When one thinks of the great designers, they are noted for never following trends, for always staying true to their visions and their beliefs. The same could be said of Rad Hourani. I was privileged enough to attend the show and was awe struck by his focus.
Hourani may have the cosmos on his mind as the show featured many looks in patent leather or sequins, giving the pieces a shine. The word of the day was seemed to be shiny, as this could be said to describe most of the collection. Indeed, the models looked like black, modern sculptures. There were Hourani’s signature elements – slashed leggings and pants with bands of leather in the front and shiny black architectural vests worn over jackets with oversized lapels. He seemed to have a fascination with wearing things the wrong way, which could be seen in jackets that hung from straps on the shoulders and came around the body to be zipped up at the waist. One jacket looked as though it were worn backwards and was zipped only at the neck. Hourani has always understood the transformative nature of fashion and this could be seen in jackets that featured panels that looked as though they could be unzipped. A fellow attendee told me one of the jackets could be worn twenty seven ways. Clearly, this is one designer who likes to keep his options open and with his strong presence on the scene, he will undoubtedly have many options in his future.
For fall, Nicolas Ghesquiere continued his role as the mad scientist of fashion. Backstage, he said it was a collection inspired by everyday things – plastic, saran wrap and foam packaging. Ghesquiere himself has said that his clothes are not easy to wear, that it is a choice, and while it may be difficult to think of anything Balenciaga as everyday, this was both wearable and had an ease to it.
It began with boxy jackets with panels on the torso that had the appearance of a bullet proof vest and white bands running down the sleeve. One could see foam, velcro and the zippers which looked like strips of masking tape. Crew neck sweaters with geometric, neon coloured lines on them that looked as though they were glowing from underneath followed colour block sweaters in the new pastel shades Ghesquiere showed for spring. The sleeves, with flecks gold or grey underneath, reminded one of a computer chip. These were belted, giving them the look of a peplum skirt and were worn with 3/4 length embroidered trousers. The stormtrooper look continued with cocooned, quilted down filled jackets, a nod to the house’s heritage, that had wings sewn under the arms and separate, oversized sheer collars that extended to the shoulders. These were also worn with tanks in a colourful newspaper print that unfurled at the waist.
While the Balenciaga woman is always a powerful, warrior- like woman, the peach perforated tops and skirts with lace detail suggested she may desire to look “pretty” in the afternoon, and why shouldn’t she? There are so many facets to a Balenciaga show that looking at these clothes one wonders if this is the the couture of the future. The answer might be a resounding “yes!” and these women are ready and willing to fight to prove it.
Phoebe Philo’s second collection for the house of Celine served as a reminder of her focused approach and cemented her return to fashion. Some people are worth the wait and she, once again, proved that she was worth it. Her manifesto of purposeful dressing continued. Everything in the show had a place and a purpose, every zipper, every seam had a role. Philo clearly has no time for frivolity and that, one could argue, is the basis of good, effective design.
Following the show, she cited Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista and the 90s as references, with a richness that was all too evident. There were high collared wool coats and coat dresses that buttoned up the side, some with square leather pockets worn with narrow, 3/4 length trousers. Again this season, she kept the silhouette predominantly close to the body, giving the clothes the look of a second skin. Black high waisted leather skirts were paired with neat white blouses either buttoned up to the neck or unbuttoned for a relaxed, glamorous look. White lace tops were worn with a long lace skirt skirt. Long sleeved leather tees, a nod to last season were also paired with high waisted pants or skirts. Luckily for the Celine customer, she will be warm this season as Philo featured long, navy wool coats and thick sleeveless turtle necks that felt chic.
It was power dressing in a new way, due to the sharp tailoring and architectural cuts, with not a trouser suit in sight. Madame Claude, who in the 60s was the head of a french network of call girls that served dignitaries, dressed her girls in Celine, and while these clothes do not evoke images of sex, power and seduction certainly does. These are clothes that women crave for every stage of their day. Though they may appear deceptively simple, they lend the wearer a look that is complex, clever and, yes, tres seductive. Perhaps these are words we can use to describe Ms. Philo, too.
Leave it to others to suffer for fashion. This season, the Rick Owens woman is warm and, well, quite cozy. The collection, which mainly featured vests and jackets, was a natural progression, as a few of the tight fitting dresses that flared at the waist from the spring show made their way into this one. Leave it also for others to focus on anything below the waist, as Owens focused on the top half of the body, pairing all of the looks with peek-a-boo zigzag tights. He stayed true to his mantra last season of trying to do “pretty”. There were less abstract alien-like looks and instead plenty of romantic ideas.
