It was 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning when members of the fashion industry settled into their seats in a circular auditorium at the Opéra Bastille, awaiting what would officially mark the revival of one of Paris's most famous fashion houses, 54-year-old Courrèges. (The company was acquired by former ad execs Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting in 2011, and earlier this year the pair hired Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, the 20-something designers behind the buzzy label Coperni, to design its first runway collection post-takeover.)
Before the first model walked out, Meyer and Vaillant took to the stage to introduce themselves. Shy and charming, they briefly outlined their approach for the first Courrèges collection: that it should be "playful," that, as ready-to-wear, it should "express the spirit of ready-to-live," and that it only consisted of 15 designs, in 15 materials and colors, as a way of establishing new foundations for the brand. "In time, we hope these building blocks will become a full story, one that is still being written," they said before exiting the stage.
Rather than styling full looks together, Meyer and Vaillant dressed each model in a white ribbed knit bodysuit so that the focus was on a single item of clothing and the shoes (primarily short boots). The first set of models walked out in a series of leather biker jackets, and a set of soft-shouldered, bomber-style jackets with pockets on the front and the back. They were done in bright, cheerful colors like red, yellow, silver and sky blue, some with simple geometric prints and embellishments. Next came miniskirts — which Courrèges, along with Mary Quant, is credited with inventing — cut simply in those same materials, or with rounded, contrasting panels that buttoned up the sides. Pants came with diagonal belt hoops, and others with diagonal side-seams that buttoned up the sides. Tops ranged from rounded, armor-like shells buttoned at the edges to camisoles slashed under one breast. There were also A-line minidresses, sleeveless or short-sleeved, which were intersected by pockets, zippers and rows of buttons. The show closed with a series of cotton slip dresses buttoned diagonally across the bust and hips, some styled over T-shirts that read "wild insolent forever."
It was all very simple, and though the collection referenced '60s silhouettes, it did not feel dated or even retro — partly because A-line dresses and miniskirts still look contemporary, and partly because Vaillant and Meyer chose colors and materials that looked punchy and modern. The collection wasn't groundbreaking by any means and, with so few looks, it was better suited for a presentation than a runway format, but these clothes looked just right for Opening Ceremony and Dover Street Market — and that's a good place to start.
From Lemaire to Off-White, here were some other highlights from day two of Paris Fashion Week.
Lemaire's effortless chic
There is no designer in Paris doing the French "effortless chic" thing better than Lemaire right now. Fresh off a collaboration with Uniqlo — which will debut at parties in several major capitols on Thursday — and a minority stake investment from BPIFrance, former Hermès creative director Christophe Lemaire and his partner, Sarah-Linh Tran, on Wednesday showed a collection that added a bit more volume than usual to their clean, relaxed clothes. We were particularly taken with the crisp, papery quality of an oversized smock dress (the opening look) and an off-the-shoulder blouse cut wide at the elbows; as well as a loose black pantsuit, its jacket belt hung askew; and the billowing cut of tawny, high-waisted pants with sweeping side seams. The models moved with such enviable nonchalance — the kind that makes you want to rethink your whole approach to getting dressed in the morning.
Maison Margiela's mad, tattered beauty
Though the clothes John Galliano showed for Maison Margiela Wednesday were labeled ready-to-wear, they could have passed for couture — and they certainly offered a commentary on, if not a downright parody of, that craft. You can read our full review here.
Dries van Noten's brocaded sirens
Dries van Noten is frequently described as the master of prints — and with good reason. His spring 2016 show was a rich riot of color, print and tulle, with more than a few passing references to the silver-screen sirens of the '40s. You can read our full review here.
Off-White's elevated streetwear
Virgil Abloh is best known as Kanye West's creative director — but the fashion world began to take him a little more seriously when his label, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh, was included among this year's LVMH Prize finalists. (The final prize went to London-based Thomas Tait, with Paris's Simon Porte Jacquemus securing the special jury award.) At a series of small presentations on Wednesday, models — walking very, very slowly — showed a range of hits and misses. A full maxi skirt in tiers of frayed denim was a definite hit, as was a sleeveless white coat with an open back and side pleats. But the jeans — Levi's that were cut-up and re-sewn, sometimes with zippers or patches of darker denim — were uninventive and often fit badly; ditto a grid-print dress hanging off one shoulder and slit up the middle, and a jumpsuit in the same print with ties around the ankles. That there were a few bad pieces hardly matters; where Abloh excels is branding, and the pieces that appear to be his best sellers are the ones that carry his logo. This season, that logo and Off-White's signature diagonal lines were carried onto leather bags; every time I saw those same lines crossing a street in Paris, I thought of Off-White. How smart.
For more Paris Fashion Week coverage, click here.