Gentle reader,

Okay, so I’ve hardly watched anything on TV this past week except the first episode of Revenge which was fine except that the revelation that Victoria Grayson was still alive should have been a lot more shocking than just having Emily show up at the door of Victoria’s hideout on the pretense of helping free her falsely institutionalized daughter.  I mean, really?  If ABC doesn’t step it up, I’ll be forced to do a fashion addendum to Eric’s scathing critique of 666 Park Avenue.

Madeleine Stowe in ‘Revenge’

Much of the reason for my failure to keep up with the new TV shows is that I’m being forced to watch endless training footage on this season’s accessories from my design house’s Milan office.  I’m already a bit put out with Milan in general after the mess of last week’s spring 2013 shows but this really is the last straw.  The guy from the styling office is a handsome Italian with pretty eyes and just the right amount of scruff, but watching him pick up and put down those fucking shoes for two hours is just soul crushing.  When you add the nonsensical translation that seems voiced by a BBC News anchor who has suffered a stroke and is speaking perfectly pronounced English words in a completely random order, I’m surprised I haven’t downed a bottle of Drano by now.  Let’s see if I can do better in explaining next spring’s Paris collections.

It helps that we seem to be getting some clear messages again.  Black and white are major players in most of the important collections, Japanese influences are big and the circa-1970 ruffles and full sleeves that we saw at Gucci popped up everywhere.

Overall, there was a drive toward minimalism except for a couple of collections where it looked like they were going for “maximalism.”  Olivier Rousteing was charmed no end, it seems, by his visit to Miami so he adapted some Cuban themes like black and white floor tiles to his intricately detailed Harlequin looks at Balmain.  I don’t know where he got the football player shoulders but that’s where the charming part ended.  Sarah Burton was more successful with her fanciful 18th century-inspired creations at Alexander McQueen and, if you can get past the bug zappers on the models’ heads, you’ll notice some lovely dresses.  I think we might be able to put Chanel into this category, too, because just about everything from tweed, florals and denim to big pearls and chiffon appliqués made it onto that big white runway.  Aside from a few beautiful ensembles in olive toward the end of the show, this mish-mash didn’t cut it for me.

Stella McCartney (Ph: E. James)

On the safer side, you’ve got Haider Ackermann’s solid collection with his signature shapes and folding techniques in darker colors and a darker attitude than usual.  Valentino stayed close to their aesthetic with an almost endless parade of very pretty and ladylike dresses in black, white and pops of red and there were a few hints of that 1970 vibe in the sleeves and some bib collars.  The frivolity was also stripped away in much of Lanvin’s serviceable collection but with it went the fun.

Of course, the fashion world has been gearing up for the imaginary showdown between Raf Simons at Dior and Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane as they prepared their respective inaugural collections.  Christian Dior on Friday was clean and classic, the iconic skirt being shortened to a micro mini but all very ladylike in Simons’ way.  There were a couple of really ugly outfits in there but the tight black knit tops with iridescent floral print ball skirts worked better than they did at his couture show.  At Saint Laurent, it was Jimi Hendrix-meets-Stevie Nicks from beginning to end.  The sheers and ruffles were right on trend and the black chiffon gowns were great even if Gucci did them better for fall, but it was nothing I haven’t seen before.  At the end of the day, they were just two nice collections.

Phoebe Philo did better at Celine where she showed a progression of slouchy shapes, origami twists and pajama pants in satin and charmeuse.  Black and white prevailed here, too, and the bathroom slippers gave a feeling of lounging around a really nice spa.  Givenchy was also mainly black and white, perfectly translating Riccardo Tisci’s monastic vision in fresh silhouettes accented with light, clean ruffles.  This was a less overtly sexy collection than we’re used to seeing from him but one of Paris’ best this season.

Hedi Slimane design

Hedi Slimane for Yves Saint Laurent

My favorite collections of the week shared a common thread of lightness and fluidity even though lightness isn’t the first thing you think of with this trio of designers.  Ann Demeulemeester’s clothes were stripped down to the basics this season but came through graceful and fluid, almost nymph-like.  The black harness things were the only thing that distracted from this ease.  My perennial favorite Rick Owens was also uncharacteristically light and gauzy with gold shimmering layered gowns that made the models look like futuristic Renaissance ladies as they trotted quickly out before a growing wave of foamy bubbles that tumbled down from behind.  Then Owens’ one-time protégé Gareth Pugh really knocked it out of the park with an expertly tailored collection that took the Japan fetish and ruffles of the season to a new level.  Moving beyond his usual palette of black, the silver, red and even ivory ensembles were surprising and beautiful.  And who makes trains that trail behind trouser legs?  Amazing!  The glycerin tears streaming down the models faces as they walked out a Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” might be pushing it but, in the end, I’m seriously impressed.

Well, that’s it for our month-long Fashion Week Marathon.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Much love,

xxJames

Paris Collections Roundup
Balmain (ph: Monica Feudi)

Balmain (ph: Monica Feudi)

Alexander McQueen (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Alexander McQueen (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Chanel (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Chanel (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Valentino (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Valentino (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Christian Dior (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Christian Dior (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Saint Laurent (ph: Monica Feudi)

Saint Laurent (ph: Monica Feudi)

Saint Laurent (ph: Monica Feudi)

Saint Laurent (ph: Monica Feudi)

Celine (ph: Monica Feudi)

Celine (ph: Monica Feudi)

Givenchy (ph: Monica Feudi)

Givenchy (ph: Monica Feudi)

Givenchy (ph: Monica Feudi)

Givenchy (ph: Monica Feudi)

Ann Demeulemeester (ph: Marcus Tondo)

Ann Demeulemeester (ph: Marcus Tondo)

Ann Demeulemeester (ph: Marcus Tondo)

Ann Demeulemeester (ph: Marcus Tondo)

Rick Owens (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Rick Owens (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Rick Owens (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Rick Owens (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Gareth Pugh (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Gareth Pugh (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Gareth Pugh (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Gareth Pugh (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Gareth Pugh (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

Gareth Pugh (ph: Yannis Vlamos)

______________________________