The Wylde Edit: Paris Fashion Week AW17
Words by Luke Singleton
The Louis Vuitton AW17 show was held in the central sculpture atrium of Paris’ Louvre, a first for any label. Akin to Burberry in the UK, Vuitton is a French pioneer for global brand franchisement, where a stealth economic position and a recent shimmering record of critical endorsement has become a viable example of how healthy confidence can produce merited results. Women covet the modern vigour of labels like Vuitton, and the opening number was no exception; a sleek evening coat in soft noir leather, the intricate hook-and-eye fastening embodying a particular blend of formidable elegance that appeals to women today. An aged-leather biker jacket story was a branch off from the usual clinically-tech looks that have become synonymous with Ghesquière’s Vuitton, and within a decidedly modern collection, stood out for all the wrong reasons. Better were patch-pocket jackets and ravishingly pelted coats, worn in the style of the season: unbuttoned but belted, to reveal the garment underneath. Two-piece suits cut from wonderful washed-out wool (to resemble denim) lent more to tailoring than to work-wear, and felt fresh. There was an overarching simplicity in the presentation of looks; the clear pragmatism of the garments, the natural order of layering, the ‘undone’ styling, and the quiet joy in the details- a soft frill at the end of a diaphanous shift dress, or a splattering of studs on an open collar. As with much of this year’s collections, trousers were the real story here. A cropped pair of high-shine, metallic grey-blue kick-flare trousers, paired with an off-white, oversized ribbed sweater, were melt-in-the-mouth fabulous, and preceding the succession of soft, patchwork silk dresses at the end, proved that with Ghesquière there is something for everybody.
The opening look of the Alexander McQueen AW17 show - a sharp, double-breasted tailored coat in supple black leather, with fuchsia and white ribbons sewn into the seams of the fabric - heralded a fresh, adventurous spirit, intrinsic to Sarah Burton, but with a consciousness of the McQueen old guard. The brand’s aesthetic - essentially couture, somewhat sexualized and entirely adult - by its essence, charges the carnal quality of each collection, which have subsequently become, through time, gradually etherealized in Burton’s hands. Woven, multi-coloured threads and ribbons featured throughout the first half of the presentation, embodying the Celtic tradition of Clootie Wells, historically places of pilgrimage; here, symbolizing the metamorphosis of the brand’s identity and heritage. Such delicate adornments helped reveal an inherent sanctity within a series of striking looks of slick, liquid leather, languorous wool-jersey and hand-embellished neo-fabrics. Some of the softer-silhouetted knit dresses simmered with down-to-earth provocation, the youthful insouciance of McQueen’s legacy loud and clear in gold hoop embellishments and studded ankle boots and trainers. Relaxed looking girls with naturally flowing tresses walked wearing little make-up, intimating the low-pitched, youthful spirit of femininity being suggested here.
True captivation, however, came at the end with the stunning complexity of the final procession of dresses. Intricate beading, an unprecedented attention to detail, and a kaleidoscopic fusion of textures, demonstrated the staggering work of a coalesced family of innovative thinkers and devout traditionalists. A pitch-perfect embodiment of this diffidence was a sumptuous full-length, fine sheer lace dress, adorned with the multi-coloured embroidery of songbirds, woodland flowers and crests of nature, optimized by cascading whirls of technicolour plumage, a breath-taking level of hand-embellishment and attentiveness. Burton has struck an intermediate chord here; with much-pronounced joie de vivre and her unique celebratory flounce, this collection should send alluring signals to all McQueen fans, past and present.
At Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior there was a distinct rallying point for work-wear, street-wear and nonchalant evening styles, permeated by an inherent uniformity. The girls were all wearing Stephen Jones’ black leather berets in a show of sartorial solidarity, echoing the women’s marches seen weaving their way through Central London’s streets these past weeks. There is a sense of egalitarianism to Chiuri’s Dior designs, this show following on from the non-conformist agenda she proposed with her debut collection. And as it cannot be avoided that Dior already caters to a predominantly socially mobilized, advantaged female demographic, how refreshing - and unnecessary - it is to use such a conservative arena (at a fashion house with an unequivocal reputable position in Paris), to communicate her own political hypothesis, so resolutely and so early on in her tenure at Dior. What feels even more invigorating, however, watching her model militia march down the runway, is how unquestionably appropriate this all seems, even at a house with such a strong hereditary ethos.
