Visibility and viability: Rihanna does Comme des Garçons, Céline challenges superficially and Chloe clumps along
Rihanna was sat front-row at Comme des Garçons on Saturday afternoon. I’m uncertain why she was there – it isn’t something I would normally mention, but the incongruity of such a high-profile attendee at Comme des Garçons, hitherto the bastion of intellectualism, of substance over mere style, bears comment. What did Rihanna make of it all? I didn’t ask because, frankly, I don’t care. Comme des Garçons isn’t about the flashy, slightly trashy circus of celebrity dressing. Hence, perhaps Rihanna’s presence was some form of artistic statement, a kind of installation or performance piece? I wondered if someone, somewhere was laughing at her. Or maybe, if even Comme counts the column inches. Visibility, in today’s fashion game, seems next to godliness.
We think of Dior as a house built on evening wear – the French call that flou, which, as the name implies, denotes garments with a sense of fluidity and lightness. Even if a Dior ball gown was anything else. But Dior’s most famous fashion image is of la Tailleur Bar. It’s one of those house codes that Raf Simons has been fixated on since he began redesigning Dior in 2012. Hence the fact the Bar suit’s jacket, the nip-waisted, thrust-hipped silhouette originally cut in tussore silk by Pierre Cardin (a tailor at Dior before setting up under his own steam) appears again and again, insistently, in his collections, cut in everything from grain de poudre to denim.
Paris fashion week is the great consolidator, the grounder of the fashion season. It rounds off the ideas we’ve seen emerging in the other three fashion capitals, adds a few more of its own and a distinctly Gallic flourish, and ties the whole thing up in a fancy, florid Frenchy bow. It adds the punctuation. It makes the whole thing make sense. It does usually at least. This season, however, Paris seems, somehow, subdued. It’s throwing up questions rather than answers, and bucking the trends. It’s an intriguing turn of events.
Following their occupation of Paris in 1940, the Nazis tried to move the couture industry lock, stock and stays to Berlin. The then-head of the Chambre Syndicale, the couturier Lucien Lelong, declared “You can impose what you will by force, but Paris’ haute couture is not transferrable… It exists in Paris or it does not exist at all.”
Fast fashion, lazy luxury and tenderness: From Milan, Moschino, Bottega Veneta, Versace and Jil Sander
Milan fashion week is sometimes a little bit like groundhog day. The same shows are staged in the same showrooms, at the same time, to the same audience. It’s all rather predictable.
Miuccia Prada is currently fixated on the performative aspect of fashion. Her latest collection was titled simply “Act II”. Or maybe it wasn’t a title, but more a statement of fact. It linked it immediately to the menswear show she presented in January, implying the two are part of a continuum. The clothes links it too, as did the presence of male and female models. That was an element many criticised in her menswear show, complaining there were too many female models in too much of her womenswear pre-collection. If they didn’t say it in print, they certainly expressed it verbally. I wonder if any of that reached the top of that Carsten Höller slide where Miuccia Prada’s office sits? If so, I suspect it would only have inclined her to add more male looks to her ostensibly all-woman show.
Edward Meadham once told me he was interested in codes. “The codes of dressing, these languages,” were the words he used. Then we went off on a tangent about Chanel. But that idea of “coding through clothes has stuck with me ever since, whenever looking at a Meadham Kirchhoff collection.
Referencing is an odd thing in fashion. After all, there’s virtually nothing that hasn’t been done before when it comes to clothes. It shows: in London, we saw heavy homage paid – read: rip-offs made – to Yohji Yamamoto, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, and even Valentino. The latter is a sure-fire commercial hit. The former are the latest mood to seize designers, and the all-important stylists who help them pull their collections together. They pull together quite a few collections. Which is perhaps why the results often end up looking old hat. It’s difficult not to start playing fashion train-spotter, trying to pin the collections and editorials down that designers have been referencing. It’s difficult not to the point the finger, to shout it out.
This season it’s all change at Marc by Marc Jacobs – a name that, incidentally, may be being jettisoned, according to a recent interview with Jacobs himself. Maybe that’s because Marc by Marc Jacobs isn’t by Marc Jacobs anymore. It’s by a British twosome, Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley, creative director and head designer respectively, who were brought on to grab MBMJ by the scruff of its honestly-rather-dull neck and give it a bit of a shake-up.
Lack of diversity and unrealistic portrayals of women (and men) in fashion are the go-to criticisms levied on the industry. The highest echelons of fashion, sadly, don’t care to respond and when they do, it’s often mere tokenism or poor taste (the “Vogue Black” section of the Vogue Italia website, whilst doubtless well-meaning, is one high-profile example).
New York, with its rich history of welcoming immigrants from the world over, might seem like the perfect setting to bring diversity in fashion to the forefront. Trouble is, the industry here is ruled by status quo – going too far off-piste might jeopardise the all-important bottom line. And we don’t need Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street to tell us that this is a city that is almost defined by its bottom line.
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