Damir Doma is one of Paris’s most successful up-and-coming designers, and his show demonstrated exactly why. His elegant, starkly tailored shapes, harken back to the purity of Anne Marie Beretta, a fashion star in Paris in the ’70s and early ’80s. But this was no remake—Doma’s old gold lace boy shorts and handweave style sleeveless jackets, bordered with copper disks, are quite contemporary. In a way, Dries Van Noten, and Doma are in the same camp. They don’t design skintight clothes to make women feel like hot sausages. Instead, everything is worn a few sizes looser to give a mere suggestion of shape. Van Noten is in fine form. He took toreador passementerie and placed it all over hourglass jackets and coats with scoop necks. The result looked like 19th-century ladies dressed in bullfighting costumes. But then he was back to his modern, mixed-metaphor style splicing blocks of pattern: jungle foliage, old black and white lithographs, and color to break up simple sheath dresses. The best new look is his A-line tent dress with lace sleeves and yoke. And the new sunglasses—wire rims with thick ’50s-style plastic fronts—are a gem.
Gareth Pugh is unapologetically extraterrestrial. I’m sure he wouldn’t agree with this description, but how else can one describe the purple opaque plastic android head coverings that made his models look like the invasion of the killer ants from outer space at the finale of his mind-blowing show? The fact is Pugh is a masterful sculptor and the horizontal stripe grid he used to design his spring collection made for fantastic rippling black and white stripe thin jersey jackets and lattice work leather tunics, which are the closest thing clothes will ever come to the lithographs of Maurits Cornelis Escher. The Belgian-schooled, German renegade Bernhard Willhelm, and his partner in delirium Jutta Kraus, don’t stage women’s shows in Paris every season, so when I received an extremely last-minute invitation to assist at his presentation at Paris’s Kogan gallery, I hot-footed it over. There I found Willhelm dressed in an antique Mexcian straw sombrero and patchwork miniskirt, bright knee socks, and hiking boots. Nearby was a tub of beer on the rocks, and the Mezcal was on its way over. I couldn’t stay for the show, as the models were still “rehearsing” downstairs, but I did manage to get to the lowdown from Willhelm. He and Jutta spent the last two months bumming around Mexico (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City…) and they loved it. While there, they assembled the spring collection based on Mexican handcraft. Tequila fueled their creative juices and Willhelm has developed a strong identification with that bad boy of Mexican folklore Pancho Villa.
Martine Sitbon was also feeling très olé Rue du Mail where, like Dries, she placed toreador passementerie all over loose, curvy-shaped dresses, jackets and skirts. The result was one of her strongest collections in recent years. Her lady bullfighters in cool black and blue was a stroke of Parisian chic.