29-Jun, 08:52

14:47, October 05 140 0

2016-10-05 14:47:54
Fashion Review: Renovating Fashion’s House

PARIS — The Paris shows began in a building site — Yves Saint Laurent’s new headquarters on the Rue de Bellechasse — and they ended in one too: Louis Vuitton’s new maison on the Place Vendôme, due to open next July. At the moment it is five floors of raw concrete with floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto the square. Bernard Arnault, the chief executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, was busy taking photos of the view with his iPhone.

In an industry that loves a venue metaphor, dragging guests hither and yon from river to warehouse through cities from New York to Milan in the search for ever more visceral architectural messaging, this one was a doozy.

Fashion, after all, is in the midst of its own renovation. Not just because of the four new designers who debuted their new visions for their brands (Dior, Lanvin, YSL, Valentino) over the last week, or the shifting balance of power between the creative and corporate sides, but because it is rethinking a system that has been writ in silk for decades.

The verdict on the see now/shop now restructuring that took place among a minority of brands in New York and London, and that some French and Italian names are spot-testing, is not yet in: A next-day bounce is one thing, but it’s what happens over the next few months that matters. And no one has figured out what it means for glossy magazines. But everyone is watching as the girders go up.

In the meantime, the ground is as rubble-strewn and rocky as any construction zone. Where’s Peter Marino when you need him?

(Finalizing the architectural details of Vuitton, as it happens.)

Trends emerged, as they always do, though the biggest one was not the giant shoulders and balloon sleeves that have been on almost every runway, the blasts of fuchsia and yellow and 1980s redux, but the sense of flux. We’re neither here nor there.

Perhaps that’s why Giambattista Valli built a conceptual no man’s land/desert out of ten tons of sand at Moncler Gamme Rouge, and then landed an army primed to explore the unknown in red, white, blue and silver sportswear on top (shorts and baseball jackets and capes and tees, lace and embellished and technical). He even threw in an architectural plan print or two.

Certainly it’s a feeling Miuccia Prada captured with absolute clarity in her Miu Miu show, where she was thinking about the yin and yang of “beaches, the fun and the storms.” Which in practice meant bathing beauties in 1940s swimsuits and halters under coats — fur or patent or latex — and over tailored trousers and shorts; and happy, pastel prints as well as dowdy 1970s geometricals, all worn with floral bathing caps as the single unifying line.

In all the mess of sometimes it’s summer and sometimes it’s winter and sometimes it’s no season at all (that one gets my vote, for simplicity’s sake), and sometimes you can get what you like pronto, and sometimes you can order it but not actually get it for awhile, and sometimes, like old times, you just have to wait (phew; did you follow that?), it can be easy to forget that in the end, what matters is the product. And whether it gives you that gut-punch of recognition that translates as “yes, that is who I want to be.”

If it does, people will buy it. If it doesn’t — well, all the newly laid concrete and crenelated arch work and marble in Carrara won’t change that.

So it was invigorating to finally see a definitive statement about femininity and strength, luxury and the future, courtesy of Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton.

Draping jersey from precisely squared-off (though not gigantic) shoulders, he took an X-Acto knife to the silhouette. Dresses had one arm sliced off and scarified with tiny silver staples; jackets were cut away in a curve to expose a crescent moon of clavicle; and trousers were wrapped to flick open at the side. Lace or metallic tunics and leggings were worn with the suggestion of a skirt at the hip to make a new sort of suit, and silver and gold beading traced starburst shots across chiffon left sheer to flash shoulder pads and the plunging bodysuit beneath.

Rarely has bourgeois embellishment been managed with so much ironic ease without descending into the trap of postmodern kitsch. It was both a richer and more complicated collection than Mr. Ghesquière has done for the brand.

Not everyone might see themselves in what looks like a “Blade Runner” meets Bob Mackie by way of a French version of “Working Girl” (and Mr. Ghesquière’s own early work at Balenciaga) aesthetic. But many women sure as Sherlock will.

It’s something to build on, in any case. This season, and on to the next.