Best of Paris Fashion Week
OH, WE'LL GET TO BALENCIAGA.
First, an aerial overview of Paris Fashion Week, with some context. In the month that we've been living here, I've heard over and over Parisians describing the city as grand and beautiful, with an unmistakable magic, but also, surprisingly, stuck when it comes to creativity and innovation. It's been interesting for me to hear this as an outsider who brings such a rosy, American in Paris view of the city. How could Paris be lacking in any way?
As I've delved deeper into these criticisms, I have understood they reflect a sort of French identity crisis that has been slowly forming over years. French cultural superiority, the grandeur of the past, the sometimes bleakness of the present, the looming sense of the way it's always been done (and done well), have combined to make for a situation in which France's future is unable to escape its past.
Maybe it was this feeling that colored the way I absorbed the collections from Paris this past week, but I found myself frequently feeling that creative stagnation in the clothes. A lot of clothes were beautiful, and a few collections stood out. But as compared with Milan, for example, or London, also historic cities, I didn't feel the clothes were as interesting.
To be fair, maybe the role of designers shouldn't be to create wildly different clothes each season. Maybe that isn't advancing fashion forward, but actually holding it back. Can our sense of what we want to wear really change so frequently? There's also the issue of many of the French labels being heritage brands, and really, how much creative latitude can you take at Hermès, for example, as Sarah Mower noted in her review of the collection for Vogue:
[Hermès designer] Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski treads the fine line between the specifics of an haute Parisian culture, and transient trend. It’s a difficult balancing act...The very attraction of this brand, for those who can afford it, is timelessness.
So, I'm left holding the question again: what is the role of a fashion designer? Is it to give us clothes we want so much to wear right now, but maybe not in a year? Clothes that intimately reflect the particular cultural zeitgeist at the moment? Or, is it a something totally different — to give us clothes we'll want to wear for years, clothes that form the foundation of a single, signature sense of style that doesn't bend to trends? Trends which any designer knows are bound to ultimately fade, leaving us right back to where we are in Paris: pondering the importance of good old-fashioned classic clothes.
Simon Porte Jacquemus succeeded in creating a collection that balanced classicism with daring. He presented a number of suit jackets that played with proportion or tailoring, including structural sleeves, slanted pockets, and nipping at the waist. This resulted was clothing that felt relevant, but also grounded in the quintessentially French approach of a timeless sense of style rooted in solid pieces. That, and the hats were a great touch.
Photos: Kim Weston Arnold/Indigital.tv via Vogue
Dries van Noten
Dries van Noten hit the right note(n) with his collection, which happened to also be his 100th runway show. This collection was interesting because it represented a designer feeling simultaneously so sure of his aesthetic — clothes that are so well done, they don't have to make a fuss — and comfortable, within those confines, to create something interesting. I was particularly drawn to the metallics and to the suiting, many of which featured oversized but not goofy silhouettes.
Photos: Kim Weston Arnold/Indigital.tv via Vogue
First of all, OH MY GOODNESS. In honor of Balenciaga's 100th anniversary, Demna Gvasalia re-created nine couture gowns based on the original designs of the label's founder, Cristóbal Balenciaga. In the Financial Times, Jo Ellison, writes:
The dresses were personal favourites of Gvasalia’s, who had studied 30 years of lookbooks to find his templates. None of the gowns still exist, so he had worked from sketches, sometimes revisiting the pieces in their intended fabrications, sometimes bringing newer ideas.
That none of the gowns still exist practically broke my heart, before Demna stepped in and resuscitated it.
Here are a few of the gowns, with as close an image as I could find to the original inspiration (images on the right from dresses dating between 1951 and 1965).
DREAMS DO COME TRUE, RIGHT?
Ok, moving along, because there is also a collection here to speak of. I can't be the only one who felt that after those dresses, making conclusions about the collection was a challenge (in fact, I am not, Vanessa Friedman said the same thing!!!). So, keeping this in mind, I liked the collection, but I didn't love it. There was a clear attempt to infuse modernity into classic concepts and fabrics, like the asymmetric draping of the coat in the feature image, and the slanted skirt in the 4th slide, but it felt like an incomplete thought. I remain, though, intrigued by Mr. Gvasalia, whose brain simultaneously imagines some of fashion's most radical clothes of the moment for his label Vetements, while also creating clothes in the spirit of one of its most established houses. And the fact that he felt confident enough in his own creations to send them down the runway in the shadow of Cristóbal Balenciaga alone tells me he is a designer who deserves our continued attention.
All Balenciaga runway images: Monica Feudi/Indigital.tv via Vogue.
Great metallics at Paco Rabanne, which made me feel compelled to pull out some aluminum foil and get creative.
This cool number featuring soft lace layered over a turtleneck sweater dress at Stella McCartney.
Saint Laurent had me thinking: would it be extreme to surgically implant a huge red flower into my neck?
Oh, hey, hi, Yohji! You are so cool.
Lemaire nailed it with these sleeves.
This skirt from Alexis Mabille is both awesome and easily reproducible, with the formula being: long skirt + shirt of the same color tied around low back et voilà. Trying this for sure sometime soon.