PARIS, France — There was a toughness in the air on the Paris catwalks Sunday. But it wasn't just in the black or the more grown-up styles that continued to dominate Autumn/Winter shows.
Even designer Clare Waight Keller of normally gamine Chloe felt it. Calling the mood "attitudy," she used aggression on London night buses as the muse for a show that featured rings in ears and big metallic zippers.
The attitude continued in the severity of John Galliano's knife pleats and leather straps; while, Kenzo's temple guard sleeves and wrap fastenings added a ferocity that the designers compared to "ancient Asian warriors."
In the last show of the day, Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci — continued his signature exploration of dark gothic elements, following on from a combatorial menswear show. But this womenswear season, the floral-themed show came with an unusual metaphor: Can the clothes we wear in fact protect us?
Tisci unzipped, exposed and unfurled depths and transparencies in the Givenchy collection — which was as original, as it was thought-provoking.
Just like the opening flowers that graced tops, frilly boho skirts and jackets as graphic prints, Tisci experimented with unfurled layers in clothing using zippers. They came on bombers and on pencil skirts in gothic black. Sometimes separate half zippered tops were wrapped around the midriff, with a lapel hanging down limply, like a petal on a half open bloom.
As the collection progressed, see-through organzas with floral detailing, made the backs of skirts visible through the front. It evoked a petal's translucent fragility.
The other side of the coin, strength and protection, came in voluminous layer ensembles that completely hid the natural body shape. This collection's only downside was an occasional overkill of frills, graphic prints, zippers and leathers which made the silhouette hard to discern.
Some sublime rounded-shoulder fur coats were some of the fall-winter show's best looks. In this context, fur — both natural skin and protection — added beautifully to Tisci's floral metaphor.
Kenzo travelled to India for Sunday's delightful homage to Asian temples. Taking the flatness of Far Eastern silhouettes, grosgrain ribbon from house-founder Kenzo Takada's former haberdashery was used to reimagine the temples' lavish decorations in golds, rich reds, cobalt blues and black.
Rounded shoulders and funky boxy (or oval) shapes ensured that Humberto Leon and his creative partner Carol Lim lived up to their cool-kid reputation — while temple guard sleeves and wrap fastenings added a ferocity.
But, above all, the opulent fabrics — like gold silk jacquard and rich printed lame — made this surely the most elegant collection seen since they joined the design helm in July 2011. The show was also about the texture. Tectonic serpent skin style, which Leon said evoked the temples' bricks and serpent motif, looked great on boxy jackets or flat tulip skirts.
Texture was also evoked in busy patterns with myriad eyes.
After last season's slouchy-chic, Céline's Phoebe Philo upped the elegance to deliver a beautiful play of lines, but one that lost none of her soft touch.
For those with a penchant for loose, structured geometry the show had plenty to offer: wide horizontal bands of fabric, streamlined plunging lapels and triangular wide sleeves.
Relaxed was the word — like a series of clever, knee length sleeveless dresses, with belt-like faux sleeves wrapped around the torso. The arms were folded in dishabille resignation, as if to say: I know I'm stylish, but I don't need to prove it.
Philo has a quick eye for trends that are always handled in her own distinct way. This season's fashion for blown-up checks, for instance, came as the multicolored canvass on beach mats. The collection shows the influential London designer at the top of her game.
Chloé makes ready-to-wear that's ready to wear and doesn't pretend otherwise.
This honest attitude was on full display in Clare Waight Keller's collection of 41 highly wearable looks. If the ensembles seemed disparate, it's because a cohesive "concept" is perhaps not needed when much is said in the quality of each individual, saleable garment.
There were some neat ideas in blue and neutral black, white and gray. A multicolored thick-striped silk dress had a geeky, graphic look. Elsewhere, a gray jumpsuit played on the shape of overalls with long straps and deep-scooped collars.
There were rings in the model's ears, shiny zippers and buttons — what the designer called "hardware elements." But then — to end the show — two diaphanous skirts, in billowing black and white tulle, looked anything but hard.
Draping and geometry peppered Bill Gayten's show for John Galliano, delivered on-trend in a dark winter palette including plum, black and shots of white.
"A strong woman with a disciplined silhouette," the muse as per the program notes, saw the idea of severity evoked in leather straps around waists and some stiff paneling.
For instance, the show's opener in deep blue, a structured jacket, mid length skirt and pants, sported a strong look with jagged tectonic knife pleats. Halfway through, however, the teal series featured some rather clumsy shapes; and the creative message was elusive on several white ensembles with rather unflattering speckled prints.
But Gayten saved the best until last, with a series of fantastic column silhouettes that plunged down in shredded silk or in draping.
Written by: Thomas Adamson