Putting the past in perspective is the challenge for designers rejuvenating celebrated brands from the 1970s and 80s
Sonia Rykiel: Workwear and uniforms
Down the runway, with a purposeful stride, marched women in black leotards, each embroidered with a single letter. Together they spelled out “RYKIEL FOREVER” in reference to the Parisian founder of Left Bank chic, who died at the end of the summer. The audience had already walked past a bank of screens featuring Sonia Rykiel and her distinctive red hair.
Instead of the Left Bank of Paris, the show focused on the coastal society world of Biarritz. The models strode out in bold denim tops or lean pleated dresses to the ankle. Navy was inevitably the principle colour for day clothes all sporty and oversized.
This change of proportions was fundamental to the new Rykiel, where wide shapes and narrow stripes worked well together. The clothes for evening left the safety of the seaside theme and introduced dresses with floral patterns, often bulbous from a high waist, and other elements that contradicted the crisp, breezy start.
While this show paid homage to Rykiel, Julie is forging her own vision and the collection was an example of how to take heritage forward.
Kenzo: Channelling Studio 54 (again!)
Wanderlust was the overriding force behind Kenzo Takada, the Japanese designer who was a fashion force throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. His clothes plucked references from across the world but with a more precise, colourful, and eastern aesthetic than other creatives on the hippie trail.
But to designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, all roads lead to Studio 54, with the club and its delirious decadence reimagined in a Paris museum. Noble marble sculptures were mirrored by semi-naked artists’ models of uncertain sex, posing beside the runway.
What was all this about? The design duo, also retailers in their own right with their Opening Ceremony boutiques, had previously been forward-looking, creating sets and clothes built on high-tech. So why were short, shiny dresses with bulbous shoulders walking the runway, the models teetering on screw-shaped high heels?
Some elements were clear, such as sportswear at the show’s opening - even if a long raincoat was worn over a gilded 1980s-style mini dress and denim outfits with blown-up top halves faced-off red make-up that looked like the party had gone on way too long.
Next up was a tribute to artist Antonio Lopez, whose distinctive illustrations captured the 1980s in a haunting way. Melded into the oversize sportswear, they made for powerful prints, although the cut of the clothes – wide shoulders and narrow from the hipline – just seemed like a revival.
Taken out of the show’s context, and especially without the baffling arty nudes, the Kenzo duo make smart and wearable clothes. But it was an example of getting swept away into the past, where the fashion joys of Studio 54 are wearing thin.