Fashion Week in The City
Now that the four major fashion capitals have shown all the collections for Spring Summer 2019 let’s have a look at some of the key designers and key trend stories.
New York is defined by being the first and for having a strong bias towards commercial reality. The truth is many American brands have a country so vast to sell into they are not worried by overseas orders. However because of its vastness a collection created for the U.S. market must satisfy the fashion desires from Los Angeles to NY, north to south east to west, no easy task.
Ralph Lauren celebrated fifty years of his company with a show which demonstrated all his strengths from sportswear to evening wear, and the cultural and age diversity of his customers. Never forget that in 1993, a quarter of a century ago, Lauren chose Tyson Beckford, with his Chinese/Afro/Jamaican heritage as the face of Polo. The beauty of the inspirations from American sources is that Lauren and his team subtly update them, transform them and re colour them without attempting to be edgy or controversial. Quality, colour, shape, and product are in total harmony. Michael Kors also makes great clothes and never feels the need to be controversial of edgy, giving great pieces in top quality fabrics. Calvin Klein is no longer the designer at his own brand - Raf Simons is now at the helm. Controversy surrounds much of Simons work, perhaps because of his intellectual approach to fashion since his intelligence and creative narrative underpin the work. Check out the collection and form your own opinions, don’t just glance and move on; Simons work is always interesting and thoughtful.
There are many more designers in New York to check out and some great names often hover below the radar. Monse, Self Portrait, Pyer Moss (a new favourite), and Rebecca de Ravenel, all of which are interesting for different reasons. Derek Lam, 3.1 Philip Lim, Coach and The Row are brilliant at quiet clothes with interesting seasonal statements. New York isn’t about the edgy, the avante garde or the catwalk tricks really; it’s all about clothes, customers and cash.
On to London where the reverse is often true. Matty Bovan and Richard Quinn have a boldness and a brightness of vision rare and indeed out of place in New York. There are however, this season some quieter collections to check out; Palmer Harding, Eudon Choi, and returning from New York to show in London for the first time, Victoria Beckham. The overwhelming trend from London is always escapist, romantic and steeped in narrative and craft; Erdem, Simone Rocha, Ryan Lo, Molly Goddard, Markus Lupfer, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi all sauntered down this path.
Moving to Milan it is about the great luxury names, Giorgio Armani, Etro, Ferragamo, Versace, Tods, Missoni, and Dolce & Gabanna. Fashion forward isn’t the point for these signature-based names, doing what they do and filling the boutiques and franchises is vital, not grabbing the front page. However, Jil Sander, Marni, Prada and a few others DO rock the boat but still with beautifully made luxury pieces. If you want to understand Italian fashion analyse Maxmara, a house whose faultless classics, updated commerciality and quality of design is faultlessly executed.
Paris hosts Christian Dior, Balenciaga and Chanel, it also welcomes Belgian, Japanese, Chinese, British, and other designers from all corners of the globe. It is last, so this is where buyers finally part with their money and it remains the heart of the fashion world both by its heritage and its willingness to welcome international players.
Who was great in Paris this season, you ask?
The classic houses of Chanel and Dior showed two stunning collections showing the traditions, the signatures and the kind of clothes clients want to see. Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior took Christian Dior’s love of working with ballet, thought about the women who have pioneered dance like Martha Graham and Pina Bausch and looked at the house motifs. The result for those of us privileged enough to be there was magical. In a huge black box rose petals fell, dancers moved in waves of counter rhythm to the models and the show danced past. Softness of silhouette, softness of colour and exquisite embellishment was all apparent. Watch online for a hint of the beauty and close up of the details. It was a collection which didn’t strive too hard, because the designer is confident in what she wants to say to women and her clients in today’s world. At Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld dropped much of the fuss and accessories from his sea shore collection as the models strolled through the sand and lapping waves carrying their shoes. Pale tinted tweeds, easy to wear knits, light as air black party dresses and a feeling of youthful delight permeated the entire collection. A happy upbeat show sent the audience out into the chilly autumn day in high spirits. It was like Dior, not innovative or edgy but simply about exquisite clothes and the life it is possible to live wearing them.
Balenciaga shocked me, I had begun to think Demna Gvsalia was not a good match, how wrong could I be? The streamlined modernity, the use of contemporary methods of production, the desire to relate to the Balenciaga heritage of purity of line and silhouette, all combined to make a very strong collection. The installation itself and the trickery of the digital enclosure if anything slightly overwhelmed the high standards and innovations of the clothes. A new elegance with the futuristic but grown up and serious edge was great. It was city and urban dress for a generation who’ve lived in sportswear. Y Project also embraced chic with a modern edge and as always twisted the inspirations and narrative to create truly great clothes with marvellous detailing and finish.
Poiret was another stand out collection where Yiqing Yin, the designer, used colour as though painting the salons. The clothes displayed washes of colour tones from ecru and nude through to sunset reds and oranges. The fluidity of the clothes and the hints of orientalism combined to produce a lightness and a feeling of the dance, as at Dior, but in this case the Ballets Russes at its most modern. The shadow of this inspiration also hovered over the stupendous collection Pier Paolo Piccioli created for Valentino. With a third of the collection in black, from a slender dandy trouser suit with tulle ruffled jabot, to a Greek Goddess dress to the floor in finely pleated jersey to a trapeze mini dress in taffeta the collection showed brilliant confidence. Prints, appliques and surface sparkle used colour and pattern in the boldest way. There was a hint of Baroque and the historical, alongside a hint of modernity and the artists who worked to change how we saw art, Picasso, Matisse or Gaugin. From fluid flirty skirts to floor length robes the collection offered variety and a kind of optimism in style and nonchalant chic.
Other collections I suggest you check out, for a variety of reasons from colour to fabric to narrative, are Christian Wijnats glorious colour and fabric celebration, Lutz-Huelle and his striking construction and silhouettes, Rochas for the colour, fabric and silhouettes and in fact everything, by Alessandro dell ‘Aqua. The sexy elegance of the show by Jacquemus, the two collections of younger wardrobe dressing for men and women by Marine Serre and Koche, and of course the wonders of Dries van Noten. Have a look at the great work being done by Julie de Libran at Sonia Rykiel and Natasha Ramsey Levi at Chloe, both houses with a strong creative DNA, yet these two designers are bringing a freshness to the name without distorting the history and attitude of the house.
Finally, the controversy of Hedi Slimane at Celine. He produced exactly what he always produces and caused many to ask why he hadn’t done something different? One trick pony, reinventing the house, disrespectful to women, modernistic in his sexiness, clothes for the loyal followers, no one will shop there, it’s totally 50/50 on his debut. Have a look and make up your own mind. My thoughts? I’ve never reckoned Slimane as a designer, he has no technical knowledge and relies on the workrooms too much. He is as interested in rock band photography and living in LA as he is in working hard at reinventing a classic Paris name. The final observation is that Celine was NEVER this kind of label and indeed was never at this high a price point. So, the reinvention is as good as a new label so why not just launch Hedi Slimane?
So that’s it! Lots of thoughts and things to check out and another season over.
All images: Tony Glenville