Leave the cynics to say that everything in fashion is played out. Paris Fashion Week, which ended Wednesday, presented no shortage of surprises - whether sartorially or as far as the shows themselves. Here, Amy Verner shares the highlights
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Karl Lagerfeld situated his show this season in an art gallery – more specifically, a simulacrum of an art gallery filled with 75 pieces that he conceived for the occasion. The art metaphor extended to the collection with a print that riffed on colour swatches and canvas totes that boasted a trompe l’oeil of the iconic Chanel 2.55 bag. None of it will come cheap – but you can brag about owning a piece from Chanel’s most creative collection yet.
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Industry rumours that this would be Marc Jacob’s last collection as creative director for Louis Vuitton proved true when guests entered a tent staged with blacked-out renditions of his blockbuster sets. The collection was equally dark and dramatic – but as his homage to showgirls, it consisted of spectacularly embellished leather jackets and net dresses, paired with jeans and flat boots. Of course, the jeans featured lace cutouts or studs and the boots were trimmed in beading or shaved fur. Start saving up for something – anything – now.
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Phoebe Philo incorporated an art message into her latest collection for Céline – the coolest of the week. Brush strokes in primary colours on jacquard jackets and tunics will be a recognizable motif come Spring. We happen to be partial to this version, set against a newsprint backdrop.
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Philo once again showed Céline’s version of the Vans slip-on. Judging by the street style in Paris this season, people will pay up for the high-style sneakers. But for something more exceptional, why not try one of her geometric heels – and if not to wear, then at least to display on your mantle as a sculpture.
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Dries Van Noten gave us the lushest show of the week – one layered with a mix of rich and rough fabrics, eclectic references and thoughtful silhouettes. This look, with its tulip print nodding to 17th century Flemish painting, is more retail friendly yet conveys the same nuanced beauty.
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Here is an example of the layering. Pleating also happened to be everywhere for spring. It obviously looks even more deluxe in gold lamé.
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Hussein Chalayan, a detail-oriented designer par excellence, is not above a witty concept – even if just for runway kicks. No word yet on whether this sunhat umbrella will be available for sale. But the towel-striped dress is as clever in its own way.
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Christophe Lemaire took his latest collection for Hermès into the gardens painted by Henri Rousseau. If there is one takeaway here apart from the gorgeous pieces in leather and croc, it’s that these deep shades of blue and violet play well off each other and will stand out amid the usual spring brights.
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At Miu Miu, the colour palette combined sweet pastels with striking accents of red and black. It was the type of collection that excelled as a whole despite its disparate parts. You could certainly cherry-pick a few elements to incorporate into your wardrobe – a printed coat or vinyl skirt – but the Miuccia mystique is most compelling when worn exactly as styled.
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Stella McCartney has become so established in fashion’s firmament, she clearly no longer feels any need to prove herself. Which might explain why this season’s collection was pared down to a mix of body contoured knits and loose, unstructured jackets. No bells or whistles. But she saved the best for last with a grouping of lace dresses; from behind, the racer backs gave them sporty edge.
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This might be the softest collection we’ve ever seen from Gareth Pugh, who has an exceptional mastery of taking period-style silhouettes and giving them hard-edged impact. This colour combination is every bit impressionist while the bias-cut sheath signals a new direction for the designer. And scoff at the plumage if you wish, but there’s no question we’ll see it again in fashion editorials and on fashion plates soon enough.
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Peter Copping looked to an 18th century men’s wardrobe for his Nina Ricci women. It’s clearly a very loose interpretation. But it also happens to be very pretty.
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This was Alexander Wang’s sophomore turn as creative director at Balenciaga and it’s safe to say he’s settling in well. Mostly, he is showing a knack for technical fabrications combined with a respect for house signatures. As he continues to develop the brand identity, he is also giving careful thought to the Balenciaga woman circa 2014. Between the caped-back jackets and modified perfectos, he’s got us figured out just fine.
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Here you can see how Giambattista Valli can work with harder and softer silhouettes. While he did not entirely neglect the floral ornamentation that has become his signature, he also let his sculptural shapes shine on their own. In doing so, he has given his devotees more reason than ever to buy in.
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There was little about this collection from Rei Kawakubo that was wearable – which is why there was a whole separate “commercial” collection in her showroom to satisfy all her buyers. But the collection was satisfying – stimulating, even – on an experimental level. Kawakubo’s vision is unrivaled; look no further than this photo.
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Rick Owens, meanwhile, defied runway convention by showing his collection on four rival step dancing troupes. Their performance – assertive, empowering, exciting – confirmed that the leather vests, skorts and tunics were designed for movement. More importantly, they were also designed for bodies of all sizes.
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Sacai, designed by Chitose Abe, was the sleeper hit of the week. It’s impossible to see from a two-dimensional photo the fluid construction of her collection. A men’s shirt from the front might give way to a diaphanous caped back. Suiting fabrics were perforated as a sporty twist. Nothing was normal, and yet none of it appeared overworked. And in fashion, well-executed originality outlives any trend.