Céline mixes ultra feminine with utilitarian at Paris Fashion Week

Kenzo focuses on modern global traveller and freewheeling spirit in spring collection

Since she took the helm at Céline six years ago the British designer Phoebe Philo has transformed the fortunes of the 70 year old French house with a feminist approach to fashion that is never predictable and avidly scrutinised by the high street.

Yesterday’s spring collection held in a multi coloured tent in her usual venue at the Paris Tennis Club was no exception. The delicate ultra feminine silk lingerie dresses edged with lace that opened the show were straight from the boudoir but matched with severe black coats in that mix of fragility and strength that is a continuing theme this season. Though exquisite, such dresses demand svelte bodies.

Her new silhouette, rounded, shapely and exaggerating female contours, was notable throughout. Drop shoulders with puff sleeves emphasised the waist in soft white linen dresses offset by more sporty separates — vests and long fluid skirts.

Particularly alluring were the long bare backed knit dresses in black, henna or flesh tones and others with deep scooped necklines and high waists, a new take on 18th century Empire lines.


Keeping this femininity in check were utilitarian baggy trousers, mismatched tweed suits and full skirted coats with wide waspy waists that underlined a clear new direction for spring. "I loved the longer lengths and sculptural body shapes" commented Shelly Corkery, BT's head of womenswear. "It's a very commercial collection".

Energising old brands like this defines much of Paris fashion and the two Californian firebrands, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon continue to bring vivacity, US spirit and a whole new audience to Kenzo. Yesterday morning they drew fans and the fashion crowd way out to the Paris Event Centre in the 19th arrondissement for their spring presentation offering pastel glazed éclairs beforehand as a sweet taste of what was to follow.

Models forming a tableau on moving platforms opened this winning collection which focussed on the modern global traveller and her freewheeling spirit. Its colourful separates, roomy coats, wild mix of layers, long and short patchworked dresses, graphic stripes and deconstructed swimwear worn as underwear were playful, lighthearted and summery. As for accessories, scuba shoes, belt bags and gladiator style patent boots were ready to take to the road.

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan is Irish Times Fashion Editor, a freelance feature writer and an author