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  1. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: Giambattista Valli

    Any fashion historian knows that in the 1950s there were, essentially, two overriding silhouettes: a highly-constricted waist, ample breasts, softly-sloping shoulders and a to-the-knee skirt either hobble-slim or massively buoyed with frou-frou petticoats. Night or day, town or country, that was your lot. It was pretty much the same story today at Giambattista Valli, a designer whose work always has a couture bent and who this season looked to the fifties heydays of Dior, Fath and Balenciaga. From Dior, Valli took the New Look, in its acres of debutante skirts and overriding, overarching (and occasionally overpowering) femininity. From Fath, a love of asymmetry and dramatic uses of cloth with obliquely-placed bows, peep-over collars and massed carnations decorating bodices and skirts. From Balenciaga, he took the cocooning silhouettes and slightly looser sacque shapes he has been playing with for a few seasons. Sometimes, Valli's mixes of couture past and pret-a-present fall flat on their faces, and sometimes they work. This, luckily, was one of the latter occasions. There was a light, sugary sense of femininity to the collection, enhanced by the bon-bon sweet sorbet shades of rose-beige, lemon and vanilla fondant used in delicate fabrics that still had the body to weightlessly hold Valli's ambitious shapes. There were - again - high-piled chignons, but this time they were more Madame de Pompadour than Marie Antoinette, lower, chicer and far less ostentatious. The Versailles flavour was picked up by courtly knee-breeches, worn with silken jackets slightly inflated at the hip, but rendered in black like mere shadows of the eighteenth century. Indeed, if this was Madame de la Marquise, she had met Marnie somewhere, as there was more than a touch of the clean, brittle chic of a Hitchcock heroine flexing on hauteur-than-haute heels in the tight and spare silhouettes.Fussiness was confined to the decoration, and even then Valli's sparing use of print and trademark self-fabric ruffles felt precious and yet restrained. And, in a season when so many designers have worked themselves into a tricksy frenzy and let all their better insticts be trounced by a flounce, Valli's easy way with ruching and gathering fabric into decorative milles-feuilles stood out - quite literally in his pumped, plumped but still controlled debutante circle-skirts. The finale of half-a-dozen frou-frou all-over-beribboned floor-length trained ballgowns had no sense of restraint at all, gorged as it was with the overblown Scarlett O'Hara school of sock-it-to-me femininity Valli so adores. But we can allow Valli to overindulge himself on the sweet stuff when the result of all that gorging is quite so gorgeous.

  2. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: Haider Ackerman

    Androgynous clones rather than erogynous zones are the standard at Haider Ackermann (if you pardon the rather witless pun), but this season Ackermann proves he can do sex appeal with the best of them. His collection opened with the shortest of short tan suede romper suits, rising high over the model's hips and behind - surely the last thing we expect to see from a designer as cerebral as Ackermann. And yet, this piece was perfectly in keeping with his aesthetic. Detailed like a flight jacket, scarred and sliced with zips strategically allowing the garment to open and give a glimpse of the fleshy innards, this was sex appeal for the thinking woman. Those sinuous, spiralling zips were everywhere, slicing through suede, leather, silk and wool, part striptease part vivisection - we were on the Rue d'Ecole du Medicin after all. Where two zippers met, occasionally, the fabric rucked and twisted around the body, protrucing, creating empty space between body and clothing. More oft than not scissored away at the ribcage and popped at the shoulderline, Ackermann's jackets were luxurious and desirable and why only the brave dare go for the suede 'Perfecto' bodies (presumably with their own perfect bodies to encase), they will be well-served. Moving away from these rather hard looks in animal skins, Ackermann caught onto the Grecian feeling, something far closer in spirit to his slightly Nomadic, ethereal style. Draped chiffon and silk-jerseys had degrade effects in subtle palettes of beige, mahogany and silvery-grey, offering an equally powerful alternative to Ackermann's new body-consciousness. A foray into bruised hues of mauve, cerulean and black chiffon and shiny-shiny patent leather was slightly less successful, ditto silk scaves draped from the hairline to veil half the face: shades of Air Emirates stewardesses sprang to mind. Overall, however, these minor trips fell by the wayside in a collection that, for the vast part, pushed all the right buttons and then more. It was sensual rather than sexy, erotic rather than porno, and ultimately, supremely elegant.