It began with down filled wraps that had a duvet-like look to them. Super short and long, tight fitting jackets with oversized, slouchy collars were shown alongside long, hooded and asymmetrical vests that zipped up on the side. One can’t look at a Rick Owens show without thinking of the great architects, and Owens’ talents in construction came through in the jackets, vests and dresses that had triangles of horn crudely tied on. The horn gave them a stiffness and structure that was very architectural. The effect was a sort of armour. These could be the standouts of the show, though the down filled wraps will prove to be a hit with buyers. There were serious pops of femininity, in dresses with the horn application and asymmetrical draped dresses with pleats falling from the waist. Jersey skirts with layered folds looked like origami. Owens gave his most elite customers a reason to shop when fur, too, made an appearance, in kangaroo and super desirable mink, on long vests.
Owens’ references may be difficult to understand as they are never what they seem, even as his designs become decidedly tamer than in previous seasons. Still, there were modern ideas of beauty here, as always.
Christopher Kane is making his woman dangerous and sending her into the dark night. For fall, he is clearly attempting to get away from the sweet party-friendly frocks for which he so revered, giving a show that was the antithesis to his offerings for spring. While Kane has far surpassed the cliched young designer label, he is still experimenting and clearly, taking risks. This season, he is thinking of a girl walking in a garden, lost in the dead of night.
These were clothes for a sexy dominatrix obsessed with beauty, as black leather embroidered with oversized florals and leather studded with jewels dominated the runway. It began with sheer and lace blouses with neat collars that were heavily embroidered and jackets that continued the florals on the sleeves and near the hems of jackets and skirts. This gave it the appearance of flowers, quite literally, growing from the hems. There was plenty of daywear, but the cocktail dresses on offer featured tight patent leather bodices and one with a panel of lace on the front of the skirt and leather cap sleeves. Kane is clearly experimenting with combining fabrics, something designers are realizing is crucial to modernizing their designs. This gave the show, which could have easily grown into something one-dimensional, a new attitude and edge. There were lace and leather tops and dresses studded with jewels on the waists and bodices. Oversized florals can, at times, feel a little “mumsy”, but here they were fresh and new, in the biker jacket with flowers running down its sleeves and lapels. It was almost cartoonish, the way the flowers were so colourful and popped on the black leather, but maintained a severity and seriousness in the tailoring.
Severe, brooding schoolgirls came to mind. Indeed, this will be the uniform for London girls. Like the gorilla prints he showed for Spring ’09, there were seriously recognizable pieces here. He has set himself apart again, which should, ultimately, be the goal for any young designer. A walk in the garden of good and evil? Yes, please.
What is modern beauty? In a season that questions the dichotomy of conventional ideas of beauty versus power, Tomas Maier may have found the answer. Following the show, he said he feels like a new attitude “…not the f-word, but like that.” Was this show Maier at his most rebellious? It must be, looking at the darkly sexy looks he sent out. Rebellious or not, he showed how a woman can be powerful, look completely in control, but still very beautiful.
Black, loose fitting power suits opened the show, followed by leather trench coats, in a couple of instances sleeveless. Impossibly narrow pants were worn with sharply cut suit jackets that exuded control and focus. Power and control had a strong presence here, and in the tight leather pants worn with a black parka. There were pops of colour, too, in cocktail dresses, one of which had a short, sculpted leather vest. It was red, a deep, juicy red that was the strongest in the show, among the other greens and purples, and was executed on a pair of slouchy leather pants, worn with a pink blouse. Jersey tunic dresses, some with an asymmetrical flap, had strong sculpted shoulders, as did belted dresses with netting underneath that was meant to be highly visible.
Maier said it was a show about “something you can think about but you can’t get to”, in reference to the fishnet theme that ran through some of the cocktail dresses and evening looks. The fluidity in the day looks translated into evening, in draped evening gowns with fishnet sleeves or, in one instance, worn over what appeared to be a fishnet bodysuit.
Though the issue of women and power may resurface, at least fleetingly, every season, Maier achieved a collection that was unapologetic, bold and had a new approach to what might seem like a tired subject. Does power equal beauty? I think so.