PARIS: THE VISION THING
CALL IT A SIGNATURE OR EVEN A VISION. FROM JOHN GALLIANO’S RIFF ON ANOTHER OF HIS COLLECTIONS TO NARCISO RODRIGUEZ’S ARCHITECTURAL LOEWE LINE AND JEREMY SCOTT’S FASHION JAPES, THE CALLING CARDS OF EACH DESIGNER WERE VERY MUCH IN EVIDENCE AS THE PARIS SPRING SHOWS CAME TO A CLOSE.

John Galliano: Infuriating, on two levels. John Galliano’s incredible imagination often manifests itself in joyous displays, as it did with his wonderfully childlike fall collection. But it has a disturbing side, and that was the side he chose to indulge for spring. Galliano approached his collection from the point of view of Picasso interpreting an historical event. The momentous occurrence: his wildly inventive trailer-trash Christian Dior show of a few days before.
From a marketing standpoint, this was a daring move, and for that, Galliano deserves credit. Most two-collection designers like to draw an imaginary line in the fashion sand. Even if, truth be told, many items could swing from one line to the other with ease, to say so has also been taboo. But such conventions matter little to Galliano, who said before his show that “each outfit from Dior will be reconstructed here.”
The Dior show was so complicated, however, that only by stripping it down could it have been lampooned successfully. Instead, Galliano just piled on more stuff. If the news was supposed to be about bigger, more cartoony zippers, it just didn’t register as a fashion point, and many in the audience were annoyed to be sitting through what seemed like the same show twice.
That is, until Galliano’s warped lineup of Jesus impersonators hit the runway. Then the whole thing really just turned ridiculous. Designers have handled religious themes before, often with humor — Jean Paul Gaultier’s Hasidic collection and more recently, Dolce & Gabbana’s Sicilian ode to the Madonna and Child come to mind. Yet in those cases, the ideas were approached with a level of charm and respect that made them work. Here, it was impossible to find any motive behind the undone Jesus motif, which included such accoutrements as a red plastic Sacred Heart codpiece, beyond an obvious intent to offend people and get away with it.

Loewe: As he did in his own collection, Narciso Rodriguez gave Loewe a cold, hard look for spring, working architectural techniques with an Eighties spin. In his hands, a relaxed shoulder turned sharp — in stiff mesh tops and wrap-front jackets — and a suede wrap dress plunged at drastically sexy angles. In his own line, similar styles looked austere and approachable, but instead of sticking to the squeaky-clean look that he showed in Milan, Rodriguez opted for nubby organic fabrics that diluted the precision of the silhouettes. And by toning down what made his own spring collection so impressive, Rodriguez lost the essence of what made it so.

Lagerfeld Gallery: In the past few seasons, Karl Lagerfeld has shown his Gallery collection in still life presentations, but this time, he took it to the runway. And he targeted each trend like a sharpshooter, while still avoiding a tumble into trendiness. A cropped khaki top and khaki wide-legged pants worked the military angle; billowing blouses and skirts with pleated panels made a case for volume, while smart little jackets with leather inset at the shoulder showed that Karl is feeling for the Eighties, too. While a cohesive theme might have helped define the line in contrast to his other efforts, these are all clothes that you can imagine hanging in the same woman’s closet. One day she might feel romantic and slip into a rose-colored dress with sundial seaming, the next like a sporty space nurse in a white cowl-necked number. Either way, she’ll be glad that the designer is brimming with ideas.

Thierry Mugler: Thierry Mugler doesn’t like to do things halfway, and you can bank on his exaggerated, erotically-charged fashion vision. He likes his women in body-conscious gowns or sharp futuristic suits. For spring, the collection had a familiar Amazon, warrior-babe edge, with sculpted jumpsuits, ultra-sexy leather HotPants and long, iridescent gowns with deep slits. Mugler prefers all things shimmering and bright. Sparkling halter tops were studded with rhinestones, while sequined bodysuits were worn under dresses that had a dash of “Dynasty” glamour.

Claude Montana: Here’s where you hope for a time warp. Tough-girl glamour, sharp shoulders, cobalt blue — those are Montana’s trademarks, and in a season running rampant with them, you’d hope that the house that started it all would be packing them in. Not so.
Opting for a civilized cocktail reception, resembling something closer to an art installation than a theatrical runway show, Montana filled small chambers at the Louvre with all the accessories, shoes, men’s wear and women’s wear that make up his world. No crowds, no pushing, just perfectly fine sportswear — easy black and white separates, with the occasional nautical nod made up one segment, while his razor-sharp leathers and simple eveningwear comprised the other.

Jeremy Scott: Who would dare to show hours after Tom Ford presented his long-awaited collection for YSL? It takes guts. But while you’d expect to find only a few stragglers in the audience at any show on Friday night, the whole crowd turned up for Jeremy Scott. Scott’s seasonal send up of Eighties style is a campy favorite. For spring, his obsession with lowbrow logomania was evident in a sweater done up in black and yellow with the phrase “It’s got to be Jeremy Scott” rippling across its front in cursive script. Rompers, tiered skirts, and disco dresses came out in a scarf print, and a black and white illustration print, both of which also boasted Scott’s scrolling signature. His brio borders on arrogance, but our Jeremy’s in on the joke.
What really got the crowd going, however, were the models served on the half shell. He sent them out in one-piece swimsuits that wound up as towering shell sculptures. Think of a Vegas chorus girl with her plumage or of Bottecelli’s Venus with her shell attached. Jokes aside, however, it might be interesting to see what else Scott can do with his talent besides get a laugh.

Vivienne Westwood: Exploration was Vivienne Westwood’s theme this season, but the designer didn’t discover any uncharted fashion lands in this collection. Instead it was vintage Westwood, with frumpy linen dresses and skirt suits cut in a square Cubist way. There were prints, too, including stacks of books and an 18th-century still-life painting. She managed to spice up the collection, however, by adding a sporty flavor with fanny bags, ribbon belts, seersucker trousers and multicolored cotton jersey tops and T-shirt dresses.

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