Picturing a John Galliano collection without a bias cut gown is akin to imagining Miss Wintour sans her signature bob. It's not gonna happen. And yet, over the past two seasons, Bill Gaytten has been treading closer and closer to this existential terrain — with varied results. Spring might be his most successful effort to date. He traded in 1920s theatrics, complex origami and general Galliano-ness (with all its airs de tranny) and focused on a sporty dynamism that could even verge on the practical.
Sleek overalls, techno-inspired suiting and flippy dresses were all re-imagined with state-of-the-art precision, topped with aerodynamic caps that were hybrids between helmets and visors. A quilted bomber here, perforated banana pants there — it all made for a handsome mix. Of course, for the finale, the designer couldn’t resist a few floating printed organza gowns — lovely, if safe, given what preceded them. Still, the message rang loud and clear: sometimes one must really embrace a makeover.
The runway was set — a graphic re-imagining of Pink Floyd's The Wall — and the mood upbeat, but the crowd was still buzzing with le scandale that shook Nina Ricci the day before. Say what you will, Liverpool waif Hollie-May Saker has made herself into a rising star, a contender on and off the catwalk.
As for Viktor & Rolf's show, the designers offered their own unique spin on Brit rebellion, sending out an army of subversive schoolgirls deconstructed to an inch of their blazers. Rather than resorting to over-used punk clichés — they took to construction, piecing and re-piecing familiar shapes into unexpected ways.
The restrained palette of gray, navy and crisp whites provided the ideal canvases for some innovative techniques, from mash-ups of the shrunken blazer to architectural renditions of the knife pleat. Sure, there were a scattering of studs here and there, but the overall focus was construction, and a polished conceptual approach to dressing that fights with the mind and not the fists.
If anyone can make clothes look like architecture — a pagoda, perhaps? — it's Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons. For spring, she built square cages around models' bodies, each more elaborate than the last, until finally the cage was the garment. When the cages weren't rectilinear and stacked, they swooped in enormous curves...
Backstage, Paris, Spring 2014
Rick Owens, Dior, Lanvin, Maison Martin Margiela
Photos by Sonny Vandevelde
A Yohji Yamamoto show is never short on surprises. This season the king of black showed lashings of fluoro.
The bright red invitation had his name crossed out in black spray paint, which should have made it clear that a punk attitude was on his mind. The music throughout was hazy guitar riffs that meandered slowly, mimicked in the models' slow, deliberate walks.
The opening outfits were resolutely black and white, and exposed flesh in unexpected cuts at the shoulders, enforcing the newer sexier Yohji spirit that has prevailed for the last few seasons. But the real shock came when the fluoro outfits started to arrive. Yohji had gotten his rave on!
And yet a Yohji rave is no regular rave. The models were a kind of hybrid Harajuku Girl and Harajuku Woman. The hair was powdered 18th-century in the front, but pulled into tiny pigtails with flashes of neon in the back, perfectly expressing the sartorial dichotomy for spring.
It was great to see such an influential designer in a playful mood, and the delicate handling of intense, unexpected colors made us question our own associations with them — no small feat. Bravo, Yohji, for keeping the party going.
Raf Simons is in bridge-building mode at Dior, as he has been during his three seasons as creative director. For spring he attempted to bridge several chasms: the label's archives and his forward-minded aesthetic; the house's big-money clients and the cult-like following of his own men's line; a feeling of couture and a sense of effortlessness; and a 50s sensibility and the racial politics of now (earlier this year he was publicly criticized for the lack of racial diversity on his Dior runways).
The public works worked, for the most part. Shots of bright summery colors, as in floral prints, mixed with solid black were winsome looks. A recurring crest motif held curious interest, as did experiments with the house's Bar jacket. Exaggerated, sculpted hips and waists recalled Dior's famed New Look silhouettes, in a bold and confident way.
Occasionally, however, a bridge went too far. Fan pleating and bandage tops didn't feel particularly novel, while several dresses seemed to be pulled in two directions, figuratively and literally. And the ending parade of silvery jacquard dresses and black suits, a Dior trademark, felt like enforced uniformity rather than a bounty of options.
It may never be possible to please all the people all the time. But as a globetrotting Hillary Clinton has shown, diplomacy is almost always the right course of action when seeking — and winning — the highest office in the land.
Racial and size diversity, two casualties of the modern fashion system, were addressed head-on in Rick Owens' show, lifting it above almost anything we've seen in years. It was a performance so powerful it ended with shrieks and whistles of the sort we used to hear when John Galliano and Alexander McQueen took the fashion world by storm. Boy, was it fabulous.
In lieu of his usual gothic, lanky models, out came an army of stout, mostly black women. With angry pouts, they hit their chests the way a warrior would before entering a battle. They descended the giant scaffolding like automated soldiers, some wearing headscarves that bordered on the religious and heightened the mystical, ritualistic atmosphere.
Once on the runway, they performed disciplined moves that energetically melded tap dance, African steps, and marching, all while championing the four American college sororities they're a part of: Soul Steppers, Washington Divas, Zetas and Momentums.
The idea to bring these dancers to a Paris runway came to Rick last june, after he stumbled upon them on YouTube. He contacted the choreography team of LeeAnet Noble and her mother Lauretta Malloy, who together masterminded the perfomance. They trained for months, arriving from New York City days ago with 40 other dancers in tow. "Vicious" was what Owens asked them to achieve and the name of the collection.
Any runway spectacle runs the risk of overshadowing the garments, but there was news on the fashion front as well. There was a newfound zest and athletic edge to his clothes, which looked more graphic and crisp then ever, presented in groups of white, beige, and black. Yet there were several Owens trademarks, such as draping, the religious headscarves, zippered leather jackets, sci-fi sneakers in collaboration with Adidas, and even the frizzy geometric hairdos he showed in his Klimt-inspired show last year.
But as the hemlines were short, and the girls' bodies full and toned, we got to see his work in a new light. And in the midst of the endless debate about diversity in fashion, the show served as a potent demand for action.
So here's a designer who, after all these years, makes the best of modern technology, reaches out to obscure artists or movements, and seamlessly incorporates them into his singular world. Few designers achieve this today. Maybe that's because Owens has what Galliano and McQueen had: independence, financial and otherwise.
Don't worry, be happy. That seems to be the posture Alexander Wang is taking at Balenciaga. For spring, his second outing at the house since the departure of Nicolas Ghesquière, who took Balenciga to the bleeding edge of design, Wang let the light in — literally and figuratively. Early this morning, in the grand Observatoire de Paris, the ceiling was pulled back to allow an ocean of sunlight to drench the runway and his equally sunny collection.
The show opened with structured skirt suits in tightly woven leather, a nod to Cristóbal Balenciaga, followed by sporty running shorts and tanks, a signature of Wang's. With the fusion of the two designers thus forged, the rest of collection played out on perfectly pretty and safe terms. Models bounded down the bright runway in a range of happy sundresses, short shorts, tennis whites, midriff-exposing tops, transparent overlays, flower prints, and lace.
There were some interesting cuts that lent sculptural intrigue — notably capelets, batwing sleeves, and zippers that created a peel effect. But by and large this was not a show to shock; it was a show to soothe.
In anticipation of his large-scale retrospective at Les Arts Décoratifs in February, Dries Van Noten let loose for spring. He delved into the museum's archives for inspiration, producing a bounty of rich jacquards, floral prints, ruffles, and shots of gold. Not for the faint of heart...