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Growing Season – Stella McCartney, Rochas, Dries Van Noten

The Paris fall shows marched on with collections from Stella McCartney, Rochas, Dries Van Noten, Celine, Veronique Branquinho and Cacharel.

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Stella McCartney: Talk about a moment of change. Stella McCartney, fashion’s newest multitasker, is a brand-new mom spending Paris Fashion Week at home in London with week-old baby Miller. On the work front, like all of her designing Gucci Group colleagues, McCartney finds herself within a dramatically altered corporate landscape. Once both shielded and shadowed by an invincible flagship, her company and the group’s other fledgling brands now must feel pressure to develop not only on the runway but also at retail, and fast. Yet in challenge lies opportunity. 

Though she staged her show from a distance, McCartney still seized the moment to send a distinct message — this is a more grown-up, grounded Stella McCartney. It was a savvy shift and made for one of her best collections. Certainly it was her most refined, as McCartney seemed to close the door definitively on the rock-chick shtick from which she’s been distancing herself in recent seasons.   

In its place: clothes with a broader reach and greater chic. Always a fan of tailored cool, for fall she expanded its appeal beyond the London “It” girl set. Blouson jackets wrapped at the waist read racy Eighties, while beautiful coats, some cut with long torsos and belled skirts, looked positively lady-fied. Well, almost, since McCartney slipped in just a touch of the bad girl in over-the-knee laced boots that lost not a bit of edge in faux leather. Sweaters made for another motif. Though they came cozy, overgrown and in chunky tweeds — a long, cutaway cardigan over pants-in-boots; a big-sleeved turtleneck stretched into a dress — they escaped dishevelment. McCartney went gentler with silk dresses, such as a blue computer-dot print cinched at the waist and a blush pink dress worn with a sorority-girl pullover. Evening was all about the little cocktail dress, and sometimes Stella tried to work too much detail into too little space. But the real strength of this collection was its wealth of inviting clothes for the bright light of day.

Rochas: Everyone’s favorite Goth-loving boy is all grown up. With his fine-tuned, elegant fall collection, Olivier Theyskens proved that Rochas can blossom and grow beyond his demure day suits and infanta-grade ball gowns — and that he’s the man to take the house to the next level. Somber Victoriana has always been close to Theyskens’ melancholic heart, though this season he pared down the era’s hallmark jackets and long skirts into one long, lean, dramatic silhouette. Slim jackets were frilled with simple ruffles edged with lashes of mohair, while tiered skirts fell straight to the floor and trailed trains. But while Theyskens tread on moody terrain, decorating several looks with black appliquéd butterflies, he never let the look turn heavy. Airiness floated things right along with gowns of tiered snowy lace, as well as ones in gently rippling chiffon that twisted at the neckline into delicate rosettes.

While Theyskens’ ladylike suits were plenty appealing — sexier and sleeker than ever — and though he did send out a few ballgowns, his new-school eveningwear was the fabulous focus of the show. Challenging the curvy-and-bare formula so prevalent at all those award events, Theyskens offered his young and not-so-young fans alike pretty, distinguished options for a soiree or red-carpet outing. As the clever Maya (played by Virginia Madsen) explains in the Oscar-nominated film “Sideways,” “the day you open a ’61 Cheval Blanc, that’s the special occasion,” arguing that the best reason to uncork a trophy wine is no reason at all. Well, following that logic, Theyskens’ breathtaking fleet of gowns is reason enough to celebrate.

Dries Van Noten: It’s a funny thing. Much of the description in Dries Van Noten’s show notes could easily apply to the designer’s past collections. Ideas such as the “subversions of precious elements” and the “opposition of traditional and innovative textures” are often at the heart of what Van Noten does and does beautifully.

Subversion, however, somehow seems too aggressive a word for the casual manner in which the designer rendered his handful of potentially ostentatious elements: fur, lamé, velvet, beading, embroidery and glossy colored satin. And that’s to say nothing of the patterns and prints. But there they all were at Wednesday night’s show. A slew of covetable swingy coats echoed the volume of full skirts and provided a foil to tomboyish pants in mannish wools rolled to the calf. Even in a couple of long gypsy-skirted looks, the mood didn’t approach flamboyant. As for the aforementioned opposition, well, Van Noten is the original mix master. And in his hands, the unlikeliest of combinations, such as an electric-pink satin skirt and nude chiffon blouse topped with a green-and-pink floral coat, seem natural. Semantics aside, Dries, we’re always happy to hear what you have to say in both word and cloth.

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