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11/03/2015

Saint Laurent, Leonard, Hermès and Sonia Rykiel

Highlights from Paris’s Fashion Week.

1. Saint Laurent: Punk Goes to the Prom

(Photo:www.marieaustralia.com/evening-dresses)

Now that Saint Laurent has announced that its revenues doubled in the past year, the fashion purists’ grumbles are growing weaker, but getting grumpier, at the brand’s show on Monday evening in Paris. There’s a vast segment of fashion-goers who see the brand—once known as Yves Saint Laurent—as a sacred haute couture label. They hate to see it producing punk-party dresses worn over ripped fishnet stockings and pert booties.

Designer Hedi Slimane has delved deep into Mr. Saint Laurent’s drug-tormented period of around 1970—the Rive Gauche years—for the ethos that drives this label. Updated to 2015, it’s about frothy debauched pink prom dresses and black leather rock-n-roll mini dresses that start out too short and pile on a high slit. No one wants their daughter to be a Saint Laurent girl.

Also, though, no one should fail to see the masterful merchandising that tells the story of how this label doubled those revenues: There’s an archly tailored gray jacket slung over that pink prom frock and a whole string of skinny black suits that are tailored within an inch of their lives. Not to mention all those black leather handbags hanging from the show guests’ shoulders. —Christina Binkley

2. Leonard: Heavy Hitter

(Photo:www.marieaustralia.com/bridesmaid-dresses)

French label Leonard Paris stepped away from more than 50 years of tradition, showing a collection of heavy, structured garments that shocked many viewers.

The house, whose original slogan was “150 grams of happiness” in reference to its lightweight jersey dresses, showed almost none of its well-known bright flowery prints. Instead, animal patterns and other more subtle prints took the lead.

The change comes a year after the arrival of Chinese-born designer Yiqing Yin to the position of creative director. At Monday’s runway, guests could be heard muttering their astonishment at the change in the brand’s aesthetics.

Leonard’s founder Daniel Tribouillard admitted that it was a “total breakaway from what Leonard is.” Speaking after the show, he said it was the new designer’s desire to work with heavier fabrics. “I’m happy with the renewal, if it makes itself felt on the business side,” Mr. Tribouillard said. —Nadya Masidlover

3. Hermès: Suede Perfection

Hermès takes its ready to wear too seriously. We can’t blame the designers. Designer after designer, the French perfectionist brand’s clothes lack the vivacious humor of its fantastic scarves, and often its jewelry, dishes, umbrellas, table clothes and other sundry luxury goods. They are, though, lovely and made of the world’s best suede, leather, silk, wool and other materials.

Hermès installed a new designer this season: Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, who has worked previously at the Row. (The Row is another label whose clothes are lovely and luxurious and utterly timeless.) At Hermès, she replaced Christophe Lemaire, who four years earlier replaced Jean-Paul Gaultier —a humorist designer if ever there was one, for his own lines.

Her debut was utterly lovely. Perfect suede slacks, perfect long knit dresses—one in a shocking banana yellow—and perfect warm blanket-like suits. —Christina Binkley

4. Sonia Rykiel: ’70s to the Max

The hippest coeds around (and their mothers) will be wearing Sonia Rykiel’s velvet maxi-dresses and jumpsuits, and metallic silver leather pants. It’s extraordinary to see how quickly a savvy designer can take a moribund brand and hot-ify it.

Julie de Libran’s first collection for the label, for spring, has just reached stores so we don’t yet know if consumers will reach for their credit cards. Within the fashion crowd, though, the verdict is in. Sonia Rykiel—in the hands of the former studio director for Marc Jacob’s Louis Vuitton—has turned from moribund to must-have.

Ms. Libran says her favorite era is the ’70s, and it shows in her fall collection, which captures the vivacious, experimental nature of that era, but updates it, all the while adhering to the modes of the house: the stripe, the pencil-skirt shape, and edgy details that Ms. Rykiel herself once pioneered, like the patches on fur coats. —Christina Binkley

5. Stella McCartney: Fur Fakeout

Stella McCartney, who is vehemently anti-fur and leather, showed fuzzy, fake-fur coats for fall, with a hint of disco era when done in white. A dark-colored one, though, was hard to distinguish from real fur on the runway.

Her spunky collection, like Phoebe Philo’s Celine, is always about real women with busy lives. Ms. McCartney’s looks are higher energy though, and enough are produced that they can be found in stores. Long, wide slacks, some with huge cuffs, and half sweaters that covered just arm, gave her fall collection a relaxed ease.

Curved, chunky heels marked her booties—still in ’70s style as is the trend. The trouble with faux leather, though, is that it can’t easily be buffed back to perfection when it’s been scratched.

So the shoes have a shorter life (I know from personal experience with Ms. McCartney’s shoes), which may add to the waste stream, among other problems. Sometimes, you just can’t win. —Christina Binkley

6. Giambattista Valli : Camouflage Prints

Few collections are more expensive than Giambattista Valli’s, and few have a better row of global socialites. His are ripe with Fiat-family scions and women named Niarchos, Radziwill, or Santo Domingo. He has lately been dressing a lot of celebrities as well, including Rihanna’s memorable frothy pink Grammy Awards gown.

Net-a-Porter founder and chairman, Natalie Massenet, noted, as she exited the show on Monday at Paris’s Grand Palais that his clothes sell particularly well in the Middle East, where money is often no object.

This is all because Mr. Valli has a keen sense of how to assemble flattering clothes out of wildly elaborate fabrics. His designs have enough structure to camouflage mature bodies where they require it, but they have a youthful verve. His long, jacquard bell-bottoms with botanical prints were gorgeous—even if the huge collection could have been edited down. He out-Missoni-ed Missoni with a zigzag-striped suit of a tunic over matching slacks. —Christina Binkley

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