Friday 15 December 2017

Plus factor reigns at Paris highlight

Bigger is better at Paris Fashion Week, says Andrea Byrne, as Sharon Wauchob flies flag for Ireland

Alber Elbaz for Lanvin
Alber Elbaz for Lanvin
Stella McCartney
Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy
Jean Paul Gaultier for Hermes
John Galliano for Christian Dior
Yohji Yamamoto
Sarah Burton for McQueen
Elie Saab
Sharon Wauchob
Michael Kors for Celine

Andrea Byrne

'We've seen enough of 15-year-old Russian girls ... Enough of these kids, fashion isn't only for teenagers," Karl Lagerfeld told reporters after his Chanel show.

Lagerfeld, as well as Jean Paul Gaultier and Zac Posen, chose to use plus-sized model Crystal Renn.

This statement is from Paris, which, more than any other fashion week, is home to the very thin and very young models. For a plus-sized model to be the most talked about person at the celebrity-studded Paris Fashion Week (PFW) is remarkable.

"Being treated as one of the pack, not the plus-size model, is a real breakthrough," Crystal Renn said.

Gaultier also decided to use voluptuous singer Beth Ditto in his show at PFW. At Galliano, 45-year-old Yasmin Le Bon was the runway's star attraction. That wasn't all: A heavily pregnant Miranda Kerr took to the runway for Balenciaga, while the rest of the models for Balenciaga were scouted from the streets.

There's no doubt but that this bold statement of change overshadowed the actual collections. But once you look past the headlines, you do see that Paris didn't disappoint. It was diverse and optimistic; you had everything from clean and sharp at Celine to colourful and camp at Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton.

All eyes at Paris Fashion Week, the final stop on the international designer catwalk circuit, were on Sarah Burton, to see what she would do with her first collection at the creative helm of Alexander McQueen. And while the collection did encompass many of the late McQueen's trademarks -- such as the theatrical high collar and exaggerated, sculptural shapes -- Burton put her own stamp on it. With lots of dramatic ruffles, feathers and white suits, it was softer and more feminine, with "less angst", as Burton said herself.

Given that Celine has had three consecutively brilliant seasons under its belt, there was a lot of expectation surrounding its show. While most designers, across all fashion weeks, were veering away from the austere, instead favouring the bright, colourful, Seventies aesthetic, Celine did not forsake minimalism (neither did Dries Van Noten). Given that Celine has been igniting trends and influencing other designers recently, you can take it that we'll all be wearing slouchy, silk trousers and sleeveless jackets next season.

What has become interesting about PFW in recent seasons is the extent to which the British designers are coming to the forefront yet again, just as in the seasons leading up to the millennium. They're almost now outnumbering their Asian counterparts. Currently, you have Stella McCartney, John Galliano (Christian Dior), Phoebe Philo (Celine), Sarah Burton (Alexander McQueen), Hannah MacGibbon (Chloe) and Stuart Vevers (Loewe). Also, Giles Deacon just showed his first collection for Emanuel Ungaro at Paris Fashion Week.

Meanwhile, Tyrone-born Sharon Wauchob is flying the Irish flag in Paris. With soft, fluid shapes, sheer fabrics and tailored trousers, it was a sexier and more womanly offering from her. It's a busy time for Wauchob, as she is also working as creative director for Ali Hewson's ethical fashion label Edun.

For many people, John Galliano showed one of his finest collections for Christian Dior for some time. Personally, I didn't understand the hype. The crossover between nautical and Twenties just didn't seem to work. Poor styling brought attention to pieces rather than a cohesive design stamp.

Reminiscent of fashion shows from earlier in the decade, many designers put on a real show -- none more so than Hermes. In what was Jean Paul Gaultier's final collection for the fashion house, a troop of Spanish dressage horses danced under sparkling chandeliers.

At the Grand Palais, no expense was spared as Karl Lagerfeld employed 90 or so models and an 80-piece live orchestra for Chanel's celeb-packed show. Everyone there remarked how it will be impossible to ever top it.

Ines de la Fressange even made an appearance after a two-decade-long feud with Lagerfeld. The clothes were lovely too: lots of feathers, metallic tweeds and Twenties cocktail dresses.

Among the many other highlights of PFW were: tropical prints (Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior), leopard print (Givenchy), feathers (Giambattista Valli and Alexander McQueen), flat sandals (Lanvin and Valentino), white shirts, longer hemlines and big slits (almost every designer), and orientalism (Kenzo and Dries Van Noten).

We've got a lot to look forward to.

Sunday Independent

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