PARIS — Art and commerce usually make strange bedfellows. And even if many of the young designers here favor the former, they are putting artistic energy into their shows and trying to create clothes with strong commercial potential.
Jurgi Persoons, for example, knows how to make an impression. The Antwerp-based designer does installations that rival museum-quality art. This time, lit by strobe lights, models laid inert on mirrors propped at 45-degree angles against the wall of a pitch-black underground parking lot. The effect was fantastic, and so were the clothes — even if they reworked the arts-and-crafts theme that has become Persoons’s calling card. But a young designer has to have a hallmark, and Persoons is perfecting his ability to add intricate details to chic, wearable clothes. Among the most beautiful pieces were a tiered tulle skirt paired with a sweater stitched with a single trompe l’oeil cable in front and tweed trousers with a seam in the front.
Also based in Antwerp, the Italian-born designer Angelo Figus staged his own idiosyncratic performance. Showcasing about a dozen silhouettes, he instructed his models to lounge on chairs and, periodically, walk among the crowd. Although he staged the affair to atonal music, the clothes were fluid. And even if some of his design flourishes bear a passing resemblance to techniques first used by Martin Margiela, Figus has a sure hand. He’s more romantic than Margiela, too. His elongated, voluminous silhouettes were sophisticated and pretty, as in a long skirt with fabric twisted to resemble a flower or a cardigan sweater with oversized sleeves cinched with a belt at the waist.
Tom Van Lingen, who used to design Jacques Fath, concentrated on knitwear, with noteworthy jersey dresses and skirts in harlequin-like diamond patterns, which came with asymmetrical hems and undulating, gathered seams. At times, however, the designer was too arty. For example, heavy wool sweaters with chunky pieces of fabric hanging from the body and sleeves created an unflattering line.
Irish-born Sharon Wauchob is a designer to watch, and in her fall collection, she experimented with form. Wire-molded hems were used to add volume to dresses and she turned many of her creations inside-out. Sound familiar? The latter is a theme pioneered by other designers in the past. Still, Wauchob has her own identity, and she can also do pretty, accessible pieces. We would like to see more.
Intriguing and interesting best describes the collection Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchovitch sent out on Saturday. He juxtaposed tough materials like vinyl — featured in skin-tight catsuits and day suits with oversized buttons — with more romantic chiffon. There were so many ideas in this collection it made the head whirl. Some of the concepts were accessible, however, especially the part rockabilly, part punk jackets and the colorful print dresses with leather fringes.
Meanwhile, Gilles Rosier, who also designs women’s ready to wear for Kenzo, opted for an equestrian theme in his own collection. There were some fine riding breeches, Edwardian coats with hook and eye closures, pretty knits and intricately worked leather skirts. The collection would have been fine if it drew the line there. But Rosier also added experimental touches — such as one armed leather coats similar to last season’s Gaultier — that clashed with the rest.
Russian designers Evguenia Godetskaya and Elena Nazaroff, known together as Ev & El, showed their second collection in Paris. The duo, which previously showed in New York, split in 1997 due to financial difficulties. Last year, they found a new backer and staged a comeback. In this, their second show here, their collections featured sexy dresses, some with rabbit fringe, and skintight trousers.