All the Real Girls: Paris Fashion Week

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Published March 9, 2009

Looks from Haider Ackermann, Jeremy Scott

The best style in Paris this season stepped into the real world. And that’s trickier to do than it sounds. This season will be remembered as the one where talents who have quietly refined their vision of real life chic came into their own. Haider Ackermann and Isabel Marant are two very different designers, but this season the spotlight is on both of them. And Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz, who’s never short of accolades, proved that he also knows what to do when the going gets tough. Then there’s Jeremy Scott, who blew through Paris this weekend with a burst of Mickey Mouse via Louise Brooks Americana, swinging his bag for France’s Longchamp in a collection as simple, snappy and foot-tapping as rag time. More about them later.

Friday morning began with a lesson in style under pressure. Issey Miyake and his house designer Dai Fujiwara operate like fashion astrophysicists (or condom engineers): their aim is to expand the performance of clothes. This season they took Miyake’s A-POC (a piece of cloth) seamless clothes, to the martial arts mat to fine tune their design with a consulting team of karate masters. The answer is yes: You can chop and kick while sipping martinis in those tight little suits that two sets of karate champions performed in at the show. Miyake’s signature pleating also figured prominently in a new placed pleat technique, on kaleidoscopic prints and in saturated colors, which made the clothes undulate as though they were being sculpted by an artful wind machine. (Left: Issey Miyake)

By the end of the day though, it was all luxe, calm and volupté at Yohji Yamamoto. His strength has always been to take one idea and let it build slowly, but surely, until you’re hooked.  This time it was loose, three-quarter-length A-line coat-jackets with enormous, droopy lapels over narrow floor-sweeping skirts in inky black worn with a little pair of flame-red bottines. The result was beautiful in a weary way, but with a spark of joy at the feet. Yamamoto’s hot boots are a new collaboration with Italian shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo. After launching jewelry with Japan’s legendary pearl house Mikimoto and designing a flirty pair of leave-me-alone 70s sunglasses for Linda Farrow this spring, he’s revealing himself to be a master of fashion’s finishing touches.

What happened in between on Friday was a style spectrum of Paris, past present and future. Over at MMM (Maison Martin Margiela) the ghost of Mr. Martin Margiela, Paris fashion’s greatest merry prankster of the past twenty years, wafted through the collection in such a watered down way that there’s little doubt now that the designer is far, far away. Present perfect, happily, is John Galliano at Christian Dior, who put  this season’s harem draping in and on everything in an Orientalist riff on Early 20th Century couturier Paul Poiret. (Above: Yohji Yamamoto)

But that’s just old hat for Paris’s youngest. They’re with Bernhard Willhelm who lets it all hang out in dresses that look like patchwork tents with cable knit dip dye leggings and hiking boots. With dollar bills stuck over their eyes, a cardboard doghouse for a hat and crescent moon pendants and crowns in a friendly salute to the Muslim world, Bernhard’s girls in a chaotic, contemporary state of mind. (Left: Bernhard Willhelm)