the neck. Then add blazers, then striped skirts in eel skin, all in the same A-line, ‘70s shape. There were also flared trousers, and the stripes moved from skirts to boxy jackets to dresses that looked laminated. Little quirky touches popped up, like prints of cars, salt shakers, and pencils on flared white jeans and dresses, but there was some simple elegance in woven white hippie dresses and prep school blazers.
Edgier looks appeared, too, in the form of biker jackets with a pair of velvet trousers and bra combo, or more subtly, in the high center slit of a below-the-knee black skirt. There were more prints and velvet, more flares and A-line shapes, and by the end of it you couldn’t deny the ‘70s influence and ease. The collection was for genuinely cool girls, the ones that pick out what they want to wear and don’t waste time mulling over their decision. The designs’ casualness is exactly what makes them so sophisticated.
Continuing with the trend of effortless-is-cool, Valentino’s show was all about beauty and adventure, taking its cue from the “Grand Tour,” an 18th century tradition where European youths would embark on a journey to explore the culture of Italy. It was femininity at its best. At first, it was muted prints on eyelet dresses and skirts, boxy black blouses and big-collared coats, flared jeans with eyelet lace coming down the leg, and little black dresses and crop tops. Then entered some color including pastels, primary colors, camels, in prints on round-shouldered coats and little A-line dresses. The dresses got longer and more daring with mixed prints and layered tiers, then shorter and more modern, with boxy layers and single open sleeves.
The prints were just the right amount of pretty, carried by just the right amount of punch. The series of dresses in a soft rainbow of pastels should have been garish, but the designers behind Valentino managed to make them delightful. The white eyelet pieces could be worn by anyone, and the detail that went into those patterns is astonishing. The ending bit, with long, flowing gowns with stamps of the sea, branches, or stars, with embroidered starfish, sparkle, and tulle, was simply exquisite, and exactly the kind of quality and craftsmanship one would expect from Valentino.
At the other end of the spectrum from these cool and romantic looks lies Comme des Garçons. Inspired by love, every piece was red. The first look was shreds of fabric creating an all-over fringe, stuck with big roses made from fabric. The hair was a notable, big, blonde, crazy wig for every model. Rather than being a romantic, literal approach to the subject at hand, this collection seems to delve into the darker side of love. Fabric used to make a kind of encaging vine around the model could show the stranglehold that the emotion can have on its victim. A dress encircling the wearer with flaps that gave the overall effect of a clawed hand grabbing the model is another nod to love’s ability to grab and imprison. Every piece can be interpreted, as it’s more like art, and certainly not wearable fashion. It’s certainly not pretty in the aesthetic sense, but fashion doesn’t need to be pretty if the designer doesn’t want it to be, it’s art in its own right.
Another designer that likes to push fashion to the edge is Jean Paul Gaultier, who celebrated his last ready-to-wear show this season so that he can concentrate on couture. The show was designed as a beauty pageant, and every kind of girl that Gaultier had designed for over his years took part. There was black and white sultry formal attire, with an ‘80s vibe and plenty of pinstripe, sporty girls in bright primary colors and logo attire. A fashion editor piece with models turned into Grace Coddington, Carine Roitfeld, and others, and early 2000’s girls in opaque tights with little dogs and taking selfies. Next were the WAGs in all black, the girls in half-tailored clothes missing one pant leg or shoulder, and, finally, glamorous wrestlers in full diva gear. The ending was spectacular, with every model on stage and confetti raining down.
Finally, you can’t talk about fashion month period without talking about Chanel, especially after Karl Lagerfeld’s latest spectacular. Inside the Grand Palais he recreated a Parisian street, “Boulevard Chanel,” of course. There was enough tweed for any old Chanel addict, in boxy men’s cuts, and tweed sweaters that fell to below the pants’ pockets. Color burst out in bold digital prints, aptly mixed with the old world tweed. Suede pants and shirts were followed by crisp dresses in a lighter material, decorated with flowers and little pastel beads. Dresses covered in metallic pewter came out for cocktail-wear, and then some more casual signature Chanel striped sweaters, before returning back to suiting, albeit a more modern take.
The finale was the important part though. The models all came out, down the faux street, marching, creating a faux protest. It was complete with signs that read things like “He for she” and “Ladies first.” While this doesn’t mean that Lagerfeld and all of Chanel is throwing itself behind the new women’s rights movement that’s brewing, it does mean that the movement is such a real part of today’s culture that it’s being reflected through fashion. This wasn’t a political statement so much as a use of political and pop cultural references, and what better place for that than Paris?