By the time you get to Paris, as much as you expect to see the real emergence of the new season’s mood – or trends – you come to see established houses doing what they do best. They’ve made it, they’re up there and they really don’t need to reinvent the wheel too much to get it right. That, in fact, would be wrong. Look at who’s in the audience – it’s the customers. At Manish Arora, for example, the outfits off the catwalk were as colourful as those on it, these being the loyal customers who come for just this show and a great day out. Never mind whether the fashion press are wowed or not, it’s a business at the end of the day and one that requires a captive consumer.
The Manish Arora Fall/Winter 2017 ready-to-wear show in Paris (by Régis Colin-Berthelier for NOWFASHION)
“Women who come to me are women who have everything in their life, they come to me because they are looking for something special,” summed up Andrew Gn after his show. “Am I right or wrong?” he asked. “Right!” an admirer standing close by was quick to chime in. “I’m a man of refinement, I love luxury and I love beautiful things; there’s always grace and sophistication in my clothes,” Gn elaborated. Jewel tones and fringing on swooping sleeves of frock coats and later evening gowns indeed had a certain sort of refined customer in mind. The same could be said at Rahul Mishra, for elaborate and colourful embroideries on separates that - while they weren’t zeitgeist stuff - had craft and a measured creativity in mind.
But of course what you see in Paris, is certain kinds of fashion camps. There’s the old-school favourites such as Issey Miyake and Junya Watanabe; they boast a cult following and their heritage harks back to a cutting edge back then as opposed to now. Though at Miyake, fabrications were brilliantly mind-boggling in their buoyancy and shape; and at Junya Watanabe the collection was of course mind-boggling. Punk rock recreated, jackets – a loose terminology to apply for the first series of cocoon styles – were patch-worked together through plaid and leopard prints that tessellated into shape. Watanabe had paid a trip to the flea markets of London, creating these pieces from fabrics he found there. For the new-gen of fashion, the likes of Junya Watanabe, Undercover, Issey Miyake - and even Haider Ackermann with his serene and controlled austere elegance, to an extent - might seem an odd drawcard. But that’s where fashion creates its own tribes. And for those who like the more directly accessible and directly wearable, there’s the likes of Isabel Marant.
The designer never strays too far from her fashion pen, it’s power shoulders, Eighties, a little bit boho and feminine in just the right doses. This collection came with serious sparkle, denim punctuated with stars or embroidered with flowers – it’s young and fun: glitter socks with silver shoes and more silver on top.
And when it comes to the young and fun, Redemption and Faith Connexion, which held its debut show this season, also fit neatly into that Marant category. The former is more sexy-high-octane (we dare you to try walking in those heels), and the latter is more rock out, I’m with the band. Both, all three in fact, have a penchant for show-off shoulders, cinched waists and a power glamour. Because that “trend” goes nowhere, ever. Look at Olivier Rousteing at Balmain, the designer has built his empire upon it.
The Isabel Marant Fall/Winter 2017 show in Paris (by Régis Colin-Berthelier for NOWFASHION)
Similarly, it’s a formula that works for Alexandre Vauthier. “You can see the DNA of the couture collection,” he explained among a showroom of blue (one of Paris’ favourite colours this season), white and red, shots of silver. “You can see the graphics with the different fabrics; remember we did the blue skirts with the velvet dress for couture, this is the little sister,” he pointed out of a mini mini bustier minidress. “And we’ve changed the stones to sequins so we can feel the spirit of the brand.” Essentially what Vauthier had done here was take one overall collection idea and run it across all categories. It makes sense, switch the fabrications where appropriate and streamline the whole output as one very concise point of view. “The ready-to-wear is how to wear the clothes from the brand with the DNA,” he explained.
Because it all comes down to DNA, one of the buzzwords you’ll find bandied around in fashion. A brand needs one. At John Galliano that had been missing for some time since the Galliano-to-Gaytten changeover, following the departure of the man himself. But now? Gaytten has really got into his groove. In the course of three seasons, he has pushed forward wisps of dresses in bias cuts. Those had always been a hallmark of the brand, but so had drama. And now the drama has been stripped back and it’s as though Gaytten has found his way, drilling down into what works. He’s gone his own way, and to much success. There were no end of beautiful, simple (though the technique is clearly not) dresses here.
And from the simple to the not so! Layering has been the mark of Chitose Abe at Sacai, collaging together items into seamless remakes that demand attention. This season she combined pieces from all walks of life – pyjamas and ski coats among them. There was an early Noughties feel to wide legs and lots of zips, puffed-up gilets and wraparound denim. Those zips created crevices in everything, jackets splaying open at the back like wings. It’s a defined aesthetic.
At Masha Ma, you’ll see more-is-more, too, but in quite a different way. In the vein of Y/Project and Vetements, this is about wearing jackets – in Quality Box brights – oversized and hanging off you as though you just don’t care. Attitude is what makes it. This collection was a step up from seasons past, a more refined execution – even if it’s not to everyone’s tastes. The cool kids watching this show were not the same style tribe who would be sat watching the likes of Andrew Gn or those who began this piece. Because in Paris, there’s more than one fashion route to follow.