Paris Fashion Week: Recap

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As the catwalks of Paris emptied out and style bloggers flew back home, Paris Fashion Week officially came to an end on October 2nd, and Spring 2014 has left the style community with plenty to talk about. Designers across the board seemed to have come to a unanimous agreement that this would be the season that transgressed as many limits as possible. Old fashion houses rebelled and took an adrenaline shot to their established brand identities, while designers such as Owens took a jab right at the very heart of the fashