Givenchy: The last days of disco have come and gone, returned and departed again and again. This season, the runways have been remarkably Eighties-free, but there is still one man who isn’t burned out on Studio 54 — Julien Macdonald. At Givenchy, he vamped the era’s tough chic with literal interpretations of the clothes his audience knows so well. A loose leather top, its dramatic cowl pulled up as a hood, was paired with skinny leather pants. A suit jacket was ruched down the sleeves, and pants came ruched at the ankle. True to form, jumpsuits were plentiful — in brown leather, black satin and a gilt version with pagoda hips.
Fashion stylists may get some mileage out of this collection, but most women who love fashion enough to go head-to-toe in the harsh theatricality of MacDonald’s look already went through an Eighties revival a few seasons back. While a few razor-sharp dressers are always ready for more whenever, wherever, in sending up the old Halstonette-on-the-dance-floor look, Macdonald took the easy way out. His peers have left that era — at least for the moment — and are busy experimenting with new ways to deliver clothes with a tough, sexy punch.
Loewe: The Loewe show notes offered a brief synopsis of designer Jose Enrique Ona Selfa’s even briefer career, like the Act One summary found on some operatic playbill. We learn that Ona Selfa was born in Belgium in 1975, but is of Spanish descent, worked with Olivier Theyskens and started his own line two years ago. Then big boss Bernard Arnault, president of LVMH group, the company that owns Loewe, offers his personal blessing as the young man sets out. “Jose Enrique’s vision is pure Loewe,” his statement reads.
But opera is about histrionics, and this collection had its share. Head-to-toe leather — a pasty pink blazer, shirt and skirt, for example, or ballooning bloomer shorts — nubby tweed suits and shearlings made up Ona Selfa’s debut collection for the house. But it’s hard to believe that any young person would design these clothes, let alone wear them. On the up side, he showed some decent basic looks, a crisp white shirt and black pants, a liquid satin halter dress. Excitement came by way of a couple of slow drips falling from the ceiling that created shallow puddles on the runway. We don’t know about the water trick, but the collection itself was an homage to the great Ophelia, Ona Selfa said. Unlike that drama queen, we’ll hope for better things in the future.
Hussein Chalayan: For ten minutes by the clock — eyes unblinkingly set on the horizon and moving not a muscle — Hussein Chalayan’s first model stood at the end of the runway, making sure everyone got a look at her lightning bright poly-ethnic costume. This Epcot Center escapee would have fit right in at, say, the Plaza de Los Amigos in Mexicoland or the Temple of Heaven at the Chinese Pavilion. But the rest of the clothes Chalayan showed on Friday night looked to have come straight from the park’s Innoventions exhibit.
A wild folk look certainly would have been an innoventive one for Chalayan, but over the next five exits, it morphed into the kind of clothes one expects to see at his shows — always challenging, fancifully reconstructed fare. Beading and brocades gave way to Chalayan’s own preferred embellishment, complicated ribbon harnesses that caged his tops and pants. A flounced skirt was as folksy as he dared to become, and then in silhouette only.
Everyone knows that Chalayan likes to mull an idea over for a season or four, re-working and modifying a single theme. And while this collection looked starkly modern — make that post-modern — it also felt a lot like spring’s deconstructed battle regalia, albeit with a bit of flirty attitude thrown in. Dramatic asymmetrical hems leant skirts and dresses in gray, brown or rust a sexy little something, while off-kilter sweatshirts and flight jackets created cozy wearability. Chalayan’s new take on the military look — cargo pouch miniskirts — could even be called cute. Still, his affair with multi-ethnic dressing — brief though it was — not only created contrast, it was something of a tease. But Chalayan lovers are an ardent bunch. They’ll take what they can get.
Costume National: It wasn’t Mad Max who inspired Ennio Capasa’s look for fall, but some distant cousin twice removed. Restrained aggression gave his Costume National collection a sauvage feel, while steering clear of anything remotely apocalyptic. After all, Costume National is about real clothes, not costumery. Motorcycle jackets — cousin Maxy’s favorite — gave rise to Capasa’s own refined jackets, vests and coats, buckled low and cut in bronzed linen, soft leather and even softer suede. Boot-cut pants referred to the Harley fan’s staple, buttoning along the outside of the ankle. But richer yet were Capasa’s furs, which fell somewhere between shaggy and straight-up glam.
Of course, along the way, even the designer’s signature items — like a boyish suit in brown velvet — were ravaged, though gently. Lapels and cuffs were unraveled to create a bit of delicate fringe, and a brown leather jacket was tenderly weathered to give it an organic look. While last season brought a pack of harrowing harem pants to the runway, this time around Capasa’s light touch served him well.
Cacharel: In the four seasons that Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro have been retooling Cacharel, it seems they’ve finally carved a niche for young, stylish girls with just enough allowance to spare. But for fall, the Clements Ribeiro team also dabbled in contrasts, parading their signature jeune filles along with prim-and-proper grown-ups. Cute kick-pleat skirts with sweater sets and ankle socks, for instance, were played against a lady dolled-up in a gray metallic tweed suit, sort of like dressing Miss Jean Brodie and her entire finishing school. It was a little odd considering that it’s the girlish items that everyone wants from Cacharel. But not to worry. Those looks still abound: nifty, baby-pink nylon bombers; Peter Pan-collared coats with drawstring waists tied in a bow; Forties-inspired dresses, and bushels of the requisite schoolgirl skirts, culottes and waistcoats. Prints were the big news here, designed after a 20-year hiatus by Celia Birtwell, a London textiles designer who came into prominence with her late husband Ossie Clark in the Seventies and who had abandoned fashion in favor of home-furnishing fabrics. However, unlike those of the Biba days, Birtwell’s new kooky swirls, graphic prints or hand-drawn leaves had the same naivete as the girls who wear these clothes.
Dries Van Noten: True-to-life folkloric looks are something of a national costume in the land of Dries Van Noten. Other designers might tinker with pompons and naive embroidery, but Van Noten is the peasant man. Full skirts and jackets delicately done with passementerie were only the taking-off point for his biannual global trek.
Grand tribal coats, boldly embellished and edged with a thick yarn fringe, looked so much like the real thing that it’s hard to imagine that they weren’t simply swiped from some chieftan’s tent out in the middle of the steppes. There, Van Noten’s thick, fringed cardigans and heavy Peruvian sweaters would offer substantial resistance to the biting wind, while rough woven skirts and soft satin dresses lent it all a certain girlishness. The illusion of handicraft and a broad vision provide the luxury in Van Noten’s rugged, organic collection. While overtly ethnic dressing isn’t for everyone, nobody does it better, save maybe the nomads who inspire him.