What is everyone talking about at Paris Fashion Week? It's neither a designer, a show, a model nor your next round of creative-director-musical-chairs (though there's still plenty of speculation about who will replace Alexander Wang at Balenciaga). Rather, it's Instagram. Vogue editor Anna Wintour hosted a dinner for co-founder Kevin Systrom and his newly appointed head of fashion partnerships, Eva Chen, last week, gathering industry luminaries including Phoebe Philo of Céline, Olivier Rousteing, Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane, Gucci's Alessandro Michele (who flew in from Milan), Donatella Versace, and models of the moment Kendall Jenner, Jourdan Dunn, Gigi Hadid and Liu Wen. As one attendee observed, "If a bomb had gone off, half of the fashion industry's greatest talents would have been wiped out."
However, the conversation about Instagram isn't centered on the dinner itself but rather on designers' need to create Instagram "moments" — even collections — that can be easily translated and shared via mobile phones. Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times aptly called it the "Instagram imperative," arguing that, "when it comes to clothes, it has been one of the more damaging developments of the age." Cathy Horyn, writing for The Cut, predicted that 2015 might be the year when "fashion visionaries split into two camps: those who are obsessed with form, and those who focus on imagery."
But for every Instagram-happy Balmain, Lanvin and Rochas show, there were collections that defied easy Instagram-ification. Rick Owens staged what was reportedly one of the most powerful presentations of Fashion Month, with models carrying each other on the runway in a salute to female support and solidarity and moving guests to tears. It was a message wildly misinterpreted on the Internet — immediately generating parodies and memes. Rei Kawakubo's Comme des Garcons show likewise resisted quick image-based interpretation. As Long Nguyen observed in his review for this site, the show experience Kawakubo created for her 100-odd guests — from the overheated basement setting to the 15 striking, not-easily-interpreted works of couture-level craftsmanship she sent down the runway — could not be readily explained by a series of filtered photos.
Here's what else you missed in Paris this weekend, in one quick, handy cheat sheet.
// SATURDAY //
Rei Kawakubo protégé Junya Watanabe's spring show was all about how accessories can make the outfit, which he did in an exaggerated way, looping big hoops of stainless steel and patent leather over the shoulders of rather simple tunics and dresses, and fitting models in headgear that looked like plastic Saturn's rings (but flopped more like rabbit ears in action). It was full of movement, but lacked feeling.
Disco smoke made a fitting backdrop for Haider Ackermann's acid-toned collection, which had a glamorous punk feel with its glossy, low-strung trousers, cropped biker jackets and shredded blouses. Feathered headdresses added a touch of unexpected elegance.
Veronique Leroy has built up a loyal following of women-who-work since she launched her label 24 years ago, and for spring she is challenging her customer to think a little more eclectically, mixing unexpected colors (like a sweet red-striped dress with a purple belt) and textures. Whether her customers choose to take her styling cues or not, they'll find plenty of really wonderful pieces to take away — and wear however they want.
It's a little tough out there for designers who like to create tight, sexy dresses and show a bit of skin — the fashion world is much more enamored with the covered-up sexiness shown by Phoebe Philo, Stella McCartney and Victoria Beckham these days. But designer David Koma, who continues to show his own eponymous label in London, does it better than anyone, opting for a less-is-more approach and super-sharp tailoring. He opened Mugler's spring 2016 show with a navy long-sleeve jumpsuit cut low in the front and off the shoulders, that, strategically layered, could work for the office. We were also fond of a navy pantsuit that had the same diagonal white buttons and a black apron-front dress cut away to reveal a slit pleated skirt underneath.
Acne Studios dedicated it's spring 2016 collection to musicians — and the dedication was quite literal at times, with guitars adorning the fronts and backs of one-sleeved vests and blazers. We loved the use of crushed velvet — not traditionally a high-fashion fabric — on blazer pockets, columnar dresses and thonged platform sandals, but it was the accessories that were the stars of the show: oversized cross-body bags and clutches in pale folded leather, those aforementioned sandals, wrap-around sci-fi sunglasses, and trouser socks turned into boots with the addition of rubber soles, some jazzed up in neoprene and snakeskin.
