LOOKS FROM RICK OWENS (LEFT) AND BALMAIN.
The long, tall tower of light at Rick Owens' show provided an ideal backdrop for his elegantly habited women, who were covered from head to toe in smock-like coats in black, white, gray, and brown, with bold geometric patterning which looked like the vestments of a modernist church. The overall effect was graphic and clean, and so far away from his earthy beginnings. Every head was covered in ribbed knit, like a turtleneck pulled high. Some of these tight hoods extended to mink to cover the shoulders in a saintly way, while arms were masked in extended gauntlet gloves and legs were encased in hoof-like, over-the-knee platform boots. Owens' silhouette is three-tiered: cropped jackets with molded leather shoulders over tunics, followed by a pair of wide shorts or a floor-length skirt. The cloche capes, banded at the neck with a narrow ribbon of leather, swept the floor and minimized the shoulders for a long, armless look. And in the middle of all this was a completely revamped fur done as a cropped, cap-sleeve vest—to wear over a wool jacket or coat—which makes the old fur topper seem passé.
Has Balmain's Christophe Decarnin gone minimalist? Yes and no. The answer was yes, judging from the streamlined tailoring: simple jackets with pants cuffed and cropped just below the knee, the abundance of white T-shirts—some with monkey-fur shoulders—worn with men's trousers, and the new V-neck jumpsuits. But then there was all that beading. Balmain's thickly bejeweled jackets, scoop-neck dresses and leggings are striped like a patterned sweater and covered with enough sequins and beads to keep an Indian embroidery atelier busy for months. This minimalist/maximalist mix looked quite sophisticated and cleaned-up, which is a good thing. But where was Decarnin after the show? Apparently, he was taking a breather due to nervous exhaustion, another indication that fashion has become a bit too ferocious lately.
LOOKS FROM ANN DEMEULEMEESTER (LEFT) AND BALENCIAGA.
Ann Demeulemeester is queen of her own ship, which means she is in the unique position as a designer today to evolve at her own pace. This season she's in arch form, by turns warrior-like and romantic, with stiff leather jackets covered with laced panels that multiplied at the waist to spill down the sides of leather pants. Those intricate panels—which began to look like ammo belts—were laced with black feather quills, and eventually they cut loose to drape over the shoulders of billowing dresses. Showing her feminine side, Demeulemeester mixed leather and black velvet. Spectacular here is the zigzag-stripe beaded fringe tacked on to jackets, which slithers with every move, and long goat's hair, in black and muted multicolors with a sinuous luster, for wicked-looking coats.
Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquière described this season's collection as "a game of perspectives and scale," and it looked like he had gone back to the drawing board to loosen proportions and undo construction—as though diverse fabrics where simply layered to give a rough outline of silhouette. Ghesquière created oversized knitting in thick leatherette strips for vests and jackets and fashioned the same stiff stuff into fisherman's net as a cage-like topping for colorful sheaths. Stiff black banding edged drapey, below-the-knee skirts combined with thick, slouchy sweaters. And the new print is an eccentric nature scene on white. Skewed and flying panels combined three or more colors (white, grey, blue, and silver) like a collection of billowing flags, for tunics over matching knee-patched leggings. The result was very abstract—and the funny part? It was all shown with quite ladylike, multi-strap Mary Janes.