Paris Fashion Week Review: Dead Ends and Body Bags

October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Looks from Kanye West

The surprising must-have item from the Paris shows was the body bag, or some wearable form of it. More than a few appeared at Rick Owens as high neck, floor length dresses made from single cuts of leather, and a handful spiced up the runway at Martin Margiela in clear plastic.

It seemed appropriate that all the body-bag looks preceded Sunday, as if they were preparing us for the dead-end debut collection by rapper-turned-designer Kanye West. It’s a bit unclear how his collection came together, exactly, considering he probably doesn’t know how to sew a button on a shirt. But during the show, the mystery of his ghost design team became irrelevant as ill-fitting, hoochie club wear came down the runway and we realized that the show was his singular vision. Necklines plunged below the belly button, pants bunched at the ankles like scrunchies, and dresses made of 2-inch strips of fabric wrapped around the models like bandage tape. They looked like post-clubbing hospital victims.

Despite the consensual critical panning, though, I think Kanye’s collection might have some commercial life come springtime. There’s always a market for short, tight dresses as well as the general Kanye West brand. You might not find the clothes at Barneys or Bloomies, but you’re bound to bump into them somewhere, even if it’s on Gilt.

Looks from Comme des Garcons

Like the criticism following West’s show, Rei Kawakubo’s latest collection for Commes des Garcons spoke volumes about limitations. She showed a macabre parade of white-out brides with sleeves either tied together with a bow or magnified to the point of resembling pant legs. Kawakubo was commenting on the burdens and restrictions brought upon by marriage, and how this process is veiled in pretty dresses and fanciful ceremony. Her message was clear and artfully conveyed, and the clothes were really lovely too. Hems were lined with lush flowers, skirts billowed like expanding cumulous clouds, and dainty white lace peeked out from under creme silk jackets. Some of the most awe-inspiring looks came toward the end of the show as diaphanous skirts constructed from tumor-like panels with cage-inspired ribbing.

Looks from Junya Watanabe

Kawakubo’s underling Junya Watanabe put out an equally stand-out collection, with numerous looks done in colorful floral lace. They had a nice transparency, which worked well over simple black dresses and under ruffled leather jackets. It was simply a joy to look at. I also enjoyed the headpieces in the collection, which called to mind mangled chickens contorted in every which way.

Looks from Givenchy

The big story from Givenchy wasn’t about the clothes, although they were still a boon; rather, it was about the runway-shy Gisele closing the show, as well as appearances from modeling veterans Frankie Rayder and Natalia Vodianova. Perhaps Tisci’s model casting indicated that the Givenchy woman has grown up and moved beyond the girlish waif. You could feel this in the overall sinister attitude of the show, as conveyed by ebony tops covered in black scale-like paillettes and jackets accented with leopard sea wolf skin. Gigantic shark teeth swung from necks like weighty pendulums and metal chains replaced cloth straps. The show had a dually soft side, though, as seen in the gentle ruffles on skirts and the calming shapes of peplums on tailored tops.

Looks from Lanvin

Like Givenchy, Lanvin had a darker tone than usual this season. Designer Alber Elbaz bathed the runway in dark blue and soft lighting, making it seem as if the models were walking on the bottom of an aquarium. The clothes – pared-down black and navy dresses and suits – echoed this effect and gave the show a sharp, clean aesthetic. It looked like what a moody Raf Simons might design. The prints of coiled and slithering snakes were alluringly menacing and some aggressively beaded looks added nice visual texture.

There was definitely some angst in Paris this season, in the bleachers as well as in the clothes. But maybe it’s the angst that drove designers to put out a round of interesting, emotive collections.

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