Making love and wrapping up – the end of haute couture, at Gaultier, Viktor and Rolf, Valentino and Armani
The couture is over. Long live the couture. Or something. Do we really think couture is going to live forever? Yes, probably. There is enough financial muscle, enough press still clapping (I hope not sporadically), and enough clients to spuriously justify that there are women who demand dresses entirely made out of pieces of ribbon or microscopic feather flowers. And the clothes, at their best, are extraordinary.
Sex, sugar, pins and needles – Versace, Schiaparelli, Giambattista Valli, and a little from Dior and Chanel at the spring couture
As I was walking out of Sunday night’s Atelier Versace show – the official start to the spring/summer 2015 haute couture collections – I overheard an exchange between a couture client and one of the house os Versace’s aides. Well, I overheard one part of the exchange. I presume said aide asked said client what she thought of the collection. “That see-through beaded shit,” she barked. “Sexy as fuck!”
That’s not something you hear much at the haute couture.
Paris Menswear Autumn/Winter 2015: Studious design lessons from Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Loewe, Thom Browne, Hermes
Perhaps it’s all the uniforms cropping up all over the place, or maybe it was Raf Simons’ opening gambit, glorifying his own university years on Wednesday evening, but there’s been a back-to-school feeling at the Paris menswear shows. Many editors share said feeling – bleary-eyed and pale under recently-acquired holiday tans, with shell-shocked expression as they launched into a fully-fledged fashion month barely a week into the new year. Amongst designers, generally, there’s a studious earnestness, to see ideas through, to cross t’s and dot i’s. But, alas, there hasn’t been much deep and meaningful.
Rules are made to be broken. That’s what we’re all taught in our school days. Well, not so much taught, but you pick it up along the way. Raf Simons certainly has. For his autumn/winter 2015 collection, on the first day of Paris’ men’s shows, he once again latched onto youth, his eternal inspiration. Only this season, like the last, felt like it was Simons’ own misbegotten ways. And, in tune with the season as a whole, that necessitated a trip to the archive, and a flick through the garments that defined his aesthetic.
Family is a big deal in Italian fashion. When Donatella Versace, for instance, talks about the Versace DNA, I don’t roll my eyes quite as audibly as I do with other designers. I once asked her what the name “Versace” represented to her. “As a label, or as my family?” was her reply.
London Collections: Men – Machismo, mauve, muddles and messiness, from Alexander McQueen, JW Anderson, Sibling and James Long
There could be few more opposing statements on contemporary menswear than those proposed by JW Anderson and Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton on the third day of London Collections: Men. The former focussed on the floppy, the fey, the snake-hipped gender-blending 1970s; the latter on curled-lip, swagger-shouldered military machismo, last seen circa 1870 when Britannia still rules the waves, and the world. Their men were sufficiently removed from each other to seem to come not merely from different wardrobes, but different species.
It felt like groundhog day as you took your seat in the Topman venue in London’s High Holborn – where the high street behemoth and the various designers it supports has shown since London Collections: Men first launched in 2012 – and watched the boys go wandering by. Not just because of that déjà venue, nor the clothes, which for autumn/winter 2015 were standard seventies-via-nineties-via-last-season stuff jazzed up with psychedelic prints and a heinous passage of tartan. But because, well, we weren’t here all that long ago.
Raf Simons’ latest Dior collection marched out across the square dais of Tokyo’s Ryōgoku sumo hall – an arena more akin to fat men slogging it out in underpants than thin women trying to sell us expensive ones. This is Dior’s contribution to a season most of the world dubs pre-Fall – the no-man’s season that lies between spring/summer and autumn/winter.
How long will fashion journalists feel the need to explain that? Possibly a good while longer if houses continue to come up with inventive names to mask the issue they all seem to have with “pre”.
When the models began to take their complex turns at the Givenchy show on Sunday night, whizzing around the venue as if ricocheting around a pinball machine (the hairpin bends, I must confess, made me feel a bit sick), the first thing I thought was: well. It’s been a while since we saw this.
This being sex. Or rather, sexy. or rather, a certain idea of sexiness. “I would be a very rich man if I could make sexy clothes,” said Gianni Versace in 1997, in one of his final interviews. Which, from the long-acknowledged Italian master of dressing to undress, speaks volumes. Namely it poses the question, what is sexy in clothing?
Two of the most satisfying shows of the current Paris season showed nothing anyone would ever want to wear. No great loss. And no insult, or injury.
That was the point, in fact, of both Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons collection and Jean Paul Gaultier’s final ready-to-wear show. Nevertheless, they could not have been more different: something old, versus something new. Looking forward, and looking back.
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