As one Dior closes, another one opens
In the wake of John Galliano's fall from grace, Paris is seeing a rebirth of creativity, says Jessica Whyte
Published 13/03/2011 | 05:00
'Is that all there is? Is that all there is?" crooned Peggy Lee as I flicked through a biography of John Galliano in a bookshop in downtown Paris. I don't know Ms Lee, is it?
Paris is burning. It began, as all fires do, with a spark. That spark was a man named John Galliano, and a very bright spark he was too. But to most people in the industry he was far more than that -- he was a "creative genius".
Galliano's shocking fall from grace got me thinking about the role of the "creative" within fashion. During the last generation or so, the fashion industry placed major importance on creativity, in such a way that the definition of creativity itself became misconstrued.
It got to the stage that a collection was only considered truly "creative" if a skirt could also be used as a table or a hat could be doubled up as an umbrella. With so many media commentaries signalling Galliano's departure from fashion as the end of the "creative genius" era, then what is to become of creativity in fashion?
Perhaps -- to coin a phrase -- when one Dior closes another opens is a good place to start, as was the case at last Tuesday's show.
Beginning with a thoroughly wintery first look -- indigo silk trousers and a cropped leather jacket, enveloped by a long black cape -- the Dior show's progression saw layers being peeled back, fabrics becoming lighter and hues becoming brighter, until the final exits of long, white evening dresses represented the blank canvas.
Dior was not the only house to symbolically turn over a new piece of fabric this season.
Chanel turned the Grand Palais into an apocalyptic no-man's land, complete with ash and fog, grit and gravel. From this haunting backdrop emerged an almost unrecognisable Chanel girl, wearing charcoal-grey slouchy trousers, flat, leather ankle boots and cropped tweed jackets.
Hues of scarlet and jade peeked through a morbid colour palette of black and grey, bringing together this ironically youthful silhouette.
Even in the wonderland of Jean Paul Gaultier change was afoot -- typically in keeping with the spirit of France's original enfant terrible. Models in pinstripe suits and leather trenches seductively stripped off at the end of the catwalk to reveal multi-coloured, printed silken jumpsuits.
What I have witnessed in Paris this season is the re-birth of creativity in its truer form -- which is no longer about flamboyancy or spectacle, but simply about the ability to create. Fabrics and tailoring are the key to this new departure.
Lanvin seduced with luscious fabrics that included cashmere and silks that were draped, folded and gathered to create a typically feminine silhouette.
Cropped capes paired with long leather gloves and structured pencil skirts teamed with sumptuous organza blouses with ballooned sleeves, were creative without being contrived.
Similarly at YSL, show-goers salivated over grey tartan twin sets and houndstooth jackets, while revelling in the thoughtful details, a fur-lined shoulder here, a puffed sleeve there.
As has been the case in every other fashion capital this season, skins and furs purposefully punctuated many collections. From frothy fur capes at Giambattista Valli to devilish suede gloves at Rick Owens.
Special mention must be given to Hannah MacGibbon for creatively taking the cult phenomenon that is the Chloe girl a step further.
She did this by incorporating python skins in a variety of colours such as jade and yellow; that gelled effortlessly with the Chloe staples of ponchos, flared trousers and denim pieces.
But it has to be Givenchy's Ricardo Tisci who has become the industry's poster boy for this new-found approach to creativity. Anyone who scoffs at the idea of purple flowers, black panthers, riding helmets, leather jackets, velvet skirts and black blazers with patent lapels all marrying harmoniously within one collection could be forgiven. Yet that is exactly what this creative has achieved.
For Tisci, it isn't about brash bravado statements. Instead the focus has always remained on the clothes themselves. His collection was creativity personified -- a phenomenal example of what raw materials can achieve on their own accord when treated with a bit of ingenuity.
Contrasting this collection with the presentation of John Galliano's work that was held last Sunday, the two differing interpretations of "creativity" are vast. In the case of Galliano's collection, while there were some high notes in the form of a black feathered head piece and a fabulously tailored grey skirt suit with an enlarged gathered bow across the chest, Galliano's absence took the air out of the collection as a whole.
So while Paris is burning, it is certainly burning bright. A creative shift in the industry has been needed for some time and I am delighted to see Paris take the lead.
Clearly this dramatic change is not because of Galliano, we must remember that his outburst occurred just a week before the Paris shows. Though while browsing his collection in Galleries Lafayette yesterday, I came across a T-shirt with an eerie stick-figure drawing of Galliano mimicking a scarecrow and the words "Rip It" written beneath. The thought crossed my mind as to whether the creative genius in him had seen it coming.
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