Céline: Deconstruction Site
Fat, fuzzy, felted flowers on a bold dress, zebra stripes, mismatching bodices and bras half clasped, half open at the back — could this really be Céline, the dream closet filler for every hardworking, dynamic modern woman?
The effect of seeing on the orange and white tiled runway, models, often quite simply dressed — but carrying strings of fur bobbles or with whimsical animal drawings on the blouses — brought two responses: shock and excitement. Phoebe Philo, the go-to designer of the twenty-first century, had set herself a real challenge, and it was invigorating to see her striving.
“I’m just trying to work out glamour that I find intriguing — it was like hyper-heightened glamour, and how that can work for the very practical,” said the designer backstage.
“There are lots of questions — the whole process was very questioning,’’ she continued. “When is it too much? When is it not enough? When is it authentic? When it didn’t feel authentic, it just didn’t seem to work. So I wanted to go quite far into it and then pull back. It was a real push-pull, push-pull.”
It is rare to hear a designer talking about their process. Phoebe took the sleek severity of her tailoring — and then made an arm semi-detached, or perhaps removable, at the shoulder. There were still plenty of sleek pieces, not least the infamous onesie, sliced knife-sharp to follow the body loosely, with a big bold bag on the shoulder. The Céline woman has always been purposeful.
But it was the nature of the show that seemed so different. Phoebe has added a touch of the oddball before — like the furry slippers that set off a major footwear trend. (This time they were lattice sandals.) She has sourced wild prints from Africa and countered them with the polished serenity of her tailoring. But never before have her clothes seemed so literally undone.
Some effects were charming: animal drawings on a satin blouse as just the thing to soften a workday wardrobe. Creatures in prints and a little gilded animal hanging on a neck chain were those little touches — like Phoebe’s collar jewellery in the past — that make her beloved by women who want to bring their femininity into the world of work.
But will clients be prepared for something quite so “unravelled” — to use Phoebe’s own word? We can be sure that buyers will be both picky and wary of this deconstruction. They are more likely to choose the designer’s streamlined offerings. But backstage she said, “there is this natural thing that happens with luxury goods when everything becomes superb.”
The fact that Phoebe is constantly questioning herself about her work, updating it and taking risks — even big risks — is part of her strength, and why the Céline show is always unmissable.
Kenzo: Robotic Modernity
The silver pillars moving across the runway as a robotic, changeable set put the Kenzo Winter 2015 show as firmly in the digital age as did the patterns and modern fabrics.
Humberto Leon and Carol Lim have taken the brand back to its roots: the Japanese DNA of founder Kenzo Takada — and his wanderlust.
But they have worked the spirit in such a way that even moss green, layered outerwear could only be from the twenty-first century.
This season was intriguing because for all the urban suggestion of those hologram pillars, the storyline made the collection seem more rugged, as if coming from a primordial land.
The outfits often looked from the Eighties in their size — back to this era of clothes with a confident sweep of a silhouette. But again, there was not a retro drop in Kenzo’s modern fashion blood.
“Their abode is in the wild — we explore togetherness through camaraderie, ceremony and protection,” the duo said in their programme notes.
The clothes were therefore made to cover the body: big shawls swathed over long dresses worn with a head-embracing hood. A deep-blue furry coat with its colourful high boots was another way that the designers expressed protection from the elements. While a more countryside-inspired shade of green created collars, cuffs and patchwork for boots.
This duo has taken Kenzo to a new place, appealing to a young, up-to-date audience. But their links to the original collections are profound.
Chloé: Still in the Seventies
Maxi coats — as they were called in the Seventies — swept the runway at the Chloé show, along with all those other happy hippie outfits, from cheesecloth kaftans to colourful Mexican shawls.
Of course designer Clare Waight Keller was not using flea-market pieces, or even aiming to revitalise the hippy-de-luxe wardrobe of the Yves Saint Laurent years.
Instead these clothes were light, elegant and surely beautifully made, like the short lingerie-style dress in chocolate silk with lacy adornment, or the long purple chiffon dress with dangling silken cords.
Clare is convinced that this is the Chloé girl today — still a free spirit after all these years, an independent attitude perhaps passed down the generations.
But here lies Chloé’s problem: are the dress codes the same for the digital generation, whom I rarely see in a tailored woollen coat or jacket or trouser suit? Bring on the down bomber jackets and jeans!
There were some cute denim shorts, along with others in what looked like leather with Python effects. Another checked wool waistcoat and shorts looked cool.
The above outfits must have been designed for Autumn 2015 in St Barts — or perhaps to wear under chic shearling coats. I admired much of the work with its concise but fluid cuts: a grey flannel short cape with batwing arms, and a checked sweep-the-floor coat were both arresting.
But as a fashion editor I have to ask myself, who is the intended customer? Not really the young and carefree — because they would not have the money and are scrabbling to get jobs. Yummy mummies perhaps? And ones with a driver, because packing kids and an ankle-length coat into a car would be a Herculean task.
Fashion must not only look right but feel right for its times. This Chloé show had fine pieces in a close edit, but the overall message was blurred.