Kate Bush, that 70s/80s musical icon and heroine of independent women everywhere, was the basis on whom Phoebe Philo, fashion's own uncompromising torchbearer, built her Céline collection. The designer, also English, found thrall in the singer-songwriter — a reliable fashion reference à la Patti Smith — after attending one of her intimate mini-concerts this summer, the ticket of tickets.
In fashion terms, vintage Kate Bush is known for two things: leotards and ethereal nightgowny numbers. To be clear, however, Philo's allusions were not literal, but evocative of her free-spiritedness and injected with a seasoned aversion to 'pretty.' Think super-shaggy, bottom-heavy dress hems; ultra-wide pants in a nylon-looking material; huge lapels or none at all; prominent cutouts in sweaters; and the biggest surprise of all, intentionally frumpy floral-print dresses. Ballet flats (with and without a heel) and chunky figurative jewelry completed the slightly awkward, ever-so-ironic look — all set to a classic Kate Bush soundtrack, naturally.
Which came first, the cardinal sin or the cardinal rule? Either way, a vivid cardinal red was the exclusive color of Comme des Garçons's powerful, unrepentant spring collection. Although Rei Kawakubo doesn't typically delve into hot-button geopolitical issues, it was hard not to read between the rose motifs and blood splatters a visceral sense that all is not right in the world. Even if that wasn't Kawakubo's thought process, that a single shade — applied to materials as diverse as leather and chiffon, and shapes as diverse as a cage skirt, a big red riding hood, and piles of patent-red belts — could carry an entire collection is thought-provoking enough.
The scene outside the Grand Rex, Paris’ decadent Art Deco cinema, was total mayhem. The roads were completely blocked as thousands of people had come to bid adieu to fashion’s foremost enfant terrible. In a statement earlier this month, Jean Paul Gaultier announced he would no longer be producing prêt-à-porter collections, focusing instead on couture, perfume, and special collaborations. Sad though it was, it was also cause for celebration.
The ticket was a sash in the French tricolor, suggesting a sort of beauty pageant. Popcorn and champagne greeted us before we took our seats, both perfectly encapsulating the spirit of Gaultier: pop and chic. It was clear from the start that we were there to watch a competition for Miss Jean Paul Gaultier 2015, but more importantly to celebrate the ages of Gaultier's designs. The icons were all there: cone bras, half-sided smoking jackets, sports branding, Breton stripes, high camp, sex, and more sex! Our host, Alex Taylor, was bilingual for the competition, joined by the inimitable Rossy de Palma. Gaultier took the opportunity to show us nine retrospective mini-collections, all bidding for the title: Miss Marinière, Miss Homage a Madame de Palma, Miss Tour de France, Miss Meteo, Miss Redactrice de Mode, Miss Femme de Footballeur, Miss Vintage, Miss Smoking, and Miss Lucha Libre.
The biggest cheers were raised for Miss Redactrice de Mode, as he paid homage to the editors who have supported him the most. To Madonna’s Vogue, he sent down lookalikes for Franca Sozzani, Grace Coddington, Carine Roitfeld, and the genius casting of Lindsey Wixson as Suzy Menkes. His tongue-in-cheek Loco Logo anti-branding was a clear reference to the Junior Gaultier line of the 90s that's inspiring so much of the new crop — another reminder that Gaultier has been there, done that.
The energy was utterly infectious, and of course the winner was his beloved Coco Rocha, wearing a skintight ensemble featuring an iconic cone-bra dress. She immediately faux-fainted, and the runner up, Anna Cleveland, stepped over her and snatched the crown. Gaultier ran out against a backdrop of models dancing and waving their sashes in the air, wearing his own sash that read Miss L’Enfant Terrible. It was a triumphant and fitting end to a fabulous career. Bring on couture.
Like anything romantic and dramatic, Haider Ackermann's collections have occasionally dipped into syrupy, dreamy melancholy. For spring, however, he was in rare form, delivering a strong line-up almost entirely built on a cinched, taut waist. But instead of going overboard with the bosom, which a wasp waist usually implies, he kept the silhouette controlled, streamlined, and rational.
Jackets were the focus, allowing peplum to steal the show. The oft-neglected lower part of the jacket was by turns ruffled and stiff as they emerged from under sculptural belts. While silky, ethereal trains threatened to derail a couple of otherwise no-fuss looks, several varieties of le smoking in lilac and champagne hues stepped in to save the day. Leather made a laudable appearance as softened biker jackets, some with ruched sleeves, and as slick black patent pants, cutting a lean figure and proving that Ackermann can still dazzle when he wants to.
Undercover’s Jun Takahashi led us down the rabbit hole again, in a show that was every bit the post-modern fairy tale. The runway was strewn with huge red shiny apples with faces like skulls, hinting at their dangerous pleasure. As a spectacle, it was truly wonderful, though the subtext was, as is often the case with Undercover, much darker and more personal, telling a coming-of-age story, a fall from grace, and a sexual reawakening.