Elie Saab is revered for his magnificent, unabashedly feminine couture dresses, but his ready-to-wear line is all about a younger customer. That was apparent this season in his choice of casting — models-of-the-moment Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner both walked — and his emphasis on girlish silhouettes, which ranged from above-the-knee A-line floral dresses, some paired with striped silk bomber jackets, to sheer evening options that straddled the line between jumpsuit and dress.
Vivienne Westwood is still the punk queen, and her Gold Label show on Saturday included a whole cast of weird characters — a thick-veiled beauty in an oversized blazer and cropped pants, a suited bellhop with a tragic air, and a ghostly sailor in a floating yellowed dress. Even more ghostly were the coats whose shoulders were suspended several inches over the models' heads, which had guests' phone cameras snapping. It made for an engaging — and certainly Instagrammable — show, but on the runway at least, Westwood has seemingly lost her power to provoke.
Comme des Garcons
Rei Kawakubo showed only 15 looks to a small audience of roughly 100 on Saturday, but they made a deep impression. Read our full review here.
Guillaume Henry, the designer responsible for putting Carven back on the map, showed his second full-season collection for Nina Ricci on Saturday, but it failed to live up to his excellent debut at the house. Read our full review here.
Olympia Le Tan
Olympia Le Tan got her start transforming book covers into covetable, $1,300 clutches, which were an immediate hit on the red carpet. Since 2012, she has been producing full ready-to-wear collections alongside her accessories, which have a quirky, tongue-in-cheek approach that really works. On Saturday, she showed a collection inspired by Japan — a tricky one, given all the controversy around cultural appropriation these days — sending models down the runway with little Japanese lunchboxes, and dresses and skirts in red, gold and black silk, some emblazoned with "Hotel Olympia." Wherever that is, we want to come stay.
// SUNDAY //
For spring 2016, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon — the designers behind Kenzo as well as their own New York-based label, Opening Ceremony — sent their girl on a trip around the world. She came back with a graphic, pleasantly clashing wardrobe of layered skirts and dresses, relaxed trousers, deconstructed swimwear, scuba shoes and sandal boots. The clothes, the cheery music and the palatial set were just what we needed to get going on Sunday morning.
Italian designer Fausto Puglisi is feeling the '70s vibe, and his show for Ungaro on Sunday mixed some nice, hippy-dippy florals — updated with a stenciled print and netting on the sleeves of a couple of blouses and a pink blazer — with the sexy, power-woman fare the house is hallmarked for. The floral halter top/miniskirt/appliqued boot combos weren't our taste, but we're sure some daring young fame-seekers wouldn't mind giving them a spin.
Underwear became outerwear at Céline's elegant spring 2016 showing on Sunday. Read our full review here.
In Le Royal Monceau's grand hall, Roland Mouret sent a spring 2016 collection down the crystal chandelier-lit runway that was all about the Galaxy dress. The dress turns 10 this spring, and the celebration of Mouret's curve-hugging, hourglass-flattering sheath was vibrant with new iterations in deep teal, mint green, fluorescent orange, and a selection of floral-printed cocktail gowns, several with subtle cutouts and '90s-referential spaghetti straps. One-shouldered dresses stood out, and with girls like Lindsey Wixson, Taylor Hill and Alice Metza walking, the energy was at a high. — Ashley Simpson
It's been four years since designer John Galliano, now of Maison Margiela, was booted from both Dior and his own label — and both are still kicking. Artistic Director Bill Gaytten had some excellent looks in John Galliano (the label)'s spring 2016 lineup he showed Sunday, particularly the tank dresses, which were sheer and bisected with bands of electric blue sequins or ruffles, and a cutaway military jacket with sequined lapels.
Homepage photo: Imaxtree