21-Aug, 16:52

10:43, March 06 244 0

2017-03-06 10:43:04
Fashion Review: The Reality Distortion Field at Céline and Valentino

They’re demonstrating in Paris. On Sunday, a rally clogged the Trocadéro, just past the Palais de Tokyo where the Akris show was held, as François Fillon, the beleaguered French Conservative presidential candidate, held a last-ditch gathering to save his campaign. Across town, at the Place de la Republique, the anti-Fillon contingent protested the idea.

Outside the Tennis Club of Paris, where the Céline show took place, posters with Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader and another presidential candidate, and the words “Put France Back in Order” (Remettre la France en Ordre) were plastered on walls.

After the Valentino show, as guests tottered out, visions of filigree Victorian and bright craftsman prints in their heads, policemen with big black guns barred the exit road because of a suspicious package on the sidewalk.

Not long before, Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of the house, had been standing backstage before a board with images of Cyndi Lauper, “Whistler’s Mother,” a Memphis Group chair by George Sowden and an Industrial Revolution portrait from 1866. He asked rhetorically: “What could be new today? I believe nothing. What is new is to see things we already know in a different perspective.”

Fashion provides a different perspective, all right. One minute, you’re standing in the rain being wanded by guards and trying not to get poked in the eye by an umbrella; the next, you’re in the environs of a gilded salon trying to second-guess what’s in a designer’s head. Sometimes it can be illuminating. Sometimes exciting. Often discombobulating.

Not always, of course. The Akris show, for example, was titled “A Woman in a Coat With a Bag,” and that’s exactly what it was: a series of great coats — double-face wool checkerboards, cashmere trenches, techno taffeta parkas, shearlings, minks, a long velvet for evening — and lots of bags (granted, it was a little more complicated; it had been inspired by Rodney Graham’s self-portrait, “Coat Puller,” but it came across as fairly straightforward). Stella McCartney has made her name off de-complicating the art of dressing, and she did that, too.

Which is not to say her collection was without its pointed moments, however. In every sense of the word.

Roomy men’s wear tailoring in houndstooth and tweed, either big or cropped into a bolero shrug atop a sweater featuring a rearing white horse (a Stubbs-inspired print that also appeared on dresses and pants) was claimed via seamed-in breasts and bullet bras worn under knits, transforming lingerie into a warning: Mess with me if you dare. Pinup underpinnings were scrimmed by sheer pleated overlays that stood out like a nimbus around the body and a finale of sheer tulle tunics embroidered in silver under tweed shrugs with generous trousers, or atop an apple-green turtleneck dress, made evening looks easy.

At the end of the show the models, who had been striding purposely past, circled one another in swirling lines, dropped the attitude, and started line dancing en masse and laughing. This is the second season Ms. McCartney has used the choreographer Blanca Li to change up her finale, in what is shaping up into something of a sign of the times. Suddenly, like that, we were in a whole different place.

Just as when Chitose Abe started combining military nylon and kimono embroidery, lacy macramé and lots of gaping zippers, snowboarding and cotton shirting and life-preserver puffas in her Sacai collection, even Toto would know we’re not in the Grand Palais anymore.

Or — O.K., we are, but not stuck in the formal confines of black tie and work, on-duty and off-duty. “Wear what you want, when you want,” she said backstage, hugging her daughter, who had appeared with a bouquet of flowers. Toss the rules up in the air and gather ye rose prints as they land.

In Mr. Piccioli’s case, his weird juxtapositions (Memphis and the transition to the Industrial Revolution) served to jolt him slightly out of the beauty rut he’s been in. That may sound ridiculous — how can beauty be a rut? — but the Valentino aesthetic has gotten a little precious, all high-necked gossamer tulle and embroidery, and the funky shapes and shades of Memphis jazzed up the whole. Original prints from Nathalie Du Pasquier (hands and numerals on plinths) came on plunging halter gowns, knits and narrow-shouldered furs, contrasting with simple black beaded frocks and coats. There was romance and decoration aplenty still, in Valentine’s shades (also Valentino red), sequins and three-dimensional florals, but there was also a bit less fuss. Dresses swung looser.

If they were head-turning in one way, however, Phoebe Philo took the whole concept up a notch at Céline by putting her audience on clusters of bleachers (designed by the artist Philippe Parreno) that began to move when the lights came up. The audience revolved, slowly, in one direction as the models strode around them in multiple circumlocutions, and necks kept swiveling to try to take it all in.

Look that way, and there was a great overcoat with a big print sash and a blanket over the arm. Look another, and here was a flowing light-blue shirtdress over trousers. Coming straight at you: a black halter-neck finished in fringe atop white pants. Round the bend there: an empire-waisted dress with semidetached sleeves that rose to the upper arm and a draped bubble skirt in army green. The only constant: the lack of fuss and streamlined modernity.

In a dizzying world, it’s one way to keep your bearings.