Paris Finds Chic in Circles and Squares

Published October 3, 2012

Valentino is old-school in the way its designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli don’t focus on some big-bang effect to define a dramatically different trajectory each season. Instead, they go in-depth to exemplify craftsmanship and dress a delicate, modern woman who is both shy and sensual—and who is interested in fashion, but without losing track of herself. The fagotted slip dresses that opened the show were as plain and perfect as a linen handkerchief. Chiuri and Piccioli understate everything—like hiding lace under chiffon. This collection explored the shirtdress; one in dark chiffon scattered with floral beading, with puffy sleeves and a rounded collar, was timeless. But they also got a bit kinky, inserting snakeskin stripes down the front of a flesh-toned silk shirtwaist and a transparent raincoat.

Karl Lagerfeld went up, up, and away with a new-balloon shaped silhouette for Chanel, amid 13 wind turbines, with the entire Grand Palais covered in a solar-panelled runway. Orb-like Chanel suits with cropped A-line jackets scattered with giant pearls, tunic jackets, caftan coats, and off-the-shoulder columns looked like an escape from linear tailoring, a softening and dressification of Chanel, both feminine and childlike. The season’s big and skinny silhouettes joined up in corseted minis and skinny leg jumps in sexy, black-striped stretch mesh, topped by oversize jackets cropped at the bust in bright, banded tweeds. And by the end of the show, Chanel came full circle, with a double C’s swimsuit and giant Chanel bag with a hula-hoop handle.

Marc Jacobs has become a graphic designer. After his stripey namesake show, he covered Louis Vuitton with giant yellow checks in an homage to LV’s trademark. Consulting Daniel Buren’s “Les Deux Plateaux,” a collection of columns in three different heights on a grid in Paris’s Palais-Royal, for inspiration, Jacobs worked with mini, maxi, and midi lengths for a column-like collection. And Buren designed the set, a group of escalators descending into a checkerboard hall. The hypnotic grids came in all sizes and included cool gray and black on white for short, boxy jackets and long column skirts on models with bouffant ‘dos. Bandeau tops and hip-hugging skirts like the low risers Jacobs showed in his own show, and jumpsuits were crisp, bright, and minimal in a Courrèges way; and the addition of a giant shadow print floral in grass green added an aura of ’60s country-club chic. The square proportions were nonstop in scoopneck 3/4 coats and sensible skirts, tunic pantsuits, and sedate knee-length dresses; and every girl had a bow in her hair. By the end, LV had moved into large, peek-a-boo lace and sequin checks, using what the show notes proclaimed are the smallest sequins ever made for a liquid metallic surface.