Dispatches from Paris: Stella McCartney & Sacai

Do-it-yourself attitude at Stella & Sacai’s major influence

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By: Rebecca Lowthorpe Follow @Rebecca_ELLE

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1. Stella McCartney 2. Sacai 3. Stella McCartney

High energy, high impact and more focused than ever on her customer – this was the takeaway from Stella McCartney. ‘We touch a lot of women with our brand and we wanted the collection to have a little piece of all of them in it. That’s the real point, we were doing everything for the wearer,’ she said backstage. That translated into a richer-than-usual medley of themes – sporty, masculine-feminine, outdoorsy, urban, relaxed, refined – and it worked, all tied together with a real hit of go-for-it Stella attitude.

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The clothes were full of punchy surface detail, from the opening black looks riddled with zips to the big grey pea coat with squiggles of fray-tipped mountaineering cord, or the vivid loops of silken thread on the final sporty dresses. The tailoring was menswear oriented and injected with colour (deep green or burgundy); while for trousers, there were sporty, narrow, looped-under-the-foot ski pants. Feet were firmly planted in chunky ‘sustainable wood’ platforms, which looked great with form-fitting sweater dresses that had a real active ease – shown so effectively by Cara Delevingne, who skipped and jumped down the runway.

Knitted dresses came with matching bags that slung over the shoulder and knotted like a sweater. Bold tie-dye prints gave another blast of zingy colour and movement. Stella said this collection was about ‘giving ownership’ to the women who wear her. If by that she meant covering all bases for a multi-dimensional customer, this was true. But more than that, this collection was about Stella owning Stella: there wasn’t a piece in the collection that didn’t belong.

Sacai - Stella McCartney - Sacai, a/w 2014

Sacai has become a 'thing' – one of those lust-worthy brands that keeps getting it just right. The designer behind it all is Chitose Abe, a former knitwear specialist for Junya Watanabe. To say she's a stickler for detail is an understatement; she has a unique way of combining fabrics you wouldn’t necessarily put together. Trace back to the starting point of this season’s obsession with patchwork, and you’ll find Abe. Rewind to the beginning of the trend for clothes being one thing from the front and quite another from the back, and you’ll discover another Sacai hallmark. More than one designer has taken apart her inspiring pieces and tried to make them their own this season.

The opening coat/biker jacket hybrid, comprising navy and black leather and a mountain of multi-grey-toned fuzzy Mongolian fur, is classic Sacai – it is

 huge and brilliant and goes to the top of the season’s patchwork-coat leader board.

There is so much going on, it’s hard to take it all in – and it’s just plain weird how she gets that level of detail to look so light and unfussy. Look at her take on the classic Dior Bar jacket, deconstructed with biker-jacket zips and panels of electric-blue knit; or her pea-coat-cum-biker-jacket, spliced with knit, wool and silk. As for below the waist, there’s a lot going on there, too. Skirts sliced with wool and fine pleats, or wrap skirts left open at the back to reveal subversively saucy knickers.

The difference between Abe and other Japanese designers is her steadfastly feminine approach: conceptual, yes, but prettily so.

See the full Stella McCartney show

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