Aisling O’Connor: Pomp and politics stole the show on Paris catty-walks
AFTER a whirlwind of a month in fashion, the echoes of the Spring 2013 collections point to a focus on the shows themselves, fashion politics and design gimmickry.
Fierce competition for luxury market share in the retail slump have led the fashion industry to jump on a circus-like bandwagon, with stunts taking precedence.
In the battle for high-traffic blog inches, designer brands have turned the big four fashion weeks -- where the clothes, models and music used to do all the talking -- into a series of dog and pony acts.
Since the press weeks in the early days of the fashion industry, the chief events in New York, London, Milan and Paris have increased exponentially in production value, cost, profile and significance to a designer's fortunes.
In New York, gimmickry overtook prestige -- DVF premiered Google Glasses on her runway; Alexander Wang produced a Tron-like glow-in-the-dark finale; a Marchesa front row was populated by frenemies Kim Kardashian and Tyra Banks.
Vivienne Westwood debuted her 'Climate Revolution' campaign T-shirt on the catwalk herself with faded nappy shorts and a drole black marker moustache.
Conscious of an Italy desperate for yen and roubles, Milan Fashion Week focused on delivering luxury -- with a couple of exceptions. Prada got its fair share of press for the injection of Japonisme with a collection of mini kimonos and Geisha-style socks 'n' sandals. Dolce & Gabanna went for a Mambo-Italiano theme, only to make major ripples with accusations of racism on the US blogs for their 'Mammy' earrings.
Paris was not to be left out. Karl Lagerfeld sent a hula-hoop Chanel bag down a near actual size wind farm at the Grand Palais; Christian Dior went for a Cubist box marquee at Les Invalides; Marc Jacobs offered sleek retromania with models descending four custom escalators at the Louvre.
These stunts will greatly contribute to the aspirational quality of each brand, attracting the masses to cosmetics, sunglasses, shoes and bags. In a two-pronged attack, the runway sidelines have become a two-dimensional ad with celebrities such as Salma Hayek and Kate Moss playing themselves in live billboard ads, decked out in the latest for Autumn 2012.
Also on the menu is fashion politics. The fashion community is up in arms about handbags at dawn at YSL, now known as Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane. In an open letter on Twitter, Slimane banned ' New York Times' flagship fashion writer Cathy Horyn from future shows after she offered an unfavourable review of his debut collection.
MOST of the fashion community are falling on the side of the critic, given that new boy Hedi disregarded the press and made most of the key players stand.
In trying to make YSL his own and take down one of the most influential writers in fashion, Slimane has actually taken a political hit out on himself.
Between the magic tricks, feuding and structural spectacles, we should be talking about retro trends, colour-saturation, Japanese influences and statement minimalism, but all we can remember in the wake of Paris Fashion Week's finale is the pomp, the front rows -- and at the very end, politics.