Paris Fashion Week: back to life, back to reality

Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo have differing views when it comes to what they design for modern women


Stella McCartney Paris fashion weekYesterday, in the middle of Paris Fashion Week, I saw women crowding around the rails in Zara on the Champs Élysées, stopping at the black-and-white graffiti-print tops and skirts in polyester, at €39 and €49 each. For anyone in touch with summer trends, the connection to Phoebe Philo’s painterly summer collection for Celine could not have been more obvious. It just goes to show how influential this designer’s work is on the high street, and it highlights the main criticism against Celine: that its clothes, although desirable, are unaffordable.


That summer collection was shown against a soundtrack of Soul II Soul, including Back to Life , whose “back to reality” lyrics might have been the show’s theme. The same music, coincidentally, was used yesterday by Stella McCartney at her winter show in the opulent interior of the Palais Garnier at the Paris Opera. The two very successful and powerful female designers – both British, both mothers, and who once worked together – have similar demands in their professional and private lives, but differing viewpoints when it comes to what they design for modern women such as themselves.

At McCartney’s show yesterday, there was a parka for everyone in the audience (in a manner of speaking), a fun, girlish take on streetwear with a playful use of zips used like embroidered motifs across coats and bomber jackets.

Even shaggy knits and storm-grey tweeds were scribbled with mountaineering cords, a sportiness that extended to her revival of stretch stirrup trousers, a somewhat debatable winter trend. As for her total look knits, they wrapped the body with matching, knitted cross-body bags in oatmeal, charcoal and grey. Treating trench coats in tie-dyed printed silk with a silver-tipped wave belt was a new way to refresh and restyle a familiar street favourite.

As someone who understands the wardrobe needs of a busy mother in winter, there were fewer skirts in the line-up, and her shoes were masculine and sporty, with square toes and wooden platforms. But would women not get tangled up in fringed body suits for evening?

Flared knitted trousers by Phoebe PhiloBoth designers are skilled in manipulating masculine tailoring, but you could never call Phoebe Philo girly, as her style is always so grown-up, streamlined and sophisticated. From the very first flared black coat, with its white buttons and taut, fitted waist, this was a winning collection right down to the single-jewelled earrings, coloured crystal cuffs and peep-toed patent platforms.

Although the shapely, feminine coats were the stars of the show in big cat prints, grey wool or camel cinched with a fur belt, her knitwear was taut and lean: knee-length tunics, gingham shirts and long, panelled skirts. It may not be long before the high street offers the everyday shopper something for her wish list “inspired” by this show, although maybe not flared, knitted trousers just yet.

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