Paris Fashion Week Delivers with Offbeat Fashion from Dior, Loewe

Paris Fashion Week Delivers with Offbeat Fashion from Dior, Loewe
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There comes a moment in every fashion season when an editor may question just how much he or she is willing to endure in order to be present. In Paris, probably just about everyone would have called the time back on Tuesday evening at the Saint Laurent show, held outdoors under a plastic tarp on a frigid night of gusting wind and rain.

For me, it happened on Friday morning, when I arrived at the Loewe show at the UNESCO headquarters to discover the entire runway was blanketed in darkness. Inside the venue, pin lights illuminated only the exotic orchids and air plants with their tropical blooms and some homoerotic Lionel Wendt photographs from the 1930s and 40s. Ushers holding flashlights helped some guests to their seats, but as I was edging along a path …

Geroff!” I screamed as a cameraman slammed the fuzzy end of a microphone into my mouth. What could he possibly be filming in the dark? “Good lord, I have had about enough!”

Oddly enough, a publicist swooped in at the sound of my plea to help lead the way, and I realized something horrible—people only recognize me as the angry guy who’s shouting all the time. I have turned into A Man Called Ove.

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Ah well, the good thing about hitting that wall is that afterward, everything has to be better. In this case, it became a whole lot better when the lights came on, and Loewe’s designer Jonathan Anderson began his show with the sounds of a suspenseful interlude from Sunset Boulevard, which instantly put me in a better mood. I saw the first New York performance of the current revival with the astounding Glenn Close last month, but Anderson, of course, would have likely seen its earlier run in London, where he lives. I am tempted to imagine he was thinking of Norma Desmond, that aging movie queen, and other eccentric cinematic characters in this frankly stunning collection.

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Far more than any other designer of his generation, and more than most designers in general, Anderson is able to blend the sublime with the ridiculous in a believable way, so it was possible to appreciate the studious effect of his rough-textured dresses in homespun fabrics while also giggling about the handbag in the shape of a stuffed cat, or a tote printed with a piece of toast. While his designs and materials may be precious, the attitude is not, so even a few beautiful dresses that suggested eveningwear in shape remained light in appearance, like a poofy dotted dress with bits of fabric hanging from the creased fabric, or a close-up-ready dress that combined a sloping swath of silver fabric over a black skirt banded with a leather panel at the hem.

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Within this collection, Anderson cleverly mixed pieces that editors, and hopefully customers, will crave. Knit tops, one in a leopard print and another fisherman’s type sweater with a crude neckline and a band of Loewe logos, seemed like obvious hits, as did the finale dress made of blended fabrics that combined a fitted knit top with a flared skirt of polka dots.

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I’m fairly optimistic that Dior’s new artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, is also steering the luxury behemoth in a commercially viable direction, which is what pretty much every fashion house needs right now. In her second ready-to-wear collection, she concentrated on navy blue (who doesn’t love navy?) and all of its practical applications. Sweaters, blazers, wraps, dresses, jeans, all designed to sell, sell, sell. And while it all became slightly repetitive, there were some ideas here that will likely be more influential than initially meets the eye. The casual treatment of taffeta and velvet, for example, looked very fresh.

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What else has been great so far this Paris Fashion Week, you might ask. The Saint Laurent collection, as uncomfortable as the show might have been, was a big step forward for the designer Anthony Vaccarello, who gambled with a 100-look offering that was fairly consistent in its embrace of glam—dresses cut super short, diamante trims and diamante boots, shearling boleros and shearling sleeves that were just sleeves but kind of cool. The look was so tempting that next season, Saint Laurent should be able to afford a roof.

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Kenzo’s first Momento collection, a term the designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are using for special projects, was also a hit, based on a 1983 advertising campaign from Kenzo Takada, who was present for the show. The lineup was much more streamlined than Leon and Lim’s recent ready-to-wear shows, with a few great ideas (loved the bird sweaters and a spare khaki worksuit) and more focus on the fun—Lauryn Hill showed up after for a surprise performance later that night in Kenzo headquarters, wearing a hot pink smock dress that was a blast.

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