Eric Wilson's Front Row Diary: Why It's Hard to Answer, "What's Been Your Favorite Show?"
People keep asking, “What is your favorite show this Paris Fashion Week?”
I must admit, I feel a little bit stuck for an answer. It’s not that the fall clothes designers have been proposing have been unimpressive – in fact, the opposite is the case – it’s more that the industry has shifted into social media impression-driven hyper-drive to such an extent that it doesn’t really feel like we’re looking at fashion anymore, but likes. The bright side is that walls are breaking down, and the old system of reviving ancient French brands has finally gone out the window.
By that, I mean, designers at “heritage” houses, like Alexander Wang at Balenciaga and Raf Simons at Dior, are moving into unchartered territory, having paid tribute enough to the past that it’s time to do their own things. Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent has been the biggest driver of this change – and the collection he showed on Monday night was effectively the final word on how to treat a legacy (pictured, above). There is no longer a need for respectful trawling of archives, since all that’s already on some cloud somewhere. It’s as if Slimane, rather than trying to pay homage to the “codes” and blah-blah-blah of history, had extracted the DNA of YSL in a single syringe and injected it right into one of his own major arteries.
The set of his show was a big black space of Le Carreau du Temple, where guests sat on flat-rowed bleachers. Since Slimane took over Saint Laurent, there have been numerous complaints from those in the back seats (and even more from those banned to the hinterlands) about this setup. Well, let it not be said any longer that Slimane doesn’t ever listen to his critics. This time, at the start of the show, an enormous swath of the floor was raised at least eight feet in the air, then descended to just above the heads of the front row, so that everyone could see the clothes – black leather mini dresses, anti-prim ballskirts that were cropped so high they bordered on mini territory, and fur coats with animal prints or collage patchwork patterns. The collections keep getting better, a little more trashy and depraved, yes, but a lot more making us want to be trashy and depraved each time. A skinny pant suit, so skinny it might have been painted on, was a signature Slimane touch, but what connected him to Saint Laurent most clearly was his extraordinary desire to be provocative, most clearly expressed in a one-shouldered black mini dress that was cut across the chest to leave one breast of the model exposed. Scandale!
The less bright side of fashion week in modern times is that we are often left asking ourselves one question. Why? As in, why should I care?
We have long surpassed the need for more clothes, and yet we want more clothes. It’s a paradox, but at least I can report that in Paris, designers are making an effort to justify the means. Stella McCartney has been doing more than her part to push silhouettes and fabric treatments into new directions and her fall collection had a lot of great new ideas – textured cream coats made of faux fur in rough-and-tumble patchwork, and maxi dresses of paneled embroideries, one-shouldered knits or crochet daisies that looked extra tactile (pictured, below). For shoes this fall, be prepared for an avalanche of thick-ankle platforms, but if you want a pair that really looks great, ask for McCartney’s velvet tapestry styles.
Finally, Julie de Libran continues to push the Sonia Rykiel label back into the limelight with splashy silver pants and color-block fur coats that looked gloriously wrong in all the right ways for the setting, the Left Bank Rykiel boutique that had been transformed into a bookstore with 15,000 or some tomes on the shelves (pictured, below). It was a literary café mixed with the frisson of a Jean-Luc Godard movie.