The final chapter: Paris - S/S 2009

...until next season

by Dara Lang
Alas, we turn the page to our final chapter, the Spring/ Summer 2009 shows in Paris. Leaving the best to last is certainly the case. However before I elaborate further, let’s look back briefly at what we've gathered so far. In short, London rekindled a love for Pac Man and computer game characters, New York took a walk in the park and embraced floral prints and butterfly motifs and Milan experimented with the silhouette and created high-tech, futuristic ensembles. So, this leaves us with one essential question on our minds, what have the Parisian’s arranged for dessert?

Let’s start with colour and apart from the usual black and white, it appears that designers at Paris Fashion Week seem to be fascinated by nature and animal prints. I am particularly referring to Alexander McQueen, a Londoner, who's a stone’s throw away from Paris has emerged as a true environmentalist, capturing almost every animal print in the kingdom. Although his beautiful collection which was composed of stiff structured mini dresses with sky high collars, silk nude dresses and jewelled jumpsuits, paid most of his attention to capturing colours of the wildlife that was truly, as the French say, magnifique! Likewise, Belgian Designer Olivier Theysken for Nina Ricci, created delicate floral prints on gothic gowns that were short in front but then lengthened into a long train at the back. Similarly, Veronique Branquinho printed dreamy landscapes and wistful images of oceans and rocky seabed’s which echoed a soothing and relaxing feel in her collection. Dusty pink, nude and silver were popular colour-tones again, which reflected an earthy and organic feel.

Through the use of translucent fabric, crystals and nude colour tones, designers such as Anne Valerie Hash seemed to have captured an aquatic theme. Her one-shoulder, loose tunic dresses and transparent mesh panels and Rick Owen's all in one trouser suits that twists in asymmetrical staps, not forgetting the flipper-like boots and Veronique Branquito’s goggles make me think back to the film “Waterworld” and human sea-creatures.

Diaphanous and sheer fabric were also much celebrated, which in some cases could be mistaken as underwear (as seen at Christian’s Dior’s show). In many of shows for the Spring/ Summer season, this tied in nicely with the human sea creatures theme. Probably the most popular fabric of the season, chiffon was used in many occasions, more noticeably at Christian Dior’s show, which took full advantage of the sheer fabric creating flesh baring chiffon mini, full length and gold studded halter neck dresses adorned of course with sumptuous jewels.

Givenchy on the other hand, handles the fabric with a “rock chick” attitude that verges on a dominatrix theme with nude chiffon mini dresses styled over neon yellow lace, fringed with Swarovski crystals, black leather dresses and thigh high black leather boots. Speaking of which, this gothic theme, translated into black leather dresses bejewelled with pearl chains and studs was certainly the case for Balmain, whose military style jackets, festooned with studs and glitter, could have almost been mistaken as one of Michael Jackson’s outfits.

Comme Des Garcons astounded us with black leather hexagonal cocoons, voluminous geometric construction and pumpkin shaped tops. This was by far the most dramatic and almost theatrical turn on the trend, adding on top of this, an 18th century style hair- do, one of the mostdaring shows. In the same way, Gareth Pugh, another invasion from London was inspired by the Elizabethan era and featured exaggerated silhouettes with Shakespearian ruffles, white segmented and cropped jackets, and floaty chiffon dressing gowns which appear to resemble (like his fellow designers back in London) animated characters. However, both designers have, through eccentric hair accessories, emphasized their characters. This was also seen at John Galliano, who designed large purple hats with nylon hair foaming beneath it, went hand in hand with his red sculptured satin jackets and rara floral printed mini skirts.

Last but not least, in honour of his Maison’s 20th anniversary, Martin Margiela celebrated all his accomplishments with what he does best, and that is to be unconventional, straightforward and focuses uniquely on his garments rather than his models. So, what better way to conceal their faces than to bury their heads under large afro wigs that covered the model’s entire heads, yes entirely and with no holes? Note that this is Margiela at his best. He could not survive without his great sense of humour with his puffed Edwardian shouldered jackets, a strange circular cut leather top and huge shoulder pads made from long haired wigs! And thus the show goes on, with strange creatures strutting down the catwalk…

Nevertheless, not all the shows in Paris were to this extreme. Sleek, classic and très sophistiqué themes played their parts as another important trend of the Spring/ Summer 2009 key elements.

From Lanvin’s satin suit jackets, fitted to perfection with a thin belt at the waist emphasizing a feminine silhouette and loose, colourful silk dresses in which some were pinned and gathered to the shoulder or gathered to a side, at the waist. Jewellery certainly brought an extra “oolala” in Valentino’s navy silk suits with jewelled epaulettes and Christian Lacroix’s carnation corsages on sharp shoulders. Of course, we can't forget Chanel, whose classic tweed suits and cropped tuxedos with chiffon tops, were beautifully adorned with glittering beads and chains, not too much and not too little.

The term “joie de vivre” is what the Paris’s shows were all about, a cheerful enjoyment of life, an exultation of spirit brought a graceful ending to the shows of Spring/Summer 2009. Paris remains the same, designers come and go but each individually expressed their own feelings of beauty, whether it be through jewellery, fine fabric or an afro wig, each designer seemed to have tailored every detail to true perfection and style, not forgetting to add a certain “je ne sais quoi”

See you next season…