  3. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: The Walk Through at Haider Ackermann

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  4. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: Bernhard Willhelm

    Bernhard Willhelm may have scribbled out the words 'SPRING' and 'SUMMER' on his invitation, but his latest collection was both springy and summery. Inspired, it seems by the garb of indigenous tribespeople worldwide, it picked up on the primitive streak we have seen elsewhere - although typically for Willhelm, this was rough and ready as opposed to glossy and Westernised. Indeed, the collection was tribal in the truest sense of the word, but with his trademark naivety it was less warrior woman and more primary school primative - not that this is meant to be pejorative. Shown on shorter, sweeter and altogether softer models (although maybe most of that was the low-heeled sandals and moccassins), the madcap mix opened with a Antipodean Maori face print above a full, static-y synthetic skirt in oil-slick hues, checking off Aztec patterns, African mud colours and Dutch Wax fabrics, seersucker gingham, Grecian sandals and everything and anything inbetween. Often, it looked like the models had fallen into a child's dressing-up box and then clothed themselves liberally with the contents, although the mood was more Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles or Lord of the Flies than anything infantile. Childish scrawls on the model's faces harkened back to Bernhard's first shows in Paris, where freckles and spectacles were biro-ed onto his models faces. Here however, there were moustaches, footprints and tribal markings taken from the clothing patterns. The riots of texture and pattern, flat cuts and oversized shapes of the clothes were reminiscent of early eighties World's End experiments with ethnic forms and square cutting. Then again, these are elements Willhelm has proved himself to be a master of again and again: witness the shrewd simplicty of his box-cutting during his highly successful tenure at Capucci, for example. The touches of whimsy, however - animal masks, pattisserie hats and a suggestive placing of a papier mache hotdog - were unmistakably and uniquely Bernhard, and the reason his clients always come back for second helpings.

  5. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: The Walk Through at Bernhard Willhelm

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  6. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: Yves Saint Laurent

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    Brave. An apt summary both of Stefano Pilati's S/S 2009 collection for Yves Saint Laurent and indeed for the very act of taking on the mantle of one of the great couturiers. Brave too is Pilati's entire output during his tenure, neither purely reverential, referential or iconoclastic, but all of the above. Brave is the man who not only started many of fashion's current obsessions over the past few seasons (suck-in stick-out peplums, waist-cinching belts, ladylike proprietry, sci-fi futurism) but who is willing to run with them as his own and take them to their logical conclusion. And following the death of Saint Laurent himself earlier this year, the ultimate act of Pilati's bravery this season was to not turn his back on his own path in favour of the lacklustre, derivative 'Tribute' collection some may have expected. Of course, as always there were foundations of Saint Laurent there, the house codes that cannot - and should not - be disregarded. This season, they were the Saharienne, the transparent mousseline blouse, the strict suiting and ultimately, the Trapeze collection created by Saint Laurent for Dior after the demise of that house's founder. The opening duster-coat in figured velvet, with knee flounce and bowed dolman sleeves, established that idea, later extrapolated in waistless sacque dresses. But Pilati's skill is in making these references entirely his own and entirely modern: witness his combination of Trapeze and trouser, developing his harem pants and decisively dropping the crotch further and further in almost all of his trousers. Brave, indeed is the woman who will wear these, but oddly by the time the final outfit exited - a reproportioned Le Smoking with the crotch hovering around the ankles - this fusion of fashion's current obsessions with reinventing the trouser and dropping the hemline looked just right. Indeed, it is these elements of trial, error and rethinking that marks Pilati's approach. Returning to ideas he proposed last season, Pilati softened the jutting angles of winter's carapace-like tailoring, instead hugging the torso with volume emerging softly in fins from shoulderblades, as if a jacket had been hitched a little at the shoulder. Elsewhere, perhaps in reaction to criticism of the hardness of that last show, Pilati added full-blow bows, knotting waists and binding backs together. Along with the upswept matriarch manes, they had an air of good old-fashioned rigour and the glossy, groomed femininity Yves Saint Laurent always stood for - although the flesh showing beneath those bows gave a jolt of Belle de Jour sexual uneasiness, likewise his Safari-style lacing, part maitress part huntress, that snaked around the peplums of suiting. These, short skirted in light wools and with a whisper of silk-charmeuse blouse beneath, were the closest to Saint Laurent old, albeit decidedly reinvented for the modern world. Indeed, Pilati is virtually the only designer offering a sharply, smartly tailored jacket for spring - and god knows there's always a market for that. Pilati's self-set task has been to slowly and methodically develop his understanding of Saint Laurent past, present and indeed future, a task that indeed may never be fully complete. This collection is another step along that road - and isn't the bravest thing of all leaving the book open for another chapter?

  7. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: Day VII!

