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.