Columns, Ornamentation, and the Sound of Music in Paris

Published March 1, 2013

It takes an airplane hangar-sized hall to squeeze in Rick Owen’s grandiose ideas about dressing. Shown at Paris’ Omnisport Bercy, Owens’ Fall collection began with a 20-foot-high blast of steam, which made models look as though they had crossed over from the other world into ours. More gigantic walking columns than mere mortals, Owens’ ladies sported electrically charged, windblown manes. Jackets and coats in flat-cut kimono shapes were covered with oversized stitches in a basket-weave pattern, or simply threaded through with what looked like long, thin bones. Cher, in a giant chapka, sitting next to Owens’ Michele Lamy, appeared suitably impressed.

Nina Ricci’s show at the Espace Ephémère in the Tuileries Garden seemed a world away. Katia and Marielle Labèque, with facing concert grand pianos, accompanied Peter Copping’s collection. The sisters looking a bit goth—and their black pianos on the sprawling red carpet sent out a fashion statement even before the show began. Copping let his elegant, erotic imagination run wild with what looked like a curvy secretary’s wardrobe from the 1950s. There were hourglass shirred skirts, pinup sweaters, and circle skirts plastered with crushed floral appliqués; and coats so slinky, they could pass for louche cocktail dresses.

At Balmain, designer Olivier Rousteing’s collections continued to reach for the stars. This season Rousteing dreamed of A Thousand and One Nights, and ’70s Parisian haute couture‘s take on oriental ornamentation and draping. The result was high-waist sarouel pants and mini harem skirts in geometric lamé, and big jackets and two-piece dresses in metallic, quilted leather. Rousteing paired this flamboyant exotica with black suede boots that rise all the way up to the hips. Flashy metallics were balanced by graphically tailored black and white Angora cocoon coats, tuxedos, and single-sleeve tunics.

Olympia Le-Tan turned to The Sound of Music and the Tyrolean style of the singing von Trapp family for her collection, presented amid the stuffed beasts at Paris’s Musée de la Chasse. Le-Tan’s clothes are a whimsical, perfect accompaniment to her embroidered bags. There were plenty of grey flannel tailored coats and jackets, hand-knit Austrian grandma vests, slinky circle skirts, Lederhosen, printed baby girl dresses, t-shirts, and embroidered belts. Enough to inspire a rendition of “My Favorite Things.”