Wednesday, 20 March 2013


After three weeks of chic, experimental collections, Paris Fashion Week is a showcase of the créme de la créme of the fashion world. One look at the schedule is always enough to get hearts racing - with Balenciaga, Chanel, Alexander McQueen and Lanvin amongst the shows of the week, it came as no real surprise to me that I will have to split the Paris highlights into two posts. Highlights of the week included Alexander Wang's much-discussed debut for Balenciaga, Sarah Burton's extravagant capsule collection for Alexander McQueen, Gareth Pugh's beautiful faceless models as well as Ann Demeulemeester's sinister take on an ethereal collection. To say the audience were spoiled is a true understatement, so without further ado..

Renowned for creating statement bejewelled pieces, Olivier Rousteing's latest collection for Balmain displayed an "if it's not broke, don't fix it" attitude. Proportions were as hyperbolic as usual, embellishment was everywhere and the aesthetic was overwhelmingly futuristic. However, Rousteing did explore new fabrics as well as new influences - a series of high-waisted metallic brocade trousers were particularly effective when teamed with soft white jumpers, whereas jackets borrowed heavily from the dramatic silhouette of the traditional kimono, especially when teamed with what looked like metallic versions of an obi belt. Although the collection was cohesive in its vision of high-end glamour, there were two looks that were refreshing in their simplicity - red and gold silk was paired with plain black jumpers and thigh-high suede boots, showing that simplicity can often be just as striking as high-end futurism.

Bringing a touch of Japanese design to Paris, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon displayed yet another fantastic collection for newly-revamped label Kenzo. Emphasis was on texture - from basket-woven trousers to red snakeskin jackets, the collection provided a colourful respite to the monochrome displayed elsewhere. Most importantly, the collection was vibrant and fun - sparkly, irridescent coats were shown as was a shaggy powder blue fur coat, proving that the duo never take themselves too seriously. There were some true highlights to the collection - the eye print, for example, could soon become a cult item, and a few matching printed suits were shown in loose silhouettes, making them work excellently both as separates or on their own.

Staying firmly away from the vibrant colour palettes of most other collections, Gareth Pugh showed a signature collection that retained his familiar minimalist aesthetic. Interchanging between ethereality and gothicism, the collection presented a beautiful take on fashion's favourite contrast - light against dark. Stiff collars were paired with dramatic floor-length hemlines, whereas the outline of ominous branches added a sinister look to plain white fabric. If Tim Burton were to be represented in a collection, this would be it - white make-up gave models' faces a ghostly pallour that perfectly complimented the Victorian horror theme of the garments, whereas a series of oversized black leather coats towards the end of the collection were distinctly menacing yet effortlessly cool. Although the show could have easily veered into the realm of parody, the fact that the clothes themselves were some of Pugh's strongest work made sure that the focus was on the collection and not the concept.

If there was ever a true epitome of the laid-back Parisian chic that Paris Fashion Week stands for, Lanvin's latest collection could well have been it. An elegant mix of velvet, appliqué, brocade butterflies and seriously cool statement jewellery, Elbaz's latest collection gave the fashion world plenty to talk about. Whether it was an LBD or a two-tone fur coat, the styling choices meant that the models all gave the impression of having rolled out from between their silk sheets and simply thrown on the first thing that caught their eye. Outerwear toyed with oversized proportions without drowning the silhouette - with fur, leather and tweed being amongst the most-favoured fabrics, there was a new-found edge to the classic look that the house is so well-known for. However, the true highlights of the collection came when the designer experimented with prints - graphic black butterflies were screen-printed onto an off-white chiffon dress, and elsewhere bottle-green beetles gave life to silk separates. The collection came to a close with a series of negligées that were shown either on their own or with chic black coats, putting the focus on the ultra-cool jewellery that will surely become one of the hottest buys of the season. Once again, Alber has delivered.

Without doubt, Alexander Wang's debut as new creative director of Balenciaga was one of the most-anticipated moments of Paris Fashion Week. Given the reputation of Wang's successor, Nicholas Ghesquière, many feared that Wang's sporty aesthetic would take over and fall short of Balenciaga's luxury standards. Luckily, Wang didn't disappoint. It was clear that Wang's first collection was tentative - clearly determined to show that he had done his research, the sculptural silhouettes, razor-sharp tailoring and chic colour palette all nodded towards the brand's rich heritage. However, Wang did add a few personal touches of his own - the cracked marble print, for example, was shown several times during the show in various guises whereas the fur coats and cigarette trousers were a nod towards Wang's streamlined New York aesthetic. A selection of irridescent fabric and sparkling metallic panels towards the end of the collection picked up on the futuristic aesthetic that Ghesquière has experimented heavily with over the past few seasons - one look showed enormous potential, an immaculately-tailored skirt-suit with a stiff peplum jacket and shimmering khaki fabric perfectly was the perfect mixture of classic simplicity and forward thinking. There were some true highlights in this collection, but the overarching impression was that Wang had stuck to simplicity to avoid criticism; a wise move, and certainly one that has earned him praise from editors worldwide. Subtle glimpses of a more experimental aesthetic, however, show signs that there is plenty more to be seen from this partnership. 

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