He opened with princess dresses, ballet flats, and beautifully crafted real-feather black wings. The play with these huge oversized apples against the models made them physically smaller, recalling Alice in Wonderland. The next section was full of digital screens sewn into the clothes, tapping into an adolescent divide. The story then played out with a beautiful section of full-color, all-over print Hieronymus Bosch outfits, all bearing scenes from his Garden of Earthly Delights, because of course the red shiny apple holds dark promises. His girls reinforced this, holding bags shaped like apples, with knuckledusters for handles — sure to be a huge hit in stores - the perfect balance between cute and tough.
For the finale, Takahashi sent out a whole section of black outfits to Tori Amos’ Black Swan, an ode to his young woman. Her transformation was complete, from innocent youth to disaffected teen to biker ballerina.
Do not try understanding Raf Simons' Dior collection for spring, for it defies understanding. Accept it for what it is, a time-traveling jumble of stylized archetypes. These ranged from the painter's smock-frock to the astronaut's flight suit, lacy Victorian getups to trim pastel Chanel-esque skirt suits, panniers to men's knee shorts. It was a bit reminiscent of Orlando, but without Tilda to bring it all together. Here are the best looks...
Call it modern crudism. For Loewe, a new gig following LVMH investment in his line JW Anderson, London designer Jonathan Anderson took deconstruction to its logical, paleo extreme. Unfinished scraps of leather and suede, the Spanish house's specialty, in oblong natural shapes — i.e. pre-tanned hides — were patched together to create dresses that wouldn't look out of place on a cavewoman.
While there were fantastic sharp-cut leather pants and polite pastoral prints across tops, the emphasis was on an almost Fauvist, anti-luxury luxury. One irregularly cut remnant of fabric was simply tied to the model's front with twine, while knits were made from raw silk and had a homespun quality. If you didn't know any better, you might think Anderson was making a mockery of artisanal craftsmanship, but he's much too polite to do that. For his first collection for Loewe, it seems he just wanted to start from scratch.
The stunning news that Jean Paul Gaultier was discontinuing his ready-to-wear operations has the fashion world waxing introspective, wondering if that final curtain confirms the demise of the perception of the fashion show as a unique, entertaining and personal experience. But then, in the heyday of Gaultier in the 1980s and 1990s, the very notion of a handheld device to both take pictures and communicate with the world was just mad-scientist fare. Before the digital era, designers had to woo an audience of professionals.
The last couple of years, Rick Owens has managed to stage shows that offer exactly what Gaultier so magically delivered: the unexpected. He's brought an obscure rapper into the limelight, had a wild Estonian band perform gravity-defying acrobatics, hired those now-legendary sorority dancers, and rounded up several generations of models. And all the while producing memorable clothes. After such exceptional fashion moments, his latest outing, a kind of B-side to the Nijinsky-inspired men's show in June, felt like a pause. Even the normally aggressive underground techno soundtrack was replaced by a mellifluous piano concerto by the late Polish composer Wojciech Kilar.
While working on the collection, Owens said he wondered what the brutalist master of concrete, Marcel Breuer, would build with tulle. The inquiry produced frothy yet structured creations made almost entirely from pleated and folded tulle. The technical wizardry appeared on sleeveless A-line dresses and tunics in tender, powdery Leon Bakst hues, often adorned with geometric patterns and occasionally paired with an hourglass, strapless silhouette. Particularly inventive were shorts that ended with kerchief hemlines, a major theme. The show also struck a balance between its primitive elements — white-powdered skin, frizzy hair, noisy and dented platform shoes — and sculptural effect, most notably in the finale of multiple-sleeve jackets.
For all its merits, the collection didn't quite reach the heights of Owens' recent masterpieces. But he seems to be honing his message, suggesting that he has more surprises in store.
At 125, Lanvin is the oldest continuously operating house in the world, requiring a suitably grand retrospective. Alber Elbaz is working on one with fashion curator Olivier Saillard, set to open at the Palais Galleria next year. Elbaz's spring collection, too, felt something like a retrospective, touching on several cornerstones in the house's development.
The show opened with slinky column dresses in bold black and gem colors, Elbaz's aesthetic and his contribution to the maison's history books, followed by inside-out items borrowed from the men's wardrobe. The second half of the show consisted almost entirely of lace and tulle numbers embellished with sequins and sashes, some dresses paired with athletic mesh, others trimmed in pearls. A deer — or rather, deer print — ran through the last, and quite busy, looks. Elbaz said the print was taken from a screen in founder Jeanne Lanvin’s Paris apartment, decorated in the 1920s by Armand Albert Rateau, who also designed the bottle for Lanvin's first perfume, Arpège. It was hard to know where to look first, or last, on these final exits, but if Elbaz wants to get into the festive spirit early, he's more than earned that right.