Is it fashion’s role to offer an escape from the drear of the everyday? Karl Lagerfeld apparently thinks so. On Tuesday he built a rocket in the middle of the Grand Palais for the Chanel show and prepared for liftoff.
White walkways snaked around the base, anchored on either end with inflatable igloo-like structures. Out marched models in sparkle-covered spectator boots and twinkling tights. At the end of the show, the ship launched, compressing upward like a giant lipstick tube in reverse. The birds on the other side of the glass ceiling flapped around as if they could not believe what was going on.
And just like that, the iPhones appeared and the pictures started posting. Up, up and away!
So what if the clothes — most often variations on bouclé tunics with funnel collars orbiting the neck over matching bike shorts, or visual puns involving silver foil leathers, spaceman silk prints and planetary pastels — felt awfully grounded? The galaxy of star-speckled night-sky evening dresses was very pretty. Betcha they will get a lot of likes. Even space tourists need something to wear.
Despite all that hoo-ha last year about how too much social media was ruining the industry, and what should we do, and woe is us, there have been very few major Instagram moments in Paris this week. Models-with-followings like the Kendall Jenner/Gigi Hadid contingent were all over Milan but have been generally AWOL here, Balmain aside. In the absence of Kardashians (for whatever reason — Kim’s bad experience last time; the fact their good friend Riccardo Tisci has left Givenchy and isn’t showing this season), Nicki Minaj’s exposed left breast at Haider Ackermann was about as viral as things got.
The only name that even tried to compete with Chanel in the smartphone stakes (if not the style substance ones) was Rihanna, who transformed the classical 17th century reading room of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France into a School of Rock for her third Fenty x Puma collection with a parade of jocks, goths, skate kids and bad girls in tartan hoodies, shrunken cheerleader uniforms and varsity knits. Also teddy bag backpacks, silk basketball shorts and “detention card” sweats.
Atrium-long wood reading tables had been set up in the vaulted, book-lined space, and down them stomped models in suede stiletto thigh-high boots and platform winkle-pickers as the audience played student and Joe and Nick Jonas and a newly platinum Cara Delevingne craned their heads and giggled. The puffas, with their elongated arms, were cool. The rest of it was mostly silly. In the end, paper rained down from balconies as if pages had been torn from books. It made for a great video, but up close the sheets were all blank except for the words “Fenty Class of 2017.” It made for a tempting metaphor.
Generally, it has been a season of smaller gestures; progress too subtle — or minor — to show up on the small screen. That’s O.K. What matters, after all, is what shows up on the body. Content, when it comes to clothes, should refer to the values they represent, not the digital distraction they provide.
At Hermès, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski tried to break out of the strictures of good taste that have been smothering her since she arrived, mining the 1960s and ’70s for her mustards and greens. Her pink and black tartan and ribbed knits. A pair of navy leather shorts came with a teal shirt, a long violet and burgundy shearling vest and romper-stomper knee-high boots (the heavy-tread boot has been a thing this season). A white turtleneck appeared under a floor-sweeping pale pink leather coat, a camel mini and ribbed tights. Together, it was a surprise: Welcome, if not entirely successful. Taken apart, it was full of classic Hermès-isms.
Hidden in Giambattista Valli’s pâtisseries — little black-and-white coquette dresses, often paired with corset belts in sheer tulle — were two of the weirder moments on a runway this season: a pair of black taffeta blouses, ruched and elaborate, atop … Nike dry-fit leggings.
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Had something gone wrong with the pants? Was he trying to say something about the worlds of sport and society? Who knows, but at least they were a sign of something new going on beyond the cocktail ruffles with cherries on top — though not as many signs as contained in the embroidery at Alexander McQueen. There Sarah Burton continued the exploration of paganism and community she started last season via the Shetland Islands, this time going south, to Cornwall, and the minutiae of handworked detail.
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From afar, many of the dresses and leather coats looked as if they had sprouted long, multicolored strings (there are a lot of strings around), which turned out to be the dangling yarns of sampler patterns worked onto the weft of the garment. A “tweed” was woven from bits of chiffon, like the dreams tied on to a wishing tree. Fisherman knits became knee-length dresses finished with a ruffle and trimmed in metal rings. Sheer silvery tulle was covered in myths and finished in feathers.
It was lovely, but it’s becoming repetitive. Less eye-catching yet possessed of a real sang-froid were the pleated, studded leather skirts and a perfectly cut gray overcoat cinched with a long leather belt worn over puddling trousers and atop sneakers. That was genuinely smart, in every sense of the word.