Over-thought, overlooked and afterthoughts. A few more from the French spring/summer 2014 collections
Have you ever eaten an eighteen-course French meal and passed out from the exertion? No, me neither. Apparently when they autopsied Louis XIV his stomach was three times the size of an average man.
Sometimes it feels a bit like that during Paris fashion week. You feel bloated, stuffed, saturated. It’s with fashion, rather than food. The latter is thin on the ground, bar the ubiquitous croques.
It means that some of the week’s subtler delicacies can be overpowered, or overshadowed. That was a bit of an issue at the Hermes show. Last season, Christophe Lemaire netted attention by presenting his collection in the Tuesday evening slot normally reserved for Alexander McQueen. He took us up into an old school library to show an old-school collection. It was a highlight. This time, he showed after the Louis Vuitton extravaganza, Marc Jacob’s final hurrah after 16 years.
Lemaire’s soft voice was, understandably, somewhat drowned out. Even a silk-print lined yellow crocodile skirt felt meek by comparison.
That’s sweet for LVMH. In July they were fined $8 million (roughly £6.8 million by the Autorité des Marchés Financiers, regulators of the French stock market, for “failing to inform the market that it was preparing to raise its stake in Hermes.” Said stake was raised to 23.1%. LVMH are not appealing the fine, the highest the AMF has ever imposed.
It also overshadowed the spring 2014 Miu Miu show, a label owned by LVMH rival Prada. The Miu Miu show was sweet, pastel-hued, with riff-referencing on Miuccia Prada greatest hits, including sickly delights like vinyl skirts, toilet-bowl heels and clattering glass-bead fringes. We’ve seen them all from her before, ditto those crocheted tights and mixes of off-colour taking us back to the mid-nineties rather than the late sixties. But as a greatest hits of Miu Miu they felt fresh even a second time around. They were cloyingly sweet, but didn’t overpower.
Overpowering was something of a theme. The heat was overpowering at Giambattista Valli, a few million wattage bulbs blasting down on a collection of elegant, spare silhouettes with a couture flair. There were touches of Arte Povera, humble prints taken from rough wooden planks applied to silk gazar coats, or dresses and coats seemingly made from hopsack, embroidered with fragile blooms.
The Italian Fausto Puglisi’s second collection for Emanuel Ungaro overpowered all by itself, a riotous parade of curly-whirly wired flounces, polka-dots, stripes, zippered slits and slats and visible nipples. Frequently all in the same outfit. No hopsack, just frocks to make you hop in the sack. Puglisi is riotous fashion fun. His own label, shown in Milan, was inspired by an imaginary fusion of Axl Rose and Carolina Herrera. Their sartorial offspring made eye-boggling viewing.
In Paris, chez Ungaro, it was Prince blasting through the hallowed halls of a Parisian hôtel particulier previously reserved for royalty and Popes. Puglisi has a good handle on the sensuality that was always a theme of the house of Ungaro, and revved up the vulgarity, which truth be told was also very much part of the Ungaro oeuvre.
It wasn’t all ruffles and flounces. Carol Lim and Humberto Leon tried their hand at environmental causes, bemoaning the plight of overfishing. You got the message – they scrawled “No Fish No Nothing” across a charity sweatshirt. Good. I couldn’t help but wish they’d just lampooned the Jaws logo as a new version of their ubiquitous house tiger motif. No matter. This was an enjoyable romp, even if it did have meaning. Embroidered sea-life looked sweet, sometimes the visual restricted to a wave pattern at the hem, or an abstract Japanese woodcut of falling water they used in their menswear collection. And the show was a spectacle, a waterfall tumbling in back and speakers bouncing puddles of liquid like a giant aquatic sound-system. Beautiful briny fun.
It was also enlivening to see Delfina Delettrez’s inventive bijoux. She staged a Surrealist tea-party, handing out edible cosmetics – chocolate “lipstick” in early-nineties earth tones, a chantilly mousse packed like expensive face-cream, test-tube phials of prosecco – and displaying her collection on magically levitating plates. Actually floating. The effect was achieved with magnets, a neat underline of her collection’s title, “Never Too Light”.
Delettrez is an original thinker. She comes up with the sort of ideas that seem so wonderfully obvious, you wonder why no-one alighted on them before, like rings clambering up the finger, the metal hidden around the back and seeming to outline the digits with semi-precious stones. They’ll be picked up and ripped off pretty soon, just like her trademark eye-shaped rings and earrings, or the earrings she designed from two pearls, the larger hanging behind the ear. Delettrez’s “Timeless Watches” have antecedents in the work of Martin Margiela, but they looked fresh with a crystal “watch face”. They certainly underlined the Andre Breton air to this Surrealist dinner-party. And the cosmetic food didn’t overpower it, or you.
A word on a few other collections: I like the flocking and colour of Ann Demeulemeester. She’s a name whose look is practically set in stone, locked down in monochrome. When she surprises with something punchy, like this spring offering, it’s especially arresting. Haider Ackermann feels stuck in a groove. However beautiful his clothes are – and they are so, so beautiful – you long for him to try something new, rather than preaching to the converted. Especially as the preaching is becoming pedantic.
You have that feeling sometimes with Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino. They’ve mined dreamy, creamy romance for so long, it can sometimes knock you sick. How many lace princess dresses does one woman – even one incredibly rich jet-setting woman with half-a-dozen homes and thrice as many wardrobes – really need?
The best pieces in the spring Valentino collection said something fresh, the variations on precise shirting, in white or blue, knotted at the neck or dropping a cape at the back. A blue shirt was paired with a pleated skirt alternating between embroidery and transparency. It looked gorgeous, but acknowledged that women lead a life that isn’t always so precious. It cleansed our palette. It moved us on.Tagged in: Ann Demeulemeester, Christophe Lamaire, Delfina Delettrez, Emanuel Ungaro, Fausto Puglisi, Giambattista Valli, Haider Ackermann, Hermes, Kenzo, Louis Vuitton, marc jacobs, Miu Miu, Paris Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 2014, Valentino
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