By all rights, designer Dries Van Noten could be excused for being a bit grand. We meet a few days after his wildly applauded Paris menswear show and just over a month before his womenswear collection, one of the hottest tickets of fashion week thanks to Van Noten’s ability to combine the elaborate (extreme embroidery) with the ethnic (far-flung tribal references) and the casual (tailored khakis) – plus, last season, a live soundtrack courtesy of Colin Greenwood, Radiohead’s bass player.
Kiev was burning and in Milan, Jeremy Scott made his debut at Moschino with a series of bad jokes. This is not the non sequitur it might first appear. Mr Scott could not have known, of course, when he was designing his riff on Moschino/McDonald’s – his pun on fast food and fast fashion realised in red and yellow bourgeois suiting complete with golden arches-cum-hearts or Sponge Bob yellow and black polka dots, his evening silks with junk food prints, his gold-chain-bedecked quilted leather mini suits – what would be going on in the world when it was shown. But that does not matter.
Not the Bridget Jones variety – rather, the wide-legged, generously slouchy, swish-as-you walk kind. Blame it on the overarching trend of the season: a return to comfort dressing – or a simple fashion reaction to the past few seasons of skin-tight rocker trousers. Either way, for autumn/winter the trousers on the catwalk are, finally, almost entirely on the upped-side. This is good news physically (they can hide a multitude of issues) and emotionally too; they have the comfort factor of a good pair of sweatpants. Whether in double-faced cashmere or malleable leather, they can go from office to sofa with just a change of top. Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy would approve.
It is one of life’s great ironies that the Paris couture shows always coincide almost exactly with the World Economic Forum in Davos. While the latter focuses on the looming issues of the day – the growing gap between the super-rich and pretty much everyone else, for example – the former caters to said super-rich and to their willingness to contemplate €20,000 gowns. It’s a stark contrast, in black and white and gold and silver.
It’s about now that a film studio’s fancy turns to thoughts of awards. They need to get their Oscar/Bafta/Golden Globe contenders in by the end of the year, and general wisdom dictates that it is always better to save the most powerful for the end, so that they remain fresh in voters’ minds.
So the holiday season coincides with the release of high-minded movies such as Philomena , Dallas Buyers Club and The Book Thief – films that deal with big subjects such as adoption and motherhood, terminal illness and the Holocaust, as opposed to, say, superheroes and aliens, or bachelors on the loose. And as in film, so in fashion.
Blame it on Michelle Obama’s elegant arms and the related tricep/bicep workout craze, but women want to show off their upper limbs like never before and there are few ways to do so as stylishly as in a one-shoulder top. Once upon a time, a bare shoulder was almost a synonym for disco nights, but these versions are altogether more grown-up, polished and accessible. Read more
It’s too bad EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht wasn’t at the couture shows last week. It would have given him lots of ammunition during this week’s EU-US free trade talks (presuming they go ahead) when the question of the French exception culturelle is raised. After all, the fashion industry is not covered – not even the made-to-order highest end of it, as invented and perfected in Paris. What became increasingly clear during the collections is that, other than location, couture no longer seems to have much to do with France.
Part of this is literal: of the big brand names still on the couture schedule, only one, Jean Paul Gaultier, is actually designed by a Frenchman. The rest are created by Belgians (Dior, Martin Margiela Artisanale), Dutch (Viktor & Rolf), German (Chanel), Italians (Versace, Armani, Valli, Valentino), Russians (Ulyana Sergeenko) and Lebanese (Elie Saab). But most of it is aesthetic.
An interesting side show is taking place at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo during couture: Net-a-Porter is unveiling a new initiative involving five artists commissioned to make five one-off pieces of clothing, which you can think of as couture or art, depending, and which will be sold in September in New York – though whether they are to be worn or to be hung on a wall is unclear, as is the price. What is sure, however, is they will be very, very expensive. Take that, Moda Operandi and Farfetch and every other pretender to the throne! Net has just seen your bid for their spot in the e-verse and raised you by a factor of ten. Read more
There has been some confusion in the e-verse after the news that last week I joined Twitter (@VVFriedman). I’d like to clear this up.
Some thoughtful souls have pointed out I actually joined in 2009, tweeted once, and then fell silent for four years after writing a column about how confusing I found the platform. This is true – kind of. I did join, as @VVF67, to find out what my friends were so excited about, but in a personal capacity, not as a fashion professional. I did find all the personal tweets a bit odd. When it became clear Twitter was a fashion issue, I wrote about it. Read more
So you thought the fashion weeks were over for now, and that you did not have to hear about catwalk shows for at least another three months or so (until June, anyway, when menswear begins again). Sucker!