PARIS, France — Phoebe Philo collaborated with artist Philippe Parreno for her presentation on Sunday. He was responsible for the set, the sound and the SFX. The set was strung with spotlights, like a soundstage. The sound was a drone that steadily built from a hum to a jet engine roar, before splintering into musical melancholia. And the SFX? The audience revolved while the models walked around and around, defining the space. Very Parreno. Oh, and the backstage area was masked by a scrim on which a ghostly shadowplay projected the abstract mechanics of a fashion show (though nothing like as showbizzy as a classic Isaac Mizrahi performance in the dog days of New York fashion).
It was the most conceptual show Philo has ever staged, which was a little incongruous, given that the clothes she showed were as straightforward as anything she’s ever offered. You had to wonder whether the window-dressing was designed to distract from that directness, like she has to protect her reputation for fuzzy-slippered life on the edge.
But the collection itself overwhelmed such snippiness. There was still a reassuring fuzziness. Models carried huge, soft blankets, some woven with messages endorsing the virtues of favourite Brit comfort foods like sticky toffee pudding and bangers and mash (that particular conceit definitely demands a little more psychological scrutiny), but balanced against that discombobulating coziness was the kind of acute tailoring with which Philo originally flayed her mark. There was also a wonderful djellaba-style ease in long, languid shirtdresses.
If there have been recent seasons where it looked like Philo had painted herself into a corner, here it felt like she’d been on a long holiday, and shaken the monkeys out of the trees. One of those shirtdresses featured a map. Wonder if that’s where she went.