It all started on Monday evening, September 26th at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris as a sur-exposition performance for the Festival D’Automne à Paris, curated by Olivier Saillard. Tilda Swinton and Charlotte Rampling were perhaps the real moment of Fashion Week. Little by little, photographs from Irvin Penn, Richard Avedon and Brassai to name a few, were shown to us, the audience, by both Swinton and Rampling in a one hour performance of black canvasses, where we were the readers of the imagery.
Paris Fashion Week officially started on Tuesday 27th, however, and in an odd mood. This first day is always dedicated to younger brands, therefore I attended the shows of some upcoming names including PASKAL by Julie Paskal, Nehera by Samuel Drira and Anrealage by Kunihiko Morinaga; they were three very different intakes. The first minimalistic and strong in laser-cutting, the second minimalistic but with a zen-based sensibility of Japanese inspiration, and the third is indeed a Japanese designer linked to- and inspired by technology. These are three designers I see still searching for a strong identity and although locations, atmosphere and audiences were right, something was missing… surprise. I couldn’t go home telling friends I attended three amazing shows or saw important, new fashion. Paskal designed a collection to please the young Japanese market, Nehera inspired by Japan was beautifully convincing in composition and silhouette, and the Japanese designer was in the end, the most commercial and the best show in summing technology and garments. In his previous shows technology took over Morinaga’s design, but this collection was based on understanding and embracing fashion, and therefore achieved more, even through AR on our iPhones showing the Augmented Reality design…
Of course there were also the shows I was not able to attend; Olivier Theyskens with only 60 invites seemed a timid start, combining Theory and a certain Oliver Theyskens romance. I really hope he will express himself in a less restricted way next season.
Kering’s new baby Anthony Vaccarello was of course all the hype with his start at Saint Laurent, and also the beginning of a Paris Fashion Week full of changes at Dior, Lanvin, and Valentino. The timing for the Saint Laurent show so early in the week, just after Milan, was wrong, and I later heard the same comments from press and buyers. At first glance, I was disappointed by the vulgarity of the silhouette, but looking closer at all the details of the garments and accessories, I felt I was captured by the after Hedi Slimane (Y)SL girl. Vaccarello’s explanation of the collection was that his (Y)SL girl bought a vintage dress of YSL and was cutting into it; that made everything clear to me: interest in the past, looking to the future. But when I asked friends, journalists and fashion critics later in the week what they thought about the new Saint Laurent, the only comment was… terrible! Indeed there were codes reflecting a modern girl but it missed style.
Y/Project by Glenn Martens had the courage to develop his own codes and go further into volumes. Well done. Yang Li lacked this courage, and while watching the dresses in fake snake skin passing by I was bored, and even a bit angry because I felt a lack of work and perseverance. This Chinese / Belgian designer promoted by Michele Montagne, gave a weak composition of nakedness, with elements of sportswear, broad shoulders and asymmetry. These little dresses, coats and jackets that barely fit the models seemed to be a kind of unfinished composition. I got the impression that he needed another few weeks to make more of a statement in shape and style. Mind you, the music, the performance and the space in Jeu De Paume at Place de la Concorde, with the sun and the lovely people were a real delight.
Aganovich is an interesting brand because of the couple behind; the inspiring and intriguing Nana Aganovich and Brooke Taylor. Their invitation set the tone, designed by friend and illustrator Clifford Harper, which showed a heart and captured my attention. The strong Aganovich identity was interesting and came through the collection, but the calico dresses reminded me of second-year academic research and then the translation to the real dresses too literal. Looking closer, however, I was attracted by the handmade and hand-painted, the unfinished and nostalgic but contemporary compositions based on the emotion of the collection. Red is the colour that stands for passion, and in this show and work I can feel that passion.
