By Leisa Barnett @leisabarnett
On first appearance, Dries Van Notens show invitation was sedate: a beautiful black typeface embossed on thick white card. On second, you noticed that each of the luxuriantly wide edges was a different colour: orange, blue, pink, yellow. Clever Dries. The designer - one of the famed 'Antwerp Six' to come out of Belgium in the 80s, known for producing consistently quiet, considered fashion and a masterful use of colour and print - sees his first major exhibition open at Paris' Musee Les Arts Decoratifs this weekend; a love letter to him from the city which has long hosted his show. So - a celebration, then? Wed been hoping that todays autumn/winter 2014 collection would borrow some of that luscious colour from his mens collection, and we neednt have worried it was here alright, a whole, bold rainbow of it. With healthy whack of silver, black and grey to boot.
He took two opposing prints - a traditional lily pattern and an ultra-modern, kaleidoscopic, Op-Art swirl and proceeded to play them off each other beautifully; so blousy cropped lily trousers were paired with a yellow, geometrically scored knit, and a long-line lily top layered over a ruffled lily skirt had its liliness interrupted up top with a series of Magic Eye-style swirls. Sounds crazy, but really, it wasnt at all its impossible to overstate how masterfully it was done.
In places, the flora of the piece literally bloomed out of the clothes like an audacious corsage, while the neutral staple pieces around which the story was built zip-front pants, bracelet-sleeved coats, one fantastic wool navy biker jacket were, well, solid.
As we segued into disco territory and sequins started to stripe their way through those swooshy midi skirts, you could almost hear the audience make a collective mental note: must, must, <must> pay a visit to that exhibition. Another designer on whom the spotlight falls this season is Alessandro DellAcqua, and again for an opening, of sorts: today saw him unveil his eagerly anticipated first collection for Rochas, the fashion domino effect having seen him take the reins from Schiaparelli-bound Marco Zanini in September.
His accomplished first act saw him on a quest for both gentleness and severity, which led him to ultra-feminine 50s-style skirts spiked with lavish embellishments paired with prim, button-through blouses. The opening coats section was strong (yes, we really would love two to layer up like that), while the wipe-clean subversiveness of the vinyl separates against the heavily-worked, gem-encrusted pieces felt modern and fresh. It was about juxtaposing romance and noir, we were told and we cant help but think those Marigold-style leather gloves that came paired with everything summed up the sentiment perfectly.
Over at Gareth Pugh, at the Palais de Tokyo, the London designer was marching to his own beat as usual, much to the delight of his devoted front row fans. White Swan was the theme the models filed out at the end to T.Rexs hit of the same name and an all-white collection (save for a highlight of silver mirror) put Pugh in his element with texture and silhouette.
Trailing coats were made out of what looked like tissue (it later came scrunched up into enormous tops that seemingly swallowed the models whole). See-through plastic was artfully wound around the body and simply knotted in place at the back. There were full-on, raw-edged fur dresses with fur coats, White Queen of Narnia-style, and girls with ginormous keys sticking out of them like wind-up dolls. It was at once beautiful and nightmarish vintage Pugh.
It was an altogether more conventionally pretty affair at Vionnet. The impressive staging saw the Tuilleries tent transformed into a winter garden replete with a soundtrack of howling wind before the lights came up, the catwalk filled with a morning mist and a procession zinging with spring and rebirth (unusually, given the season), began. The references for this collection were diffuse a Thirties sketch by the artist Ernesto Thayaht, the architecture of Yokohama airport, the houses signature draping but it all came together in a coherent and, at times, really brilliant collection that ultimately all came back to that garden.
The palette was gorgeous, anchored by a leaf green (Kilimanjaro green, to give it its technical name) and strewn with teal, navy and mink. A tulip motif appeared in felted strapless dresses, short sleeved coats and, later, sunray pleated dresses that nodded to the actual sun. High-waisted peg trousers came paired with soft strapless breastplate-like tops that fastened at the back like bras, while elsewhere they were progressively deconstructed with slashed-apart inner seams that eventually just fell open. And a round of applause, please, for those dropped-crotch wool jumpsuits and mink slippers surely the comfiest way to do chic next season.