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  8. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: Jean Charles de Castelbajac

    Played out on catwalk a patterned with Disney clouds, Jean Charles de Castelbajac's S/S 2009 collection was, as anticipated, an colourful, cartoony antidote to the current sturm und drang of reality. It was classic Castelbajac - opening with a loony-tunes style primary splodged suit and giant jokey lego-brick spectacles and pretty much continuing from then on. Simple cotton separates in brights were childish, silly and exactly what was expected - and needed. Castelbajac's sunny optimism is currently striking a chord, if not with the uber-sophisticates of fashion's elite or those seeking an intellectual justification for the times in which we live, then with a new generation of kids whose dress up to mess up mantra is oddly in synch with this sixty-something's way of thinking. Witness Carri Mundane of Cassette Playa front row, whose own pixellated and colour-saturated sportswear offerings are direct descentants of Castelbajac's. At the same time, this show seemingly had some contemporary relevance outside of the Castelbajac Technicolor sphere: a sequinned 'Carte Gold' credit card shift and another bearing an image of Obama have some kind of resonance with the here and now, and the latter prompted applause to prove it. Likewise the surfeit of black, a sobre anti-spring trend that has crept into the vast majority of collections. The latter half of the show was, for Castelbajac, subdued - playing with this shade, alongside much white and touches of red and toying with Disney imagery. And although we assumed Castelbajac would be the last bastion of bright, there were a few all-black and entirely unembellished dresses and suits, with even relatively played-down accessories. The question of exactly who would go to Castelbajac for a tailored black trouser suit, besides a Loony Tunes widow, remains to be answered.

  9. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: The Walk Through at Jean Charles de Castelbajac

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  10. Comments

    1. la
      17:28 3 Oct 2008
      I have never been much of a fan of Monsieur Castelbajac but now I see it on Carri Mundane it all makes sense. Funny thing fashion, what you hate yesterday you can love today.
    Comment
  11. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: Viktor and Rolf Showroom

    As an alternative to the hectic pace of Paris Fashion Week Viktor and Rolf chose, this season, to again say 'NO' - no to the show, that is, opting instead to show their wares online at www.viktor-rolf.com. V&R are, of course, no the first to do this - Helmut Lang lapped them by over a decade - but accordingly new technologies afforded them a far smoother running than many of their predecessors; no overloaded servers or streaming issues reported. As a portal for showing clothes, an online venue was appropriate enough for a collection inspired, seemingly, by the future of fashion. Titled 'Funny Face' after the fifties fashionista satire that unleashed the mantra 'THINK PINK!', their collection projected this view of fifties couture into the future, with pleated ruffles and frills projecting from outfits like whirling satellite components. Reminiscent of Alta Moda maestro Roberto Capucci, these made-to-order pieces, often embellished like computer components with intricate circuitboard embroidery in oversized Swarovski crystals, were the highlights of a collection that, despite its space-age themes, otherwise seemed relatively grounded in reality. The most striking elements? The slightly sinister shattered-mirror bags and genuinely futuristic Space Oddessy black-and-white striated geometric pattens coiling around simple separates.

    Recent comments

    1. la
      17:15 3 Oct 2008
      That is what you guys did for Hussein Chalayan, Bernard Wilhelm and YSL, you should blow your own trumpet more.
      If anyone has been promoting making a film to replace the fashion show it has been SHOWstudio!!!!!!
    2. alex.fury
      15:12 4 Oct 2008
      You're right la - and actually, comparing this show to hussein chalayan's is apt, as I find the different reactions to the shows quite interesting. Suzy Menkes criticised the method of showing Chalayan's collection as opposed to the collection itself, or indeed the aesthetics of the film. With Viktor and Rolf, however, she criticised the collection not living up to the potential of the medium.
      Maybe this is indicative a general shift in the erstwhile snooty insistence of the fashion press that a film could never compare to a live catwalk show? We'll see...
    Comment
  12. by Alexander Fury .

    PARIS FASHION WEEK: Rue Du Mail

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    Martin Sitbon's Rue Du Mail show was another example of fashion's flash-in-the-pan fascination with the polar extremes of the distant, even neolithic past and a brave new future of sharp tailoring, pointy fins and super-sheened fabrics. It's a pity that Sitbon's show came so late in the week and after so many others had presented similar visions of fashion's brave future, as there were elements of the show that looked and felt exciting - or would have done if the hyperbole to describe had not been used up during the start of the week. The glossy patent accessories, for one, were a strong contrast against the faded hues of flesh pink, eau de nil and beige, with washed-out chevrons of black and white or red and beige blurred by their printing of organza. There were touches or origami in Sitbon's folding and pleating of fabric into those future fantastic finlike protrusions, projecting stiffly over the poitrine or from the hipbones. The opening outfits looked fresh, with symmetrically arranged panels of taffeta in black, white and nude pleated and laid over contrasting tops and skirts like armoured exoskeletons reminiscent of high-impact crash protection or aeordynamic 'go faster' detailing on transatlantic jets. Stiff little taffeta jackets had the same impact, hanging firmly in place on the body and gently undulating with its movement, and when those fins and plackets were applied to a nude taffeta trench, it suggested they could have a very successful and viable life away from the catwalk. Later, limper fins of fabric flapped and wrapped around the legs, with patchworked and ribbon-appliqued bodices and rough, visible blanket stitching. This seemed to be the 'primitive' influence, along with more of the season's slit-and-sliced drapery, wrapping and binding and fretted leather details. Somehow, somewhere, it lost its way, and by the end the collection became more about folding fabric and less about creating clothes.

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