Thom Browne‘s debut womenswear show in Paris suggests one thing: sometimes, one collection is better than dozens of other designer line-ups. With his unique, artistic sensitivity for couture-ish ready-to-wear, Browne’s collections are not just about fancy dresses – they are entire spectacles, modern-day fairy-tales. For spring-summer 2018, the New York-based designer had “two girls dreaming of unicorns and mermaids, and all the things that little girls dream of” as initial point of departure. Indeed, there was an all-white unicorn on the runway, ‘worn’ by two models. A mermaid has also appeared, wearing a plaid coat and intricately embellished gown. But there were also fairies wearing feather-trimmed jackets, mischievous captain ladies, haunted widows and a Goddess of sun. There was something of a magical and mystical narration in the collection. It’s rare to have a walking skeleton (no, not printed, but delightfully embellished) in your fashion show. Or see a dress with an attached, silk octopus sculpture on the back, with its tentacles covering the model’s body. Another look was spun from spongy clouds of tulle, that trailed behind the model like sea-foam, as she walked down the runway.
I see no obstacles to call this is the most phenomenal collection of this Paris fashion week. Or even, of the entire season. I’m bewitched.
Collages by Edward Kanarecki.
Every collection is a new story for Simon Porte Jacquemus, the designer behind Paris’ favourite label – Jacquemus. This collection, however, is different from all. The Jacquemus girl used to be a cheerful Frenchie from Marseilles, wearing over-sized tops and striped pantaloons. This season, this girl is not that smiley anymore. In the dreamlike theatre that Simone prepared, the whole mood felt rather melancholic, and very poetic. The whole “performance” felt kind of psychodramatic, as a young child (the designer’s cousin, Jean) pushed a large, red ball of fabric across the stage, and Jacquemus himself appeared, leading a white horse. Then, the models came out, wearing signature, very-Jacquemus colour-block dresses and shape-deconstructing coats.
“We know me for my smile and my sunshine and my (love of the) seaside,” Jacquemus said, reflecting on his fashion that we know from the past seasons. Also, he admitted that the atmosphere of this season was different. “The girl was not dark, she was quite fresh – but you can see a little tiny bit, I tried to have this kind of sadness.” The name of the collection, Le Nez Rouge, means the red nose – but also, it reminded Simon about his childhood illness that caused his nose to be constantly red. Childhood memories and the whole idea of naive is from the very beginning present in Jacquemus’ career, and this show had it too. As the designer is just 25, won the second LVMH Prize Award and has more and more buyers in his Parisian showroom each season, it seems that the pressure is pretty high for him – but, Jacquemus just won’t entirely grow up. Even though this collection is much more mature than the humour accompanying the last season’s collection.
The ex-designer of Rochas, Marco Zanini, didn’t have the expected applause either from fashion journalists or me on his first show for the couture house, Schiaparelli. He took too much of unconsciousness that even the Elsa Schiaparelli’s archival classics didn’t help. The collection was a critical mess although the clothes individually were like from a fairy-tale. As Zanini said yesterday “Last season I felt really the fright. I was so afraid about touching the legacy, because camp is a trap that is always around the corner with Schiaparelli. But I realized if I wanted to find the look, I cannot avoid going there, so why don’t I go there full-on?” And that was just the right thing to do, Marco. You brought back the spirit of Elsa. The couture show was couture: it wasn’t something, that would last one season (like in case of Chanel) or it wasn’t something, that made couture feel a useless collection (think Raf Simons at Dior, who brings future and sneakers to the couture section of the house, making it feel so RTW). The first look of AW14 at Schiaparelli made me already feel that it’s going to be a brilliant show. Leopard printed coat with mink fur sleeves, a beanie and pointy-nosed booties outfit is my first dib. It is very Parisian, non-chalant, chic… and styled in a couture way. Floor-sweeping coral pink mohair coat with giant ES initials in royal blue on the chest and attention-grabbing, pronounced shoulders (a bold silhouette it shared with other outerwear in the collection) will read as too literal for some tastes, too steeped in the couturier’s 1930s milieu. But what? It’s beautiful because it makes us dream and not think of the damn reality. Thus you had today’s animal prints: nesting pigeons whose eyes were embroidered in sequins on high-waisted trousers, poodles on a simple pleated skirt, and vibrant purple “Central Park” squirrels and rats on a 1930s gown—street creatures all, made fabulous despite their mundanity. And thus you had surreal moments like the bleeding heart picked out in Lesage embroidery on a black dress. “Schiaparelli is so vivid as an image in your mind,” Zanini said. “As a designer you really need to confront the dragon and go there.” And to sum up my a-bit-too-long-post, here is what I think: there was a beautiful time in fashion when rich women might have shopped at Christian Lacroix. Eccentricity has gone mostly missing from couture since Lacroix shuttered his business. And that’s a shame. Shouldn’t couture, most of all, be a stage for flamboyance, provocation, fun and dreaming? Thanks god, Zanini is convinced of it.