Textures and femininity at Paris Fashion Week

After the fashion weeks in New York, London and Milan, last week was it the
French capital city’s turn to take to the fashion spotlight. With a total
of 92 shows, Paris rounded off the “month of fashion.” At the opening of
the fashion week, the city’s mayor, Anna Hidalgo, made it clear that
fashion is the city’s future. She revealed that the government was to
invest 57 million euros into the industry and that greater emphasis will be
placed on young talent, who will bring established fashion houses and
renowned couturiers new impetus.

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“If fashion week in Paris is a thermometer, then things are pretty chilly
at the moment within the fashion industry,” wrote newspaper de Volkskrant.
Retailers and buyers are struggling to offload their excess stock, whilst
designers complain about the increasing pressures faced from large
corporations. Show visitors complain that fashion catwalk shows present
little challenge or innovation and the overkill of runway shows weighs down
the entire week. The focus on figures and increasing work pressure from
above results in rapidly assembled collections, which are designed to be
portable as well commercially viable. There is hardly time in between for
celebration of excess or a design splurge. But wearable collections are
catching on. Pioneered by Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent, the designer took
the first step for promoting wearability in 2012. The wearable collection,
which was a shock at first to the fashion world, ultimately lead to a boost
in turnover for the fashion house – from 353 million euros in 2011 to 707
million euros in 2014. Therefore it is understandable why some of the
largest fashion houses in the industry are in search of a new look, one
which is both wearable and will sell on.

Paris Fashion Week: ‘New’ names at old fashion houses

After John Galliano comeback during his couture show Artisanal in London,
all eyes were on the ready-to-wear line show from Maison Margiela in Paris.
Many fashion critics doubted beforehand if the flamboyant style from
Galliano would make a happy marriage with the
more subdued aesthetic from Maison Margiela, but the fashion
house successfully celebrated the coupling with large coats, frayed details
and visible linings in skirts. The knee pants, paired with a tight female
silhouettes and striking makeup clearly came from Galliano’s hand. The
designers also had the model hunch down on the catwalk and choose not to
appear at the end of the show.

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At Hermès, designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski debut her first collection for
the fashion house after taking over the baton from former creative
director Christophe Lemaire. Previously holding design positions at the Row
and Céline, Vanhee-Cybulski is known for her understated version of chic.
At Hermès, the designer presented a refreshed feminine look, a remarkable
move for the luxury fashion label. With blanket like coats, capes
which were held shut by leather straps and quilted leather jackets, the
resulting collection paid homage to the classic, luxurious Hermès, which
began back in 1837 as a saddle maker. The woolen skirts and semi-adjacent
dresses in ivory and dark blue crepe have clearly demonstrated the renewed
female focus of the designer.

Although Nicolas Ghesquière is already into his third season as the head
designer at Louis Vuitton, this week saw the designer being applauded by
the industry and honoured as he has ‘landed’. “The designer has finally
struck upon that dream combination of invention and heritage. His clothes
had the futuristic edge that has always been his strength,” wrote Suzy
Menkes for Vogue on the collection. Crafty details were mixed with sleek
silhouettes, where the seams were reminiscent of the playful lines of a
jellyfish. Most designs consisted of simple tops and skirts which
bore intriguing textures, such as sculptural knits that had an silver glow.

The skirt worn over pants is back in fashion

The trend of layering was already spotted on the catwalks during the mens
fashion weeks, which saw Giorgio Armani in Milan dabble in the skirt over
pants combination. In Paris, fashion houses Chanel, Vivienne Westwood,
Loewe and Kenzo sent their models in a skirt-pants combo down the catwalk.
Dries van Noten gave the trend a special twist however, he combines tough
combat trousers with romantic long wrap skis, which bunched up whilst
walking. The designs where accompanied with brocade, lace and embroidery
detailing, as well as more exotic, Asian motifs, glitter and sequins.
The glamorous and rich collection remained exciting due to the tough edge
through the designs.

Another new edge came from Stella McCartney, who showed a feminine
collection which was clean, elegant and casual. What stood out the most
were the long, asymmetrical turtleneck sweaters that were remarkably open
cut. Additionally, there were green bustiers, shorts that reached up until
just below the breasts and summer dresses with paisley patterns. The
collection was complemented by oversized coats crafted from a very
realistic looking faux fur, as the designer remains an avid animal lover
and animal rights activist.

Dior’s Raf Simons sent his models down the catwalk in classic long Dior
gowns, although the main focus of the collection was the animal patterns
which were magnified on numerous fabrics and dressed with kaleidoscopic
patterns. Another item which caught the eye, where the patent leather boots
with plexiglass heels that appeared far below the hems of the dresses. Just
as feminine was the collection from Chloe, which embraced powerful
silhouettes and elegant pleats which were paired with an antique color
palette. The combination between the fashion houses jumpsuits and tough boots was in particular striking for the fashion house.

The collection from Saint Laurent was very typical of Hedi Slimane; rock &
roll with a great wearability factor tossed in. The extra short tulle
skirts, which were combined with tough leather jackets were innovative of
the designer. However, fabric textures were given special attention at the
catwalk shows from Iris van Herpen and Issey Miyake. Iris van Herpen
experimented with a thin stainless steel material, which was worked into an
overlay over a jacket, sleeveless top or raincoat. The wide transparent
waistbands with distorting effect made the models even slimmer than they
already were. Issey Miyake also played with innovative textures for his
collection, although he opted for colored embossed fabrics, which were
reminiscent of bubble wrap to create enlarged silhouettes. As the models
were making their turns on the catwalks, the bundles around their
hips unfolded into wide skirts.

Paris Fashion Week: having coffee at Cafe Chanel and Valentino meets

Some fashion houses enjoy turning their catwalk shows into spectacles.
Chanel, who is traditionally known for hosting the largest-scale shows
during Paris Fashion Week, decided to try its hand at serving coffee this
season. Following Karl Lagerfeld’s vision of creating his own supermarket
and flower garden in the Grand Palais, this time the designer went for a
French brasserie as its show setting, complete with laid tables and model
waiters serving coffee and croissants. The models, who acted as brasserie
customers, showcased jackets covered in feathers, dresses with veils and
slim jogging pants worn under glittery skirts, all crafted from striking
textured fabrics and materials which gave the collection all the shine it

Valentino’s show made all the headlines by sending actors Ben Stiller and
Owen Wilson down the catwalk at the end of its show, who were in character
and promoting their new movie Zoolander 2, which led to amusement and
applause among the audience.

Photos: New York Times, Style.com

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