Dries Van Noten is a master in setting a tone with the scenography of his shows. This time flowers were packed into melting ice, created by his favourite flower artist, Makoto Azuma. These flowers were a sign of vergankelijkheid: all is ephemeral and especially fashion. The bouquets were amazingly beautiful and so was the collection. It reflected a more easy going approach, and correctly so, simple, beautiful; sophisticated cotton trousers and dresses splashed with flower prints haphazardly thrown on the garments. The collection reminded me of the early days when I was working for Dries and the show started with a little white dress and a simple blouse, and ended with embroidered, baroque compositions. Dries Van Noten is the master of your summer wardrobe with romance and easy dressing; “Daring a little bit more… losing control… a little.”
After two days of shows and running from one place to another, finally came the surprise. Rick Owens! In his words, is was: no references – what makes sense is the history of the world – walrus aliens – simplification – getting to the point – a few delicate options – beauty is truth – no darkness – just fragility – lightness – prettiness. And then what struck me the most was in his video interview by Tim Blanks: “After 15 years, I feel more comfortable.” With this comfort he creates the silhouette, the volumes, the three dimension. Haute Couture is back! Tim Blanks was also brilliant in describing this collection… another master, but this time, one of words.
Friday was a busy day running from home to Bercy in the cold and waiting outside for 45 minutes before finally entering the Issey Miyake show. It was admittedly a great setting though not such a great collection; nice volumes and ideas but the setting overruled in the end. It was sporty elegance meets cut-and-paste, geometric structures meets 3D steam-stretch, tribal patterns meets baked stretch, and Issey Miyake meets the UN, with Life Music by Open Reel Ensemble with Sébuhiroko on the keyboard. All these aspects were promising, but the collection needed a more intimate space or the space needed a more dramatic collection. It was fragmented into the different themes and lacked a strong statement.
Luckily the shuttles brought us to the Palais des Beaux-Arts were Chalayan’s team was waiting to start the show. Digital air, imminence of danger, omnipresence, stiff upper lip and outer-measure were the themes of the collection. In essence, technology took-over where models wore glasses with EEG electrodes, but in the end it was me who was waiting; waiting for fashion to take over, though it never happened.
The arrival of the new Artistic Director of the Dior haute couture, woman’s ready to wear and accessories collections, Maria Grazia Chiuri, was of course a highlight this week. However after seeing previous collections and the famous women arriving in black cars before the Musée Rodin in embroidered dresses and extreme high heels, it was a great shock to see the first models open the show in sneakers and fencing-inspired outfits. It was saying let’s come back to reality and dress woman of today, which is what Maria Grazia said in the press release; “I strive to be attentive and open to the world and to create fashion that resembles the woman of today.” To me, the female fencer is not really reflecting the Dior woman of today, but hopefully the Dior woman of tomorrow? Let’s give her a chance to agree with this statement; that women no longer need to be over-dressed as we saw in the over-dramatized Galliano sprit and later with the deconstructed elegance designed by Raf Simons. The new clash between sportswear and the embroidered tulle skirts worked, and gave some air to the Dior woman, but it felt a little as if Chiuri hasn’t yet left the Valentino/Italian mood behind. I am quite curious how the women in the front rows felt; overdressed, disappointed, or did they just go home and throw their high heels into the corner of the room and change into sneakers?
The mood of Balenciaga felt more familiar to me. Demna Gvasalia had the amazing idea to bring fetishism into the Balenciaga collection. Spandex, invented in 1958, was a great excuse to stretch the silhouette and make the viewer feel a little uneasy in seeing models walking on stilettos almost fainting from the impossible tension. But the setting! How can I describe the feeling of travelling to a remote location at the Porte de la Villette at 11:30am, tired, the morning after the party at my home for the launch of Polimoda’s new publication on fashion curation and art direction, ‘Moments,’ to then enter though enormous red curtains and afterwards stepping on white carpet, soft and warm, with chairs aligned in only one row making every person feel important without hierarchy?! Between these white curtains in a totally silent atmosphere, the mood was set for the second Balenciaga-Gvasalia statement. Silhouettes were recognisably Demna’s, though were even more daring and composed in colour and style, like the latex cape that pushed at the limits of beauty. Yes, I liked this Balenciaga collection.
It was a challenging Fashion Week, but one I will remember deeply.
All runway imagery from Vogue Runway, title image by Katerina Jebb for Flair