Fall 2016 Ready-to-Wear
FALL 2016 READY-TO-WEAR Chanel
What could Karl Lagerfeld possibly do next to top the Chanel airport, the casino, the supermarket, the art fair, the Zen garden, the Roman movie set—or that mind-boggling time he had a chunk of iceberg trucked to the Grand Palais? Put in some white carpet and put out the little gold chairs, it transpired. Perhaps Lagerfeld is tired of everyone psychoanalyzing his sets—or maybe it’s yet another of his comments on the state of play in the world. So here we were, everyone in her own front row seat, watching models file by in the Fall 2016 Chanel NON-set set.
This, of course, is the way collections were shown to clients in couture houses way before catwalks were invented—so in a sense, this was both a down-to-earth presentation fit for the “real” mood that’s sweeping through Paris fashion right now as well as a reminder of Chanel’s heritage.
You couldn’t call it no-frills, though—because there were frills, chiefly falling in a froth of tiers on a short white lace trapeze dress with a camellia and a black ribbon tied in a bow at the neck. In other words, classic Chanel at its most delightful, and yet also speaking to a trend of the moment. It came somewhere toward the end of the collection, which Lagerfeld refused to explain—over-intellectualization of fashion is his bête noire. What appeared to be a vaguely equestrian theme gave form to leather-brimmed boaters with a dangling strap at one side, riding boots, and, later, khaki mackintoshes. The tweed suits passed by intercut with denim at one point (maybe a nod to an ’80s collection?), and soon after they were prettily doused in shades of pink. Along the way, there were diamanté Chanel emoji charms thrown in. Still, the main lesson learned? The return of the power of the Chanel pearl necklace, worn in piles. The more the merrier—quite literally.
FALL 2016 READY-TO-WEAR Valentino
A pianist was playing compositions by John Cage and Philip Glass, as a stream of girls dressed as dancers going to and from rehearsals and performances walked past her on the runway. The Valentino show today was about ballet, or more specifically, the modern dance movement and its “happenings,” but for Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, it was also a deeper commentary on slowing down and living in the moment. “We always think fashion is cultural, not just about delivering clothes,” said Chiuri. “We want this show to be about living your moments, feeling each moment uniquely. I really love fashion. This job we do is a good opportunity to describe the time we’re in.”
You can read into that, the designers’ abstract response to the speed of digital information and the new hue, and cry over the rush to make everything in fashion available to buy the minute it’s seen. If anyone stands as a shining example of doing the opposite, it’s these two. No matter what theme runs through their collections, the important thing is the phenomenal success they’ve built by letting a recognizable identity develop over the years, and never skimping on the skill that goes into making their uniquely beautiful clothes.
Exploring the worlds of Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Diaghilev, and the Ballets Russes brought up the imagery of dancers’ warm-up clothes, the layering of dresses and tutus over sweaters and footless tights, coats tossed over stagewear on the way home from theater, and of a whole corps de ballet of fragile, glitter-sprinkled tulle costumes for the grand finale.
FALL 2016 READY-TO-WEAR Saint Laurent
Was it Hedi Slimane’s farewell at Saint Laurent? Or the beginning of something no one had guessed at: La Maison Yves Saint Laurent, a new, or reconstituted, haute couture house? Whichever it may transpire to be—all gossip put aside for a few minutes—the abiding truth about fashion is that it craves and thrives on surprise. Hedi Slimane’s was a full-on shock: a collection which pushed the ’80s shoulder to a pinnacle of upstanding exaggeration, drove glittery hemlines up, plunged necklines, belted waists with flourishing side-bows, poufed skirts, clad legs in sheer black tights, and put feet into stiletto pumps. What with the slicked-back hair, red lipstick, and triangular earrings, it read as a sublimated 21st-century throwback to everyHelmut Newton–era Vogue shoot fashion remembers. There was an homage toYves Saint Laurent in every look, yet the collection was just as uncompromisingly faithful to the ultra-ultra-skinny youth aesthetic which Hedi Slimane has pushed in fashion for his whole career.
There was another huge shock to the system too: that this show was held in a beautiful 18th-century house on the Rue de l’Université, and conducted in bright lighting as models filed out—precisely in the style which was standard in old haute couture houses until the 1980s. The numbers of the outfits were even called out as each girl appeared, yet there was nothing satirical or ironic in the presentation. At that proximity, the quality of the clothes can’t be faked—and it was impeccable. From the smoothly fine fit of the leather dresses to the raven-wing sequins, the black ostrich coat with the pink- and turquoise-painted tips, and the extraordinary black columns and flounced tiers of the evening dresses, this collection proved that Slimane can cut it and fit it with the best.
There is no doubt that the early ’80s have been triggering designers recently (J.W.Anderson’s vast leg-of-mutton sleeves were the bellwether, last season), but Slimane it was who seized the opportunity to plug straight back into the power of the main man, Yves Saint Laurent. There is still no cut-and-dried announcement about whether this means that Hedi Slimane is staying on at Saint Laurent, possibly in an upgraded couture capacity, or whether the incredible red fox fur heart-shaped cape at the end of this show was his kiss-off to fashion for the moment. If it was, he is heading off covered in glory.