Audacious partnerings produced subversive sexiness in leather
As models — but not famous kind — raced round the fashion department of Paris store Galeries Lafayette under its Art Nouveau cupola, fashion's tectonic plates seemed to shift.
Vetements, the subversive brand of so-called 'ordinary' clothes, had taken over hallowed haute couture with elegant mannish jackets, but on women, and with shirts — Comme des Garçons shirts — showing flesh below the chest. Most strikingly, Manolo Blahnik boots in satin, with his signature bleached into the side, rose not just thigh-high but right up to the waist. It made for a dizzying and dramatic fashion collaboration.
A few pretty dresses, as worn by Vetements muse Lotta Volkova, offered floral freshness
Demna and Guram Gvasalia broke every code in the lexicon of designer fashion and came up with a dramatically successful result. But did they set out to be disruptive?
"For us, it was that we wanted to show in the period of haute couture — so we chose the best manufacturer for certain products, whether it was a shirt or a shoe or a leather jacket," said Demna backstage.
"This know-how was maybe our view of haute couture — because we don't do draping and things like that. It was replaced with the skills of the people we collaborated with."
This collaborative take on haute couture was often oversized and crooked, with Blahnik boots worn waist-high
The logic made sense: take a decision to show the October Spring/Summer show three months earlier than usual, and a collaboration with established brands could make it happen.
Guram, the younger brother and business guru, was tasked with approaching brands as holy as Levis and Blahnik, as populist as Juicy Couture and as elegant as Church's and Brioni (although the latter menswear brand is going through a hipster transformation of its own).
The idea seems as audacious on paper as it was logical on the 'runway', which followed the circular centre of the store. The clothes followed a pattern of oversized and crooked, which is the Vetements look by way of their early work with Martin Margiela. But there was so much more: the current gender mix, showing off-kilter tailoring, denim onesies or subversive sexiness in leather. And even when logic might call for Dr Martens (another collaborator), there were those waist-high Manolos with pearly finishes in bright colours - a new version of Sex in the City. Yet amongst all that, Vetements kept its own floral freshness with a couple of pretty dresses, as worn by Lotta Volkova, muse of Vetements.
A subversion of so-called ’ordinary’ clothes that broke every code in the designer lexicon
There were several insider stories: the sweat tops dedicated to Antwerp, where Demna (and Margiela) were trained. But mostly the collaborations were straightforward and made up a comprehensive collection — something to give the audience food for thought as to how designer fashion, street style and haute couture are defined in this ever-changing era.
"That was the challenge," said Demna, referring to the collaborations, but perhaps also to fashion itself. "To find something that was a balance between their know-how of their product, and twisting and sometimes destroying it."
Atelier Versace: subtle revelations
The way the models walked at the Atelier Versace show — following geometrically straight lines and ultimately coming together in a square — was in contrast to the show itself, which was all about voluptuous curves.
"It's about a woman revealing her power and allure," announced Donatella Versace in the backstage mêlée, which included Naomi Campbell and Golden Globe winner Jennifer Garner trying to keep one high-heeled step ahead of the photographers.
Here was goddess glamour, with swooshes of silken fabrics escaping from taut silhouettes
Donatella told me that this made-to-order collection will reach the end of its second decade next year. It has always been a glam brand — one that was born for the rise of the red carpet. In contrast to last season's Atelier Versace, with its theme of 'athletic couture', there was no sense here that the Versace woman would do much before the cocktail hour. Although curving tailored coats in strong and sweet colours offered elegance before the drama of the draping.
With a new CEO, Jonathan Akeroyd, joining Versace from Alexander McQueen, I had perhaps expected a softer, more gentle Atelier show. Here, to prove that the collection lives up to its name, a workshop — or atelier — was positioned within the building where the show was held.
This was goddess glamour, with a touch of sweetness in lilac and pale turquoise colours to soften the fuchsia and rose-red. The story had two prongs of shape and drape, although 'prong' is not the right word to describe dresses — occasionally short, but mostly long — that had swooshes of silken fabrics escaping from a taut silhouette.
This elegant show was all about voluptuous curves
The effect was lustrous but, as Donatella said, powerful. Her strength for the brand is that this audacious sexiness is rarely found elsewhere at high-fashion level.
And though the designer herself took a brief bow in a tailored black trouser suit, the runway dresses, with a trail of blue satin belt at the back of a skinny pink dress or ripples of pleating at strategic body points, meant that Donatella's aim of 'seductive woman on the move' was mission accomplished.
The audacious sexiness of this brand was born for the rise of the red carpet