Dispatches from Paris: Balmain, Carven & Rick Owens

Aka sex, sci-fi and shrouds

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By Leisa Barnett @leisabarnett

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Justin Timberlake’s sex-loaded vocal positively thrust its way out of the speakers at yesterday’s Balmain show. ‘She wants it, so I got to give it to her,’ ran the stripped-back refrain.
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Let’s presume for a moment that ‘it’ is an army-meets-Masai mash-up, where silky cargo pants come paired with chubby furs, leather parkas and a ton of gold; then it’s safe to say that Olivier Rouesting’s the man you want.

Fresh from the success of last season’s epic homage to the 80s and Rihanna fronting the campaign (FYI she was here today, but so late she missed the show and had to make do with a backstage Insta-love-in – watch and learn, Jeremy Scott), Rouesting turned his attention to streetwear proper, albeit through a lens of super-luxury.

Jourdan Dunn opened in a khaki leather blouson and said silky pants, the bamboo heels of her short boots mirrored in her chunky gold bamboo earrings. There was lots of khaki and monochrome and leather, shot through with leopard and zebra and some epic fur pieces, layer on layer, so that the models beneath them almost disfigured: buried in wealth. Notably, there wasn’t much flesh on show – the high necks of button-up leather shirts and the weight of those expensive fabrics and skins tended to conceal, rather than show off, the body, while tall necklets and cuffs added a gilt edge of conservatism. The key silhouette was sharp at the shoulder with a fan-pleated peplum at the waist, loaded with thick gold chains or bullet-pointed with gold studs and bound with leather. There were slinky little zip-back knit dresses, dripping as if with coils of rope – the ever-captivating Rosie Huntington-Whiteley did a sterling job of selling those – and fur bombers that boasted leather panels.

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Freedom was the message, according to Rouesting. Though one can’t help but feel Beyoncé or, indeed, Rihanna might have provided a more suitable soundtrack for his barely caged tigress.

Elsewhere Carven, shown in the sedate, marble surround of the Galerie des Gobelins, felt like a neat amalgamation of a few of the trends we’ve seen these past few weeks – all washed over, naturally, with Guillaume Henry’s particular brand of youthful elegance. Most surprisingly of these was the Pop-Art-y hand reaching up from the hems of knits, as seen in London, and the vague sci-fi thing he had going on with the V-inserts of crystals across tailored jackets and, later, stiff, sheeny, long-sleeved mini dresses.

The show opened strong, with a series of closely-cut, ankle-grazing day dresses and zip-through skirt suits in salmon pink, yolky yellow and ocean blue – accented with leopard print or sometimes, a loop of fur snaking around the elbow – that were paired with stonking right-up-the-thigh black leather boots and soft origami pouches that the girls clutched to their chests.

There were little tweed swing coats and kilts (one of which was sliced open above the knee and boasting a sunny yellow fan of silky pleats.) Carven’s signature prints, this season, were abstract, with a 60s vibe, and in muted tones of burgundy, khaki and brown. An arrow was a key motif, sequined haphazardly onto a navy wool coat and seemingly burnt out of the brown fur version that followed it. Read: assured, fun, characteristically cool.

Someone who never pays attention to trends is Rick Owens, though it’s fair to say that his audience were paying particular attention pre-show as to what the designer might have in store given his antics with a certain step troupe last season. But there were no such theatrics here. Rather, the opposite was true: Owens showed his collection on ‘real’ women – friends and employees of the house, from Kirsten Owen to Janet Fischgrund – of all sizes and ages. They positively bounded around the Palais de Chaillot, a powerful tour de force, leaving the front row with nothing but a blur in their camera roll and a sense of a real master at work.

Here was an industrial vibe, to which the long rubber boots and headpieces that bent out of the scalp like exhaust pipes can attest. Trousers came with moulded knee-pads and webbing looping casually down. Layers were key: a series of poncho-like shrouds and loose dresses and tabards, knotted at the nape of the neck, jostled with double skirts, the high side slits of which revealed another design beneath. Complex? Sure. But as one editor commented on the way out, strip it all back and those blanket coats with stiff-pipe-like sleeves would look just fantastic with a pair of jeans and a ponytail.

See the full Balmain show

PFW Models off duty

Paris Street Style

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