PARIS, France — As the Autumn/Winter 2009 collections draw to a close, it’s time to share some impressions of the fashion week season that was.
Yes, there were some amazing fashions to behold, in particular Lanvin (which unfortunately I did not see in person), Junya Watanabe and Rick Owens in Paris, Christopher Kane and Erdem in London, and Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler in New York. There were also some delightful new finds (at least for me) in menswear from Patrik Ervell, Robert Geller and Tim Hamilton in New York, and in London from Carolyn Massey.
But fashion week isn’t just about the clothes. It’s also an informal, four-week defacto industry conference held in between the shows and at the end of long days of schlepping around four of the most exciting cities in the world. This season, though the overall mood was out-of-the-ordinary (part sombre, part denial, part confusion about the economy), there were still plenty of things off the runway that seemed to come up in conversation over and over again.
This is what people were talking about in London, New York and Paris during the Autumn/Winter 2009 collections.
1. THE BALMAIN SHOULDER
When Cristophe Decarnain sent out a strong shoulders with a distinctive bump for his S/S 2009 collection, he probably did not expect to be aped by designers far and wide, including Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy, Aquilano/Rimondi at Ferre, and Manish Arora. It was simply everywhere this season, even on Hadley Freeman’s Style File avatar. The question is, how long can this “pagoda shoulder” possibly last before people realise it looks kind of ridiculous? This is a trend that got too hot, too quickly, and I suspect it will be demode by next season. Plus, it was Margiela who first brought it back many seasons ago, before he disappeared from the Margiela label — but that’s another story altogether.
This was the season that twittering really took off and BoF got in on the twittering action too, after some early experimentation in January. I first noticed the wave of twittering at the Marc Jacobs show in New York when editors were giving live reviews from their front-row seats. Since then, twittering has only gathered steam. I have been enjoying the tweets from our friends at Fashionista.com, Fashion Observer, and the NY Times Moment, which has over 150,000 followers. Even Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld are twittering.
3. FLIP VIDEOS
Our friends Diane Pernet at A Shaded View on Fashion and Jason Campbell at JC Report were using these nifty gadgets to get live video feedback on the collections and collective mood that could be quickly posted to their websites, in a strangely appealing raw, uncut format. I discovered the precociously eloquent Julia Drakes through Diane’s interview with her in the back of a chauffeured car. I’ve got to get my hands on one of these flip gadgets soon. RSS readers click here.
4. SMALL PRIVATE PARTIES
While some people were throwing over-the-top shindigs with paparazzi swarms and champagne swilling, I was noticing a lot more of the private affairs that allow for real conversation and exchange, as opposed to the rugby tackles and hockey checks necessary for surviving the mega-bashes. Small is the new big, in case you hadn’t heard. Jefferson Hack and Karl Lagerfeld hosted a small party in Paris to celebrate the launch of a new book and Mickey Boardman of Paper invited friends to a small gathering on the Ile St Louis.
5. FASHION FILMS
We’ve been talking about fashion films on BoF for quite some time now, but this was the season that the fashion film really took off. First, Halston substituted a runway presentation with a high-end video production costing much more than a typical fashion show. Then, Gareth Pugh surprised the fashion flock with his imaginative film shown live at a venue in Paris and on Showstudio.com. Who will follow suit next time around? RSS readers click here.
6. FINANCE FAILURES
Over the course of the past few weeks, several prominent fashion and luxury financiers and groups have been facing seriously hard times and tongues have been wagging off the runway, speculating as to the future of several high-profile fashion brands. Ittiere, the licensee for Ferre, Malo and several other brands has filed for bankruptcy, as has Baugur, an investor in Matthew Williamson. The biggest finance failure of all came when SVG Capital revealed that it has written down the book value of its investment in Valentino, via Permira, by 54 percent. We hate to say we told you so, but in this case, we really did. By most accounts, new designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli failed to deliver anything that pushed the brand forward.
7. TV CREWS
TV crews were trailing two of the industry’s most important editors this season — not that they would open up to just anyone. Even though Anna Wintour wouldn’t speak to an Italian fashion site that asked to speak to her on no less than three occasions, she was still happy to be accompanied by Morley Safer of 60 Minutes who I saw looking somewhat bemused at the Rick Owens show and sitting front row at Dior. For her part, Carine Roitfeld was hanging out with CNN at Marc Jacobs and elsewhere for a segement that will air on the news channel next week. RSS readers click here.
8. STREET PHOTOGRAPHERS
Bill Cunningham of the New York Times is the original street fashion photographer, but the trend was taken global on the Internet by Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist. I chatted with Scott between his shots (stay tuned for a BoF interview that reveals a side of Scott that most of his fashion followers don’t know) and met Garance Dore, whose great images I only discovered this season. All this attention must be good for the egos of photogenic fashionistas, but the hordes of photographers who swarm the show venues only make the mob scenes outside even worse. And having seen the quality of some of the photography, well let’s just put it this way: not everyone is as good as Bill, Scott and Garance. Then again, it’s a fantastic way to share some of the spirit that is hanging about fashion week and that is rarely reported in the mainstream press.
9. KANYE WEST AND ENTOURAGE
He’s a bonafide fashion fan and we give him credit for that. Kanye West’s repeated appearances with an outlandishly-dressed entourage were a fixture at fashion shows in New York, London and Paris. He first appeared at the Hermes menswear show in January (with one sidekick dressed entirely in MCM, leading the Parisian fashionistas to photograph him like some sort of side-show circus character) and has shown up everywhere since then. When the initial frisson of seeing Kanye in person wore off, some editors and buyers began to look at the Kanye spectacle with more than just a little disdain.
Imran Amed is Editor of The Business of Fashion