Thursday 23 February 2017

What is the point of all these fashion shows?

Lisa Armstrong

Model Gigi Hadid wears a creation for Mugler's Spring-Summer 2017 Ready to Wear fashion collection
Model Gigi Hadid wears a creation for Mugler's Spring-Summer 2017 Ready to Wear fashion collection
Gigi Hadid walks the runway during the Gambattista Valli show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2017 on October 3, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
A model presents a creation by Stella McCartney during the 2017 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show
A model presents a creation for Balmain during the 2017 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show

What’s the point of all these fashion shows?

As they proliferate with the energy of the Zika virus, it’s a question that is increasingly, not unreasonably, asked. At some, the purpose is clearly not about giving women what they want so much as unsettling and unseating their every last preconception about what is and isn’t attractive.

At Balenciaga, where the charming Georgian-born agent provocateur Demna Gvasalia was recently installed as creative director, the assaults on taste came with a vigor that was both confrontational and strangely compelling, partly because, as a streetwear designer (if £185 T-shirts can be termed streetwear) he has form in making clothes that get worn.

It’s interesting to see him bring his patched-together, former-Soviet-block influences to bear at a house that traditionally dressed the haughtiest perfectionists of the haute couture world and drape it on models often cast directly from the streets. This democratic flourish does mean they sometimes flounder in the pin-heeled boots however. 

Gigi Hadid walks the runway during the Gambattista Valli show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2017 on October 3, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Gigi Hadid walks the runway during the Gambattista Valli show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2017 on October 3, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Gaudy floral patterns once favoured by Florida dowagers?  Naturally these were in abundance, Gvasalia having previously dabbled with more discreet, polite flowers in previous collections at his own label, Vetements. Leggings were out in force too – not just printed and high-waisted but with feet, which will rule them out for all but extreme fashion thrill seekers.

There was more too, of  Gvasalia’s undeniably clever but cartoonishly oversized tailoring with its odd, forward-tilting shoulders that featured in his first Balenciaga collection – which has yet to be spotted on even the most avid fan.

There were crisp, high-necked, drape shirts in this show that will sell and sell and inspire countless copies, as will the purple satin (quite a trend next season) peplum tops. Personally I would have liked to see Gvasalia introduce  more tailoring ideas, given that this is a house that once specialised in it. But in as far as it went, this show had its thought provoking and commercial elements – and that’s more than can be said for many.

Valentino has lost 50 per cent of its creative force, now that Maria Grazia Chiuri has departed for Dior. That leaves Pierpaolo Piccioli, her former partner solely in charge. In some ways the show was the better for its single vision. Expunged of its fanciful ethnic and historical references, it became a demonstration of non-confrontational, timeless beauty.

What could be more classically lovely than a series of high-waisted wafty evening dresses (around 60 in total) in translucent, embroidered white gazaars, or block-coloured laced-edge chiffons and velvets, worn with suede ballet shoes that buckled several times round the ankle?

Piccioli’s colour combinations are Rothko-esque: blush pinks that bleed into copper, yellow and beige, lemon and bronze… he even managed to make fuchsia look sophisticated, teaming it with burgundy and russet.

A model presents a creation for Balmain during the 2017 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show
A model presents a creation for Balmain during the 2017 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show

Occasionally a chiffon dress was teamed with a trench, some brocade trousers mismatched to a trench cape or a Chantilly lace dress worn with a khaki parka. Again, some more day wear would have rounded out this collection, and made it seem more relevant to the woman looking for round-the-clock dressing. But if pipe dreams are your thing, this one was ravishing.

If both these shows could have gone further in their aims, Céline fulfilled on every front – both as an abstract exercise and in delivering clothes. Against a series of curved glass screens, designed by artist Dan Graham, designer Phoebe Philo played her own games with transparency and contouring. 

Here too, the semi-fitted dress is a star piece, falling in soft crimson pleats from a prim, school-girl collar, or in trompe l’oeil free fall, semi suspended from shirts or vest tops.

Scooped out sides, backs, conical breasts, seemingly woven from spider’s webs, over-sized jackets and trousers worn over chiffon flares and caped back dresses… there were so many ideas that the gimmicky mismatched shoes were hardly necessary. There were also a good many desirables, including gold-framed flat handbags fit for the Queen, pointy, high-cut mules and studded leather coats in colour combinations that were both subtle and showy.

That’s at least three answers to the first question. The purpose of a show? It’s different for every label. As we’ve seen this past month, there is no definitive right – and not necessarily an absolute wrong. It’s all up for grabs. Let the shows continue…

A model presents a creation by Stella McCartney during the 2017 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show
A model presents a creation by Stella McCartney during the 2017 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show

Telegraph.co.uk

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