THE NEW GLAM SLAM
Paris brought the curtain down on the Fashion Month merry-go-round – and what a spectacle for the senses it was, reports Rebecca Lowthorpe
YOU’VE GOT TO HAND IT to Nicolas Ghesquière, the artistic director at Louis Vuitton, the final show that wrapped up Paris and the month-long merry-goround of spring/summer ’18 shows. Because it was his collection that so neatly summed up everything that’s relevant about fashion now: that high-low mix of glamour and street, the unapologetic flogging of the T-shirt and trainer that’s now every global megabrand’s bread and butter, the essential need for reality (truly convincing proposals for working women), along with a deep craving for glamour, romance and beauty. In other words, all the gorgeous, dreamy stuff that serves as visual escapism from the horrors of the world. Last week, it was Las Vegas and the worst mass shooting in US history, the knife attack in Marseille and the everpresent threat of terrorism that prompted heightened security at every show.
So, past the checkpoints of guards and muzzled dogs, through airport-style X-ray machines we went, deep into the heart of Paris, quite literally, under the glass pyramid of the Louvre, where we sat inside the walls of a medieval fortress with the Great Sphinx of Tanis poised at the foot of the runway. And in front of the Louis Vuitton audience that boasted Cate Blanchett, Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore, Ghesquière proposed decadent 18thcentury frock coats (the glamour) with silky running shorts and souped-up trainers; athletic sportswear meets couture. Backstage after the show, when asked about his surprising sport-glam mix, he said he didn’t even consider it sportswear any more, since it’s now so embedded in our daily
closets. ‘It’s just our clothes, street clothes – we all walk in sneakers. It was the idea of anachronism, to put them with flamboyant costumes that felt surprising and romantic. Today we all need a bit of that.’
Looking back over the week, Paris’s other leading designers were on the same page. Sometimes, you only had to look at the footwear to catch the beat of the moment. At Céline, some models pounded out in hefty trainers with lilac soles, giving Phoebe Philo’s working woman-of-theworld a multitasking speed and purpose to her reality-based wardrobe. Philo’s instinct for funnelling newness into simple staples like trench coats, trouser suits, shirtdresses and modern eveningwear (the most striking in liquid black sequins) had her audience gleefully making mental wish lists.
A big dose of reality was also seen at Loewe, where Jonathan Anderson also proposed sneakers – of the curled-toe Rumpelstiltskin variety. ( Yes, really, and you’ll see them on the feet of every streetstyle ‘influencer’ come January.) In fact, his boldest statement – aside from pretty dresses in ditsy florals or patchworked with asymmetric hems – was a simple white tee worn with black pants and accessorised with one of his fab bags – the type of raw woven gem you might find on your travels, only luxuriously made by Loewe’s specialists. So striking was this outfit’s normalness,normalness , it was as if a young fashion editor had just got up from the audience and joined his army of models on the catwalk.
Stella Mccartney also had something to say about humbling glamour. Her T-shirts came big and boxy over washed taffeta ball skirts. She also threw in stonewashed denim and big slouchy sweatshirts for good measure. ‘Glamour for glamour’s sake I’m not really interested in,’ she said. ‘It’s all about the mix, taking something high and wearing it with something low.’ We saw this magic mash-up all over: at Isabel Marant in the sporty washed silks and second-skin athletic tanks worn with high-shine trackie bottoms; chez Vanessa Seward, who put her chic Parisienne in jumpsuits with their top halves rolled down and sleeves tied at the waist ( the new way to wear your all-in-one). Even Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli – he of the exquisite dress in all its couture-crafted incarnations
– offered up cagoules and transparent rain macs with flashes of sporty neon and hybrid sock-trainers. Naturally, his came bejewelled.
Perhaps we have his former Valentino designer compatriot, Maria Grazia Chiuri, now well into her stride at Dior, to thank for this whole street-sport-glam thing. Remember her ‘ We should all be feminists’ T-shirt? And how she took the ‘J’adior’ logo and ran with it? It was Chiuri who made the case for a giant luxury house to offer the slogan tee, denim and trainers, and in doing so reach out to Millennials (with her own 21-year-old daughter in mind). This time, her feminist slogan, emblazoned on Breton stripes, read, ‘ Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ And on every seat, an essay on the subject by art historian Linda Nochlin. Needless to say, she is one of fashion’s most astute marketeers. Her true-blue denim, worker’s caps and berets, bags covered in the Dior monogram and black-and-white chequerboard sneakers will no doubt sell as fast as freshly baked croissants. As for that other great fashion marketeer, Miuccia Prada, who shows Prada’s sister line, Miu Miu, in Paris, what did she have to say about high-low, realitycheck-fashion? Socks! They came in neon brights with the Miu Miu logo. Also in the spirit of the moment – which included a casting milestone where more than half of the 57 models in the show were non- Caucasian – she tipped the glam scales by opening with low-key grey suits before ramping up the subversive Miuccia-isms with wallpaper print hausfrau coats and naughty lace dresses that exposed big knickers beneath.
And what of fashion’s flip sides? Paris is like a crystal prism, refracting multiple points of view; it can never be pinned down to just one thing – too many brilliant minds with much to say. This is the crème de la crème of fashion capitals where you get to be awed by Rei Kawakubo’s gargantuan silhouettes at Comme des Garçons smothered in surreal artwork and
kawaii (cute) plastic toys; Junya Watanabe’s punks with metal skewers in their hair and spiked trainers on their feet; Maison Margiela’s wildly scissored macs worn with swimming caps and a bold slash of lipstick; and Rick Owens’ otherworldly women wrapped up like human parcels. Phew!
It’s also the capital where designer-hotseat shuffling is centre stage. There was huge anticipation for Clare Waight Keller’s debut Givenchy collection, where she made a promising start with a show chock-full of sharp tailoring and floaty ruffled dresses. And at her old stomping ground, Chloé, Natacha Ramsay-levi proved that the much-loved label is in safe hands, as she captured the moment with skinny cropped jeans, going out-out tops and multi-buckled boots.
As for fashion’s supersonic moments and the shows that lifted our spirits beyond? Chanel. Not with a rocket to the moon this time, just your average 15-metre high cliff face and six waterfalls streaming down it. That’s right, Karl’s Grand (eco) Canyon had been shipped to the Grand Palais, complete with wooden footbridge and accessorised with 90 models in iridescent frocks and transparent plastic hats, boots and ponchos. Rainwear (for the chauffeur-driven) par extraordinaire! And at the quieter end of the escapist spectrum was Sarah Burton’s epic Alexander Mcqueen show, inspired by the gardens at Great Dixter house in East Sussex. With a backdrop of flower-strewn pergolas, the designer sent out models with rain-soaked hair in the most romantic dresses, sometimes wrapped in eiderdown coats or waxed jackets. The detail was incredible – even the boots had flowers embedded in their transparent soles. Applause, too, for her casting of diverse body types. If only more designers would take note: women with breasts and hips want to buy your creations, so why not reflect this on the runway?
And finally, back to glamour, the over-arching trend in Paris means the last word goes to Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent, who presented the week’s most awesome glam slam. We were under the Eiffel Tower, no less, which sparkled on cue, lighting up the sequins, crystal and glitter. Vaccarello has proved himself a money-maker for the brand, particularly with his statement thigh-high boots. This season’s version pounded out in ostrich feathers – kerching! He’d dug deep into Yves Saint Laurent’s archives and come up with a thoroughly modern interpretation of pure, hedonistic glamazonian gear for girls who just want to have fun. And if there’s anything we need in our lives right now, it’s that. Fun. With a capital F.
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