Dispatches from Paris: Balmain, Lanvin, Rick Owens and more

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GIF: Balmain, Lanvin, Rick Owens and more / Getty

Olivier Rousteing has been teasing his new Balmain collection on Instagram for the past week and, with hashtags like #oopsididntknowwecouldnttalkaboutsex and #censored, it was clear that he planned to turn up the heat. And he did. From the cut-out catsuits to cage dresses, the clothes were super-charged and super sexy. He chose Michael Jackson as the soundtrack to the show and there was an Eighties Thriller feel to the leather jackets, with sleeves pushed up and oversized sleeveless jackets, a power dressing nod in the strong-shouldered tailoring. Subtle it was not – but then you don't go to Balmain looking for something that's going to help you blend into the background. Like Kim Kardashian, sat on the front row between her husband, Kanye, and mother, Kris, watching her sister, Kendall, storm the catwalk, you want something that's going to show off what you've got. And Rousteing delivered.

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Rick Owens is designing with a different woman in mind and his following is positively tribal. Whatever she's wearing – sometimes clothes that could be plucked straight from the catwalk, sometimes more abstract pieces – she's always a force to be reckoned with, fiercely powerful with strong features and flyaway hair. This season was more conceptual than his previous few, an otherworldly vision filled with clothes that looked as though they had been stitched together from found scraps – and, shockingly for Owens – there was barely a black piece to be seen. Tunics and tabards were made from layers of paper-thin organza folded into honeycombs, tubes of silk exploded from shoulders, embroidery snaked under light-as-air layers, and all was paired with clompy wooden shoes for added impact. It made for a hauntingly beautiful spectacle.

 

Strong women ruled at Lanvin too, albeit in a more traditional fashion. The house is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, and Alber Elbaz has been looking back at the history of the house and his career there. The clothes were great but it was the models that really made the show; Albert Elbaz, for the most part, cast women (rather than girls) to wear his beautifully simple and easy long dresses, his chic tailoring and flippy, glitzy party frocks. Amber Valletta, Jamie Bochert, Violetta Sanchez and Kirsten Owen brought a strength and poise that made it hard to focus on the clothes that they were wearing rather than their faces. We want to be just like them when we grow up – dressed head to toe in Lanvin.

 

He may be a French man living in London but Roland Mouret is firmly in a New York state of mind right now. For spring he had sketched out a love letter to his customers, designed with his soon-to be-opened Madison Avenue store in mind. He riffed on the signature pieces that are at the core of his label; the structured, figure-hugging dresses, more easy and relaxed than they once were, swisher shapes in elegant block colours or laser-cut linen. Swingy skirts and tailored shorts were splashed with a single graphic flower, kimono-style jackets were delicately appliquéd. It was a showcase for the beautiful cuts and polish that makes Mouret such a hit – and just the ticket for taking on the Big Apple.

 

Another label that knows exactly what its women want is Ann Demeulemeester. Since its eponymous founder left the house last November, Sebastien Meunier has quietly taken the helm and he's being loyal to his predecessor's aesthetic. The almost-exclusively monochrome looks, the embroidered waistcoats layered over piratical white shirts and sheer dresses, and skinny, cropped trousers were Demeulemeester to the core. It may not have been ground-breaking but, if it's not broken, why fix it?

 

Could cycling shorts really be a thing come next season? Guillaume Henry certainly thinks so. His Carven collection had a Sixties sporty vibe with its modish zip-up dresses, block colour coats with chic go-faster stripes, huge leather bags tucked under the arms like helmets and, yes, those shorts. Swing macs with pointed collars in snakeskin added a chic touch, and there were Japanese postcard prints of nudes and mountains to add a softer edge to the graphic lines. It was a much more sporty offering than we've come to expect from the a Carven girl – but while she'd earned her racing stripes, she hadn't lost any of her irresistible French allure.

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