Paris Fashion Week Spring 2014: A soft Givenchy, a hard Chloe, a messy Céline, and the new Comme Des Garçons

Alexander Fury

celine sweater 225x300 Paris Fashion Week Spring 2014: A soft Givenchy, a hard Chloe, a messy Céline, and the new Comme Des Garçons

A sweater and skirt from Phoebe Philo's spring 2014 collection for Céline

A fashion week is an odd, fluid period of time. It can mean anything from five rammed days in London, the first hazed with jet lag, to the nine-day marathon of the Paris collections. We’re two thirds of the way through that, but there’s still much to see. Namely Miu Miu, Chanel, Marc Jacobs’ Louis Vuitton show, and the always-contentious Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent. He closes the day’s proceedings tomorrow.

Not that Paris hasn’t already thrown up plenty to think about. Rei Kawakubo, for one, who eschewed the very idea of clothes in her latest Comme Des Garçons collection. She couldn’t think of anything new, she said, so she didn’t create clothes. There will be nay-sayers (many of whom comment here) who consider that heretical, or even nonsensical, for a fashion designer to state. Quite a few in the press did too.

Open your minds.

What Kawakubo did instead was to present abstract proposals, kind of like site specific art where the specific site was the human body. That sounds complicated and mind-numbing. It was. But it went somewhere new. You could truly say that you hadn’t seen anything like these clothes before. And in a season marked even more than usual by designers rehashing and reworking old, worn ideas of clothing, that was profoundly refreshing, and even a little upsetting. You couldn’t help but wish that other designers stuck for something new could be pushed to create something quite so different, as opposed to ripping off existing frocks.

Rei Kawakubo is an original. She’s the designer’s designer. But if you want clothes to actually wear, go to Phoebe Philo. She’s a consumer’s designer. She’s also a retailer’s dream. First at Chloe and latterly at Céline, her skill is to divine what people want to wear. Or, more importantly, buy.

celine finale 225x300 Paris Fashion Week Spring 2014: A soft Givenchy, a hard Chloe, a messy Céline, and the new Comme Des Garçons

Jacquard graffiti patterns and leather handbags from the spring 2014 Céline collection

This season seemed a jump, composed as it was of graffiti-daubed tunics, pleated full skirts, vibrant colour and, frankly, lots and lots of clutter. Models had multi-stacked bangles, odd metallic shoes, coats punched with multicoloured jumbo eyelets, handbags shredded into latticework, training fringes of coloured leather or even handfuls of raffia. It was sloppy and messy. For the mean Céline queen of clean, that felt very new and different. Albeit in a very different way to Comme Des Garçons.

The undoing of Céline is a major story. Philo set the pace when she debuted at the house in 2009, her reductionist mantra infecting a whole host of designers. You can see the seeds of what she did in the work of Stella McCartney (ironically, Philo’s former boss: she shows tomorrow), and of Clare Waight Keller at Chloe.

Chloe has been fumbling around for a Phoebe-filler since she exited the house in 2005.

Waight Keller has some nice ideas. Her latest Chloe collection contained pretty pleated dresses with slashed and tied shoulders and a few in a stiff, papery macrame with handkerchief hems that bounced cheerily around the figure. This show, however, didn’t capture that must-have moment. Instead, it felt a little musty. The colours were drab in the late seventies Armani school of khaki, greige and sackcloth beige. There was plenty of action below the waist, via droopy drawers and full skirts. A few of the jackets dribbled loosely around the cuff and hem, in the manner Rick Owens has made his own.

The shoes and bags, formerly Chloe staples, zipped by unnoticed: they were unremarkable. The desert shades of this collection left you with sand-blindness. Afterwards, it was difficult to discern exactly what you’d just seen.

Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy never fails to make an impression. Sometimes too much of an impression. An impression of impressions – reflections of other designers’ work, remembrance of recent collections past. His spring 2014 menswear collection was print heavy but light on design. By contrast, his womenswear was rinsed of the statement prints he has made the commercial fodder of Givenchy. What a relief. Instead, Tisci focussed on drape, shape and – most importantly – design. Great design.

junya 225x300 Paris Fashion Week Spring 2014: A soft Givenchy, a hard Chloe, a messy Céline, and the new Comme Des Garçons

A look from the spring 2014 collection of Junya Watanabe

Tisci’s Givenchy dresses were twisted and turned around the body, pleated and swagged. Shades were earthy, terracotta, bronze, deep red alongside a few flashes of vibrant orange and yellow. A print sneaked in, but was worked in sequins. Parts reminded me of the work of Miguel Adrover. In 2001, he spent a period living and working with Berber tribes in Tunisia. There was also a feel of eighties Donna Karan. Only a whisper. Maybe in the easiness of it all. I’m splitting hairs there.

You get the feeling Tisci is hankering after the haute couture that formed such an important part of the house’s history, and that surrendered some of his best work. There was a sense of the ateliers’ hands in the intricately worked surfaces of ostrich feathers, leather twine, or sequins. A trio of evening dresses, slashed at the waist and pleated, the inside of each revealing contrasting flanks of colour and pattern, were plain stunning.

There were a few gimmicky moments, the beaded tulle masks sported by some models that recalled Mexican Day of the Dead skulls. And the tribal drums seemed a heavy-handed evocation of tribal roots that, honestly, were so embedded in the garments they sang out.

It made for a strong show, but soft clothes. Certainly there wasn’t the hardness that sometimes mars Tisci’s work. And it was interesting. I want to figure out what those surfaces are, and how those clothes will sit on the body. They’re interesting.

The same is true of Junya Watanabe. He also mined a tribal path with a collection of shredded jersey and ultrasuede in dirty colours. Thrown in, without a second thought, were perfect trench-coats and leather biker jackets. So easy, and yet so difficult. Models emerged at the end with Yokohama cock feathers trailing from their scraggly, dreadlocked hair. Sounds like a mess. It was magical.

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  • bojimbo26

    Once upon a time , many years ago , fashion was what could be worn out of the house . Now it’s about inflating designers egos with a load of tat . End of fairy story . ( With appologies to fairies ) .

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