Maybe you heard that Kanye West made his fashion debut this Paris season? The build-up was enormous, with some of the best models, PRs and certainly the finest front-row roster of the week. Add to that the crush outside of the venue, the broiling heat inside and the buzz of anticipation that flushed around the audience beforehand and you could have been at any of Paris' major-league fashion shows.
In a sense, that was the achievement of West's first goal, and the goal of any young designer - to garner attention for their label. The front-row at West's show was impressive to a fashion crowd not because of the music and Hollywood stars (they'll turn up to anything these days), but because of the number of major-league editors and fellow designers who made the trek across Paris at 9.30pm on a Saturday to see what a young designer would do on their first catwalk outing. That is a much more difficult task to pull off. The pressure was probably insurmountable, especially when you add the designer's own excitement and enthusiasm. West has himself admitted that he's been considering this collection for years - but unlike his award-winning music career, it's pastures fresh.
West's show made good by steering clear of any overwrought narrative or schlocky catwalk shock-tactics. Those are the kind of antics that dog many a designer's first shows, but here the presentation had a high-gloss of professionalism. it also had ideas, lots of ideas. In fact, there seemed to be three collections combined in this single show. We got high concept couture, the best example being the crocodile skirt and sharp jacket that opened, sleeves slit and worn as a cape hybrid. That was laid next to accessible, street-wise ready-to-wear, slender colour-blocked trousers and the sport touch of hooded jackets, and also a few examples of glitter-dusted fashion fabulousness, like a backpack in knuckle-deep fox and crystal-crusted short jacket. Of all these approaches, the latter worked the best: that fox-fur utility-wear was a neat distillation of next season's sports-couture vibe, and was something you could imagine hip-hop star Ciara wearing (she was front-row, smothered in fox and entirely unfazed while the rest of the audience baked).
The two problems were fit, and focus. The first is easily dealt with - as with so many designers, prone to last-minute anxiety and uncertainty, West had purportedly created a number of garments very close to the show date, hence skirts that clutched at rather than fitted to the body and some trousers that seemed to hang a little too low. That was down to opening-night nerves he'll easily get over. The other thing West should do is assess the pieces that worked best and decide exactly where he wants to pitch his collections for future. For the record, in my view the stand-out successes were West's fusion of hyper-luxe with hyper-utility - I'm a real sucker for that fox-fur backpack - and also the knit, encrusted with Aran designs in pearls, or with an intricate fair-isle hood with applique detail. Fox-fur backpacks are an acquired taste, but those knits looked like something the whole world could get into.