City of delight: new armour for a new season in Paris

Trends at Paris Fashion Week include longer skirt lengths and surface decoration, handwork and textural embellishment, plus shades of green. How much will filter down to the street?

Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 09:38

ChanelThere comes a point when the seasons change and women want new armour to face the day, to raise the spirits and freshen up a tired wardrobe. Freud got it wrong when he stated that women oppose change: change and the spirit of the times drive fashion forward and keep the City of Light as its epicentre.

Those who understand modern femininity and modern life make the most successful designers, and this season the collections striking a chord at Paris Fashion Week created a desire for a tailored coat with a little bit of flou, a parka with a gorgeous hood, or a dream dress with jewelled adornment. Either way, they’ll be on the streets come October.

Prêt-à-porter took on a whole new meaning in Paris yesterday at Chanel’s realist set of a shopping centre erected in the cavernous halls of the Grand Palais. A witty take on France’s Carrefour hypermarket, complete with fresh fruit and smelly cheese, it was also a play on the double entendre of prêt-a-porter : ready to wear, or takeaway. The concept brought grins to the faces of the 3,000 guests, some of whom raided the shelves when it was over.

Chanel’s success as a global brand means it can make mischief with these notions in an extravagant and subversive way. In a departure from the usual catwalk parade, jaunty models in sparkling runners and swinging ponytails scoured the stacked supermarket shelves like everyday shoppers checking out everything from chainsaws to chocolate, but dressed in the best that money can buy. That included multicoloured tweeds, silvered mesh tunics, bright green car coats and even pink racerbacks with matching leggings, fashionably holed with midriffs bared.

Keeping the house codes refreshed, Chanel’s familiar leather-and-chain straps were cheekily interwoven on wire shopping baskets, while handbags were luxurious versions of wrapped meat packs. Karl Lagerfeld still knows how to deliver the goods and keep the tills ringing. Some 55 per cent of its profits are from perfumes and cosmetics. How many women can afford a Chanel suit?


St Laurent
At St Laurent, Hedi Slimane continues to appropriate the spirit of the 1970s, and, if floppy black hats and flares characterised that period, he updated it with nouveau noir tailoring, short skirts, sparkle knits, check coats and black patent boots. It is likely to hit the streets running, as evidenced by Ellen de Generes rocking St Laurent tuxedos at the Oscars and Angelina Jolie at the Baftas.

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In another 1970s reference, short, boxy, chubby gilets in shearling or fake fur proliferated, and coats were either roomy and layered, mannish, or updated 1940s-style, with narrow waists and long, flared skirts, such as in Celine’s outstanding numbers. Hoodies were everywhere – both on and off the catwalk. On the streets of Paris nearly everyone seemed to be wearing a fur-hooded parka or quilted coat.

In a week that draws to a conclusion tomorrow, some of the more obvious trends emerging include longer skirt lengths and surface decoration, handwork and textural embellishment (zips, sequins, jewellery, ornate embroidery, feathers), and many shades of green – from Stella McCartney’s khaki parkas traced with zips to the stunning floor-length emerald gown at Dior.

Elsewhere, pleating appeared not just in skirts but as surface detail on coats or inset in jackets. Issey Miyake’s bouncy steam stretch pleats were in the forefront, with the revival of his brand’s signature technique in new and more shapely ways. Optical effects characterised Dries Van Noten’s Bridget Riley-inspired striped jackets. Irish designer Danielle Romeril, showing with the British Fashion Council, used 3D holographic fabrics for innovative rainwear.

So how much will filter down to the street, and how much will these Paris shows affect what women want to wear next winter? The androgynous mix of mannish tailoring with feminine details means that gender fusion is key, and increasingly obvious both on and off the catwalks. Fashionable young men sport the narrower, tighter silhouette, while women wear boyfriend jackets with blow dries and beanies. Modern dressing is becoming more covered-up, femininity not equating with cleavage, killer stilettos giving way to trainers vamped up with glitter, or sturdy patent platform brogues making for an easier, more confident stride.

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