PARIS — Government brass at a fledgling designer’s show? Only in France. Showing in the foreign ministry’s gilded reception hall, and with Secretary of State, Hubert Vedrine, seated front row, Alexandre Morgando and Matthieu Burreau, the promising duo known together as Alexandre Matthieu, delivered a winning collection on Wednesday afternoon. “Fantastic,” said Vedrine. “I’ve been to fashion shows before, but this is my first young designer show and the first at the ministry. We thought it was a good idea to get behind a young talent; the French love creativity.”
Call it la difference francaise. And Alexandre Matthieu are among its strongest emerging ambassadors. Last season, they presented a strong collection of graphic designs based on a whimsical couture approach. In this, their sophomore effort, they moved forward, proving they can attack silhouette, too, drawing on classic shapes that were modernized and sharp.
An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx, the husband-wife team behind AF Vandevorst, served up a rigorous show with a touch of romance. It was an accomplished effort, signaling that the two keep hammering into new design territory. They developed an interesting hard-soft shoulder and wrap dresses were adorned with origami fans at the neckline. Argyle schoolgirl sweaters were innocent, and slashed open at the sleeve.
After 12 years working on both the ready-to-wear and couture at Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Knott, recently tapped to pilot Krizia and Krizia Top in Milan, knows a thing or two about cut and silhouette. He launched his ready-to-wear two years ago, and Thursday morning he brought it to the runway for the first time. Long, draped gowns — gathered or twisted at the waist — created a captivating line. Knott has a hand for romance and, influenced by Saint Laurent’s natural elegance, he brings the best of the master into the modern world.
On the other end of the spectrum was Jean Colonna. He may have been in a romantic mood, but his was a gritty vision. With Serge Gainsbourg on the soundtrack, he delivered one of his best shows in seasons. There were satin skirts woven into a tough latticed pattern, and feathers and sequins adorning slashed T-shirts or spider-web knits. Skirts were cut in a twisted silhouette, while others were wrapped with a leather belt. The latter idea may be reminiscent of techniques pioneered by Ann Demeulemeester, but Colonna managed to make it his own.
Andrew Gn has acute radar for trends, and the ability to make them subtly his own. The David Bowie soundtrack, the models’ short hair, and strong shoulders on military-flavored coats were a nod to the early Eighties. Highlights of the collection were double-jersey dresses with sly slits at the shoulders, snug sweaters with turn-up cuffs of trapunto-stitched leather, and skirts embroidered with graphic crosses of mohair.
The Dutch duo behind Oscar Suleyman — Oscar Raaijmakers and Demir Suleyman — keep getting stronger. Their tightly focused collection, shown on Tuesday, featured clean, stark lines and managed to give chic, structured suits and coats an underground edge. Meanwhile, Andre Walker continues to move forward with his quirky, personal designs. He featured some interesting ideas in his small show on Tuesday, such as a tunic coat folded in front, but one would like to see Walker evolve his imagination into less art-school terrain.