The influence of classic shapes and silhouettes was still there, even in the tech-fabric utilitarian looks, and denim (new to Dior, pale and faded or selvedge in this instance) was paired with classically tailored jackets with nipped-in waists. Looks were kept demure with hems revealing ankles, model’s necks gently coddled by chokers made from fine ribbons. Any ornamentation was kept minimal with covered fastenings, waist belts crafted from matching fabric and the scarcity of decorative detail. Accessories were elegant and characteristically feminine. Chiuri’s blue colour study, full of rich, fervent hues, the beauty of which was most remarkable in an exquisite netted, layered tulle skirt, which simulated oceanic waves, roused an impression of introspective preoccupation, which chimed conclusively to the expectations of the audience.
Kicking-off Demna Gvasalia’s rationale for Balenciaga AW17, the berserk eccentricity of asymmetrically-fastening tweed jackets (a clear reference to the sort of imaginary, idiosyncratic characters reminiscent of a Vetements show), had the adverse effect of reverberating an awkward sense of misplaced identity; in an enigmatic Balenciaga show, it’s historically the clothes, not the cast, that dictate the narrative. Even if the colour-blocking combinations resonated, the silhouette looked uncomfortable, and mismatched earrings cued a surrealism overload. Better were the simpler accessory styles, such as polished leather satchel-style handbags, playfully oversized totes and duffel bags, and the introduction of candy-coloured leather waist belts, all hitting the offbeat imagery within elegant ambiance. Playfully prim prints and exaggerated proportions further pushed this agenda. Roll-neck body-con sweaters with a playful intimation of sexuality, worked beautifully when paired with redirected pencil skirt looks, crafted to look like reconfigured car mats, cut from slick metallics, teal wool neoprene, or black rubberized leather. It was with this more pronounced version of off-kilter chic, inherently influenced by feminine and timeless silhouettes, that Gvasalia flourished.
And then - the pièce de résistance: a stunning parade of archival couture looks, a gracious resonation of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s commanding authority in the fashion annals of exhilarant, provocative glamour. Nine gorgeous reinterpretations of his cutting-edge compositions from the 50’s (minus any unnecessary tweaks, yet satisfactorily contemporary), reminded all commentators that surrealism is in fact a viable component of the label’s DNA; as Gvasalia reminds us here, Cristóbal’s designs simulated pure technical wizardry. It might have perhaps felt like an atypical choice for the Parisian house at the time, but Gvasalia’s maverick standpoint right now looks like a harmonious fit.
In his poetic, heartfelt way, Simon Porte Jacquemus has found a plausible midway point between unadulterated whimsy and sartorial credibility; his AW17 show was a conceptualization of his admiration for French folklore and the tradition of couture. The younger, cooler brands in Paris, seen elsewhere with Courrèges, are looking back at the moment to their contemporaries and fashioning an allegiance to classic ideals of fashion. Here was a self-affirming homage to the pomp and poise of quintessential French dressing, with an ostentatious dash of 80’s Lacroix maximalism; giant, corseted bows mirrored the asymmetrical swagger of pivoted matador hats, also recalling the Surrealist French painters of the 1920’s. Such exaggerated volumes, cleverly cut to reveal sensuality by exposing the décolletage, required minimal embellishment, retaining our focus on the silhouette. The immaculate folds of a midnight blue duchess satin blouse, twisted and contorted to transform sleeves into sublime organic shapes. Sensational elongated frock coats, boasting sumptuous curves and reassuringly curvilinear lines, nipped neatly in at the waist simultaneously puffing out at the hips, exaggerating the female form.
His boxy jackets were the true intermediate pieces of the collection, embodying all of Jacquemus’ reference points, yet standing out for their youthful irreverence and true covetable value. Jacquemus designs with real savoir-faire, a style that emanates translatability and reverberates with enough capricious charm to appease a discerning London crowd, or woo a New York society gathering. That superb AW17 cropped and flared trouser-of-the-moment (arduously represented within the Paris collections) featured here, this time slit up the front with girlish frivolity. These are looks that will appeal directly to a younger clientele, who want to emulate an imagined sense of timeless sophistication; their loyalty behind this burgeoning brand no doubt inspired by Jacquemus’ reasonable price point, bringing the fashion new-guard as close to couture as one can imagine. One gets the sense that he would really love to see his generational peers in his clothes.