Prêt À Porter

  • Christian Boltanski’s Installation 2010
  • Christian Boltanski’s Installation 2010
  • A.F. Vandevorst
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7 May 2011 By Rachel Preece

Prêt À Porter

Paris and style have walked hand in hand since Louis XIV’s reign, with the Sun King’s rapture for opulent extravagance.

The chic elegance we know so well continued, with France appointing a Minister of Fashion, Rose Bertin, under Louis XVI’s rule. Britain’s own Charles Frederick Worth went on to create haute couture in Paris in the nineteenth century, and the Parisian legacy lives on today. Along with the Haute Couture week, Paris’ ready-to-wear week is one of the most important events in the international fashion calendar. New York may have given birth to fashion week, but Paris’ reputation as a fashion centre has long been established.

The French capital offers a truly international fashion week. New York, London and Milan have but a few international designers showing at their respective fashion weeks, but couturiers flock to Paris from the far corners of the earth to show off their creations on the runways at both Couture Week and the ready-to-wear week. Lebanese designers Zuhair Murad, Georges Chakra and Georges Hobeika caught the headlines at Couture Week, and international designers look set to do the same at the ready-to-wear week. NJAL’s Croatian-German designer Damir Doma will be unveiling his first Womenswear collection on Wednesday 3 March. Doma is arguably one of the most exciting designers around, and considering his fashion week debut was only three years ago, he has already made quite a name for himself.

There is an abundance of Belgian designers with new runway shows this spring - AF Vandevorst, Véronique Leroy and two of the avant-garde Antwerp Six (Ann Demeulemeester and Dries van Noten) which continues to impress, while flocks of up and coming Belgian designers will be heading to Paris. The Flanders Fashion Institute’s showroom at the Galerie Baudoin Lebon will display designs from five new Belgian designers. Marc-Philippe Coudeyre will be one of the most anticipated young designers – his creations are very progressive, a little bit wacky, yet very sharp.

There are also several interesting Asian designers with new pieces. Particularly exciting are Lie Sang Bong’s new designs. After channelling silver with some serious black boots last season, his new pieces are bound to be sophisticated and futuristic.

Model dressed in grey on the catwalk

It is rather difficult to contradict Paris’ classic elegance when runway shows are hosted in venues such as the beautiful Palais-Royal. Architecture, art and fashion fit together so easily in Paris, and in a city which nurtured Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Balmain, it is unsurprising that the city itself oozes savoir-vivre and finesse. Despite the inherent classiness, it is still a city for quirks and idiosyncrasies – Galliano’s equestrian themed couture show this January springs to mind. Traditional elegance and offbeat eccentricity are not so far apart.

Of course, old favourites such as Balenciaga, Nina Ricci and Balmain will be unveiling their Autumn/Winter 2010 collections, but alongside the steadfast fashion houses, there is still space for the newcomers. In collaboration with Paris Fashion Week, trade shows such as Tranoi and Workshop any many more will be working to champion various designers.

The fashionable Marais quarter (home to Isabel Marant, Damir Doma and Gaspard Yurkievich - whose SS10 collection I adored) hosts the Rendezvous Femme fair this year. The fair, now into its sixth year, will display the work of sixty contemporary designers over the course of Paris Fashion Week. If you happen to be in the Marais district for the Rendezvous Fair, the many vintage stores peppered along the cobbled passages are worth a visit.

Many designers have played it safe with romantic pastels and chiffons so far this year, but Paris looks set to offer something a little edgier. Anthony Vaccarello has been mentioned in the chicest of circles for some time now, having won the Grand Prize at Hyères in 2006. After leaving Fendi , he has produced some very artistic collections full of geometric lines. This year he opens Paris’ ready-to-wear week at the Palais Royal. Another interesting designer with high artistic aesthetics is NJAL’s Juan Hernandez Daels. The JHD showroom is open over fashion week at the Galerie Baudoin Lebon (part of the Flanders Fashion Institute showroom), and some of his previous creations have been beautiful works of art.

There is also a lot of buzz surrounding young designer Quentin Veron. The twenty-one year old has already made a name for himself with his controversial fur collections. After last year’s bizarre Dr. Seuss style creations, it will be interesting to see what Veron unveils this year.

Man in red

Much has been written about French artist Christian Boltanski’s 2010 project Personnes, currently housed in the Grand Palais, the home of Parisian fashion shows. Boltanski’s exhibition is a 50-tonne mound of clothes, with heartbeats rhythmically echoing throughout the cold space; a stark reminder of our mortality. Only in Paris could this profound artistic project be so comfortably juxtaposed with fashion week. Here, fashion and art are one. French fashion is emphatically supported by the government’s Ministry of Culture and Communication, and remains an integral aspect of France’s identity.

Several reports in recent months have claimed that although Paris Fashion Week is as popular as ever, the French fashion houses are in decline and the government is panicking on how best to revive the scene. While it is true that more and more international designers are showing in Paris, and Lacroix has sadly closed his couture house doors for good, there are still many exciting French designers to look forward to this upcoming fashion week.

So mesdames et messieurs, are you ready for the legendary Paris Fashion Week?