Paris’ Shining Mix of Tailoring & Curves

Published October 1, 2012

Raf Simons flew Christian Dior’s Bar jacket like a banner for a new, more vibrant minimalism sticking to the intentions he previewed in this summer’s couture. The bar has been a bit of a stumbling block over the years at Dior. Galliano tried hard to bring it into his collections with little tangible success. Simons’ take on the Bar, a perfect balance of tailoring and curves, opened the show as a black suit jacket over skinny pants and went on to become a short, off-the-shoulder dress serving as the opener for a string of short dresses, sculpted like ombre chinoises, without an extra detail. Call it minimalism if you will—Simons says he is aiming for a sexier kind of less is more—this clean up is the coup de grace for fashion excess. After his tailoring opus, Simons unleashed color in swirling confections of iridescent pastel satins with a hint of synthetics about them, like ball gowns atop simple black evening shorts. A-line dresses in bold, silky stripes, abstract color blocks with light embroidery—one looked like a blow-up of butterfly wing patterns—and bright pastel lace net on black project dazzling blasts of color like present wrapping. And the show’s finale: skinny body stocking sweaters in black and cropped ball gowns in oversized iridescent florals exemplify elegance and restraint.

It’s kind of hard to write about Isabel Marant after Simon’s arrival at Dior, but if there’s any designer who can sum up what contemporary girls want to wear, it’s her. And apparently for spring, she thinks they just want to have fun. Marant went into full summer print mode inspired by images of Elvis in Hawaii and Brigitte Bardot in Saint Tropez for one-shoulder scarf dressing, patterned skinny pants, aloha bustier dresses, lace-up patterned tunics and a great Indian style tailoring edged with embroidery and studs.

Hussein Chalayan is an architect and so he’s in his element now that fashion has returned to form. Chalayan played with the box, squaring off simple spring tailoring for a flat look and encasing fluorescent yellow and green curvy dresses in transparent white rectangles. This all had a clinical goddess quality before he brought sexiness to the surface in tunics with trumpet peplums, circle skirts and mini pinafore dresses.

What if you took eveningwear, removed all embellishment, and color and then supersized it? Maison Martin Margiela posed this question as a design directive opening slowly with long, off-the-shoulder body tracing dresses in dove grey, black and flesh, cut in thick leather instead of airy silk, and worn with full length gloves for a show which became increasingly abstract and voluminous ending with shapes which resembled deflated balloons. The result was amusing and thought-provoking but it left one wondering what else MMM has in store.