Paris Presents Spring in the Sun

Considered the culmination of a month of Spring/Summer fashion shows from New York, London, and Milan, Paris Fashion Week toes an exquisite balance between established luxury houses, a new guard of young creatives, and a fuzzy in-between. Unlike Milan, whose schedule opens with the commercial clout of Frida Giannini’s Gucci show, Paris unfolds more quietly, with an eight-day calendar that allows new names their time in the sun.

On the shining rooftop terrace of the iconic department store Galeries Lafayette, Franco-Cambodian designer Christine Phung showed the next chapter in her work after receiving the ANDAM’s Premier Collection prize in July this year, a prestigious win best described as Paris’ answer to the CFDA Emerging Talent award. Blue skies welcomed her water-inspired sophomore collection—the optimistic weather forecast boding well for her cerulean separates dusted with Swarovski dewdrops and traced in icy, fractal jacquards. Phung worked silk pleats into a twisted bustier and handkerchief dress, signaling the trend (rife in both New York and London) has crossed the pond.

Later on Tuesday afternoon, Cedric Charlier and Anthony Vaccarello, two of Belgium’s newer names, each paraded his idea of the contemporary power wardrobe—neither one prescribing to the dark, romantic aesthetic once attached to their homeland. Charlier’s graphic and cosmopolitan tailoring retained the crisp ease of seasons past, though rendered somewhat ascetic in his soft belted blazers with their lapels inverted and shoulders dropped in black and navy silk. Later, he gave t-shirt blouses and tank dresses his touch in variegated sailor stripes and a brushstroke of vermillion, nodding to previous (more artistic) graphic efforts while retaining the season’s athletic, headstrong atmosphere. A final passage of matte, metallic sequins pushed the envelope more so with crisp, broken folds that flashed pops of contrast color.

At Vaccarello’s show, the all-star cast of supermodels propelled his barely-there creations into the leggiest of stratospheres as he slashed away at pointed miniskirts, strapless bustiers, and shifts cut in crepe, leather, and animalia lace. Red leather harked back to the racy Met Ball shirtdress he crafted for gal-pal Anja Rubik, and a passage of bleached denim furthered a punk streak that was tempered, shiny, and new, with tanks cut in glo-mesh and rounded silver cabochon studs that ran riot throughout. With the top spot chez Mugler up for grabs and the Courtin-Clarins sisters firmly seated front row, it wouldn’t be amiss to place Vaccarello’s power tailoring right up their alley.

Nana Aganovich and Brooke Taylor, behind the label Aganovich, have been slowly building an artistic universe beyond their avant-garde tailoring and eveningwear, and it’s paid off. A recent exhibition with Italian textile house Sete Cento for the Venice Biennale proved a timely launchpad for their richly textured Spring show, with ornate Vanners jacquards in flossy, pastel pinks the highlight of this finely-honed pattern study. Having looked at images of the virgin Queen Elizabeth I, the pair quipped (albeit quietly) on matters of sex and skin: their erogenous zone unzipping down the nape of the neck, at times revealing slashes of color. Wide, pooling trousers gathered at the waist in flat, pleated fins in a style that, Taylor divulged, took “years to perfect.”

On Wednesday morning, the stuffy, sunlit shell of a cement warehouse gave Damir Doma just the setting he was after to illustrate the heady, urban collision of uptown daywear that he proposed for Spring ’14. Once known for a flowing, monastic style, Doma’s rise in the ranks of Paris’ new blood has come with major adjustment, and this show spoke volumes to that effect, from fabric choice (crisp poplins, neoprene, mulberry silk) to the popping palette (monochromes and safari hues splashed with safety orange and sunny yellow). The Croatian designer manipulated trench coat buckles around shiftdresses and wrap skirts, offering a polka-dot motif through broderie anglaise and laser-cut pleating. The breezy shadow play they created across the skin looked effortless against an awkward passage of paneled silk columns.

At Dries Van Noten, the gold-foiled invite (and his June men’s show) prefaced the gilded, trellis backdrop in the cavernous Halle Freyssinet—giving no clue to a live guitar soundtrack offered mid-runway by Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood. Posing his girls on cork sandals, Van Noten swirled together a heady cocktail of precious and humble textiles, opening and closing in a decadent statement of golden silk ruffles applied to bone-coloured cotton. Running a gamut of ethnic (at times colonial) references from tasseled knitwear and macramé to cowrie shell embroideries, the Dries girl bore a fearless, swirling collage of artful nuances, from the severe embroideries of red-on-black barbed wire to a cascade of vibrant poppies and parrot tulips down silk coats and Miyake-style pleat skirts.