Fashion seems to have a fascination with discomfort. Crippling torsos with corsetry, shackling the legs with hobble skirts and stretching tendons to breaking-point with higher-than-high heels: these have been part of the fashion lexicon for decades, even centuries, and are not prone to change. Bless seemed to be on a similar sadistic kick as their show was the very definition of uncomfortable - albeit psychological rather than merely physical. After waiting an interminable eternity in a crowded, dark street in the Marais, then in a crowded courtyard, we were finally herded like bleating lambs to the slaughter up - you guessed it - a very crowded staircase. Only that was actually the label's 'Nothingneath' show. On closer inspection, the crowd on the staircase was a little too good-looking and oddly dressed to be mere attendees. The cold, glazed and slightly mocking stares of the models, half-smirking, half-bored and almost challenging you to hate the clothing, made for distinctly disquieting viewing: I certainly had no wish to be in close proximity to them for any period of time. As for the clothes... I hardly noticed them at all, so astutely was I avoiding catching the menacing mannequins' eyes.Maybe the point was to feel as if you were beneath nothing. Maybe the point was to debunk the fashion convention of the observed and the observers. Maybe the point was the very event as opposed to the clothing. But frankly, to me, it all felt a little pointless.
Far from exciting on a purely visual level, to accompany our S/S 2009 front-of-house reportage from the Paris collections SHOWstudio have recruited - well, cajoled - model Lily Donaldson into touching base with us via PHONECARTE throughout the course of the week. Calling from very taffeta-lined trenches of la mode, Lily will be hanging on the telephone on every step of her Paris Fashion Week experience: en route to the shows, during make-up and hair, from midnight fitting to the very final moment before her first look hits the catwalk, Lily will dial in to give us an invaluable and unique insight into the very innards of the machine of fashion. Sit back and enjoy it unashamedly.
My somewhat cryptic invite may contain all the information to get to the venue, but god (and Margiela themselves) only know what the cryptic figure six on the reverse stands for. For the record, so far I've seen '1', 'A' and blank. The plot thickens...
White coats are pretty much always the rage chez Martin Margiela. This season's show is taking place way out in the 19th, in a huge open-air black tent - and the seating is pretty much a free-for-all. Tres egalitarian...
I now know exactly what I want for my birthday
The very definition of a feel good finale!
'DO IT YOURSELF' proclaimed Vivienne Westwood's invite and show programme, and while many fashion declarations of 'make do and mend' ring hollow, Westwood's position as punk provocateur gives her more kudos than any other. In the seventies, she declared that she loved the ideas of kids ripping off her SEX and Seditionaries designs, and this season she provided us with her own crib notes on how to get her look,advocating 'necklaces out of safety pins', 'kerchiefs worn as knickers' and 'shawls, blankets, tablecloths, curtains and towels' as somewhat unconventional evening attire. This heady melange all added up to classic Westwood, with straps and flaps dangling around the body, draped cloth slit and wrapped to expose and even create new erogenous zones and plenty of grandiose oh-my-god-I'll-never-find-my-legs-again ballgowns crafted from muchos metres of striped and moired silk. There were hints of Westwood past - touch of 'Witches' in the peak-shouldered tailoring and Keith Haring-esque hieroglyphs decorating evening gowns. And lest anyone forget who did the whole 'Cave Girl' thing first in her 1982 'Savages' and 'Buffalo' moment, we had roughly-hewn leopard-print capes flung like animal carcasses over the models' shoulders. The slogan tees were perhaps a touch House of Holland for a grande like Dame Vivienne, but she's always promoted wearing your brain on your sleeve and scrawling your cultural affiliations across your chest. Essentially, it was classic, irrepressible Westwood; Tracey Emin whooping it up in the front row on Westwood's lap of honour proved it delivered just that.
Primitivism and Futurism seem two overriding influences on the collections so far and although Issey Miyake have always pitched their tent in the latter category, this season they went tribal. If Westwood printed her garments with the estimated $30 billion it will take to save the world's rainforests (plus a few noughts extra for added impact), the design team at Issey Miyake went one further, sourcing the colour hues for their fabrics direct from the jungles of Brazil. Shown beneath a fringed canopy imitating lush foliage, the collection focussed on workwear not too dissimilar to the paddy-workers garb Miyake proffered as a trademark staple in the eighties. Some of the cocooned plisse shapes and organza A-line dresses with floating panels also recalled Romeo Gigli in that same era, both he and Miyake a world away from the hard-edged vixens that stalked the runways of Mugler and Montana. The show, however, lacked a certain energy -the colours may have been painstakingly sourced but on the whole were drab and uninspiring, and coupled with familiar shapes, it was difficult to get excited, for all the work the Miyake team evidently put into it.
Rei Kawakubo's collection, like her venue, was dark. Dark in physicality and dark in psychology. Perhaps only she could show a collection ostensibly for summer in a pit of blackness and entirely swathed in that self same shade. There were slight exceptions: silver and white was used for projecting body-amour, part-Space Age part-Dark Age, strapped around the models' shoulders, while their heads towered with powedered white Ancien Regime wigs that Marie Antoinette herself would have baulked at. Attempting to unravel Kawakubo's diverse, complex and even contradictory influences is a fruitless task, but this season there seemed to be an element of protection to her offerings. Marching out to the incessant, insistent, war-like beat of drums, that Marie Antoinette candy-floss pouf was occasionally battened-down with leather or plastic helmets, and tesselated hexagons of fabric formed geodesic structures that rose in a hump behind the neck, as if protecting the models' flanks. Or perhaps as if going to battle. There were military touches too, in flack jackets coiled and twisted around the body, sometimes backwards, sometimes skew-whiff and scissoring across the torso with petals of fabric blooming from underneath. These later ran riot, bubbling out of seams, slits and slats until the final model, from bewigged hairline to ankle, was entirely cloaked. Perhaps it was about the triumph of nature over man, as those petals broke down geometric form and strict tailoring and triumphed. Perhaps it was about preservation, or even about damnation - hence the doomed Dauphin hair and overwhelming blackness. Considering how difficult it is to work out the message of the collection, to say that message was strong seems paradoxical. But Kawakubo, it seems, is always in pursuit of the perfect paradox.