After lackluster fashion weeks in New York, London and Milan, the pressure was on French designers to deliver. And Nicolas Ghesquiere did...
PARIS — After lackluster fashion weeks in New York, London and Milan, the pressure was on French designers to deliver. And Nicolas Ghesquiere did just that at Balenciaga last week, introducing a new species of sex-bots in the season’s most thrilling show yet.
At the heart of his science-fiction fashion fantasy were razor-sharp suits, but not like any you’ve seen before. This confident silhouette was defined by bilevel shoulder pads built into jackets and shirts that looked like they could have come out of an episode of “Star Trek,” with fabrics alternating between matte and shiny patent leather, and plenty of metallic hardware.
The opening look was a pin-thin black coat with gleaming patent sleeves, paired with skinny trousers. Then came those shoulders, as sharp as blades on a precisely tailored white shirt with a stiff high collar and a bib of white sequins. Jackets were incredibly worked, one with angular cuts over the collarbone, another a biker style in white and black color-blocked leather. Pants came in gleaming silver, with hefty belt buckles lending a military feel.
Menswear fabrics added to the tough chic, with a striped shirtdress hemmed in white patent worn under a patchwork vest, and a silk smoking jacket remade into a loose wrap dress fastened with a gold cartridge belt.
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But it was Ghesquiere’s one-shouldered minidresses that were the real stars with patent leather and sheer chiffon sliced and diced into shardlike patterns. He also worked in copper mesh, draping and molding it into futuristic togas, worn with black leather leggings covered in mirrored copper tiles.
As incredibly cinematic as it was (Darth Vader would have been right at home in the molded black plastic leggings with kneepads), there were things here for Earthlings to wear, including sculpted leather vests and boleros with angel-wing sleeves, sky-high silver-mesh sandals with copper-studded platforms and those clear goggle glasses, sure to be the must-have accessory come spring. If there was any question of the most influential designer working in Paris today, Ghesquiere answered it.
Horsting and Snoeren
There have been so many riffs on the tuxedo and ball gown during the first few days of Fashion Week here that one began to wonder if “Dancing With the Stars” had been rushed into syndication. Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren transformed their show space into a ballroom with chandeliers hung above a dance floor for a runway, and Rufus Wainwright crooning with an orchestra. In such a romantic setting, how could you not be charmed by their eveningwear, from the trench coat, blouse and gown shimmying with loops of ivory fringe, to the black suit with star cutouts edged in white.
The smoky gray degrade tuxedo was smart looking, as was the flesh-tone bodysuit with black satin stars sewn in all the right places — a clever play on the nude-vs.-covered theme that is turning up at several shows.
If the shoes — blush-satin ankle-wrap sandals with chandelier crystals for heels — actually get produced, they may just be too pretty to wear. Stockings also sparkled with chandelier crystals, though it’s difficult to imagine how the models put them on without damaging the goods. That aside, this collection was above all salable — no multiple collars or molten-silver cocktail gowns this season — which was a smart move now that the designing duo have a collection with H&M rolling out next month.
Martin Margiela’s shows are typically so far out, you don’t quite know what to make of them. But this season, he reined things in too, with lots of wearable jersey dresses and capelets with spring’s requisite padded shoulders. A red and white bull’s-eye draped over the shoulder of one dress, and a star-shaped belt buckle on another brought to mind “Super Friends.” But it was when Margiela delved deeper, experimenting with a state of undress, that things really became interesting.
He built a flesh-toned bodysuit into a black blazer with cartoon large lapels, creating the illusion that it was slipping off the shoulders, and showed trousers so long that the legs trailed behind as if someone was about to step out of them. One was reminded of the moment when a superhero strips out of her real-world clothes and becomes extraordinary, a powerful message to be sure.
Kawakubo, Watanabe, Yamamoto
Rei Kawakubo at Commes des Garçons, Junya Watanabe and Yohji Yamamoto all had the same idea, creating something more feminine from the tuxedo and the tailcoat. Kawakubo took a cubist approach, deconstructing tailored jackets and reattaching them with peach-organza insets for a fragmented look, worn over tulle ballet skirts. Another jacket was bursting at the seams with peach tulle coils. Other pieces went further, challenging the viewer to decide if they were clothes or not, such as a wool skirt suspended from a nude tummy panel, looking like it was about to drop to the floor.
Watanabe went Baroque, piling hair pompadour style atop models’ heads. Tailcoats came with the backs cut into overlapping petals, in rumpled thick black cotton or paisley jacquard, bringing to mind the fallibility of all royals. But the weight of the fabric combined with all the draping, puckering and folding around the hips and shoulders might make these coats too unwieldy for commoners to wear. Still, skinny jeans with tuxedo stripes down the side were fabulous, as was a group of white shirtdresses, actually tux shirts elongated into dresses and belted at the hips with a man’s black cummerbund. Layered over pants, with pointy black-leather Oxford shoes with white lace cap toes, it was one cool look.
Yamamoto’s gender-benders wore black tailcoats with asymmetrical hems and a single doilylike white cuff peeking out from beneath a sleeve, or corset lacing in back. A military theme emerged with jodhpurs worn under a deconstructed safari jacket and a striped sailor dress with the sleeves of a men’s dress shirt wrapped around the shoulders, as if a wife were embracing her husband before he went off to war.
Rick Owens never seems to escape having tails on sweaters, dresses and coats, drooping to the floor. But for spring, he lightened up considerably with a beautiful white shirt folded like an envelope in front and fitted with a peplum in back, worn with a cream linen skirt that resembled a tablecloth falling to the knees in pretty triangular points. White shirts were draped into a kind of cowl at the neck, or like a cloud around the bodice. It was nice to see long sleeves for spring on a V-back dress in a champagne linen, with scarf points at the shoulders.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Owens without a few cruder touches, so these ethereal looks were sometimes topped with crackly leather boleros with stalactites jutting out from either shoulder. It was a bit too zany at times, but was still nice to see Owens going in another direction.
At Undercover, Jun Takahashi doesn’t seem to know who he wants to be. His wandering mind is one thing that makes his show a draw. (He’s done a collection out of reworked concert T-shirts, and last season mummified his models.) But when he so dramatically switched gears, offering his take on couture styling, with sassy sequin rompers and tuxedo sweater dresses worn with patent-leather bowties, it felt a little like whiplash.
Not that there weren’t things to like, such as a purple-chiffon evening wrap edged in pompoms and gold chain. And one has to appreciate his cheekiness in a fuchsia flower-blossom cocoon coat just like one by Yves Saint Laurent last season. Perhaps he was suggesting that only pretty clothes sell enough to change an underdog designer’s fortunes.