Paris fashion week

“What was that designer thinking?” This is the sort of question that gets asked a lot when faced with, say, a languorous evening dress from Hussein Chalayan decorated not with multicoloured beads or paillettes but fake nail tips (brilliant repurposing of basic beauty object?) followed by a smoky organza gown with a peekaboo panel opened in the front to reveal the bustier that lies beneath (here is what you do not see?).

Because today is Dries Van Noten’s show, the first biggie of Paris Fashion Week, and given the interest in his Lunch with the FT last Saturday, following are some out-takes from our interview: moments that did not make it into the final draft because of space or continuity, but that illuminate something about the man, or the industry. They’re not quite as funny as Adam Sandler out-takes, but they’re very revealing. Read more

Today is travel day, as the fashion flock leaves Milan and heads to Paris, the last leg of the four-week marathon that is the womenswear collections, and often the week one that produces the most highs and lows and sheer spectacle. So what are we looking forward to? Four major debuts are taking place this week – more new names at old houses than in any other city. Here are the big ones to watch: Read more

Parallel lines

Life rarely proceeds in a linear direction so it’s nice if at least something can be relied on to trace a straight pathway, even if it’s only in your wardrobe. A nod to the athletic influence that has pervaded runways from New York to Paris – as well as the op-art movement that has designers bedazzled – today’s stripes (the bigger the better) allow you to have your sport and culture too. Not to mention the advantages of visual geometry as associated with the vertical line. Which is a wordy, highfalutin way of saying: they make you look skinny.

It is one of the great ironies of the digital age that, in order to get people’s attention, the best way to do it is with a physical product. Last night, in Paris, the web site the Business of Fashion hand-delivered, ‘round midnight to a big chunk of the fashion crowd, a thin, matte paper magazine entitled “The BoF 500,” aka the Fashion 500. Catchy title, no, for those all obsessed with the Fortune 500? What do you think THEY’RE going to be reading at breakfast/in the car/on the bleachers while they are bored waiting for shows to start (which is when you normally see a spike in Twitter traffic)? Way to grab some eyeballs! Way to be part of a trend! So what is it exactly? Read more

I’m amazed that fashion, which loves to complain about fashion weeks (which start this week!), has thus far said almost nothing about changes to the New York and Paris schedules. Maybe everyone is simply in end-of-summer re-entry shock and hasn’t had time to focus? Whatever the case, and despite the constant rumblings about the need to condense the season, truth is this time around New York and Paris have pulled a fast one that should extend their “weeks” by another day. Which may not seem like a big deal, until you start adding up the costs. Read more

Last night I made my end of fashion week pilgrimage to the atelier of Azzedine Alaïa to see what he has been working on. As usual, Mr Alaïa did not have a show during the Paris collections; he was too busy.

Indeed, he’s got quite a lot to say about the time pressures on designers, and other industry professionals who engage in the catwalk game, to the extent that he’s planning a symposium on the subject. Stay tuned.

Anyway, there’s a lot going on over there.

Starting with the fact he’s not just busy making clothes: he is making the costumes for a French ballet, to debut in April, as well as for a Los Angeles Opera production of the Marriage of Figaro, which will open mid-May. Oh, and he’s getting ready for a major exhibit of his work at the Musée Galliera in the autumn. Read more

We used to do a column on the Style pages devoted to what we called “incredibly obvious innovations”: fashion developments that seemed so “Duh!” when you saw them it was almost unbelievable no one had thought of them before.

For example, straps on the outside of a tote to hold an umbrella so it doesn’t soak everything inside the bag. Or a light on the interior of a purse, so you can actually see what’s inside without having to take everything out first. Well, I have a new candidate, straight from Paris Fashion Week: Neil Barrett’s internal coat strap. Read more

Three years ago in the midst of the financial crash, Sarah Mower, the British Fashion Council’s ambassador for emerging talent and a writer (she was awarded an MBE for it), in conjunction with the British Fashion Council, set up what she called “the London Showrooms”. A temporary salon during Paris Fashion Week for young UK designers not yet ready to pay for their own showrooms around the world, or organise them, but eager to reach those among the international fashion body who might not have made it to the London shows because of budget or time.

It was a big success, and since then she has introduced such showrooms in Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong, as well as another in Paris for menswear, and potentially one in Tokyo this year. Read more

Helen Hunt wearing an H&M gown on the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday

On Wednesday H&M is having its first-ever Paris fashion show – in the Musée Rodin, the haute art ex-venue of Tom Ford’s Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano’s Christian Dior. Coming on the back of Sunday’s Oscar moment, when best supporting actress nominee Helen Hunt wore H&M on the red carpet, it seems to indicate more upmarket ambitions for the brand. So, is this a sign of the times or a sign of the decline of western fashion civilisation? Maybe a bit of both.

(Note: it doesn’t seem to be the unveiling of the group’s new, higher-priced brand collection & Other Stories – it’s H&M itself. So it’s not a move to elevate a line to, say, the Martin Sitbon level.)

On one level, it sounds silly. The whole point of great high street brands such as H&M is that it so quickly, effectively and economically translates high-fashion trends for the rest of the world without the frills, hoo-ha and elitism associated with the whole show system, its seating ranks, invitations and exclusionary velvet ropes. It led the revolution to democratise style, and its consumers love it for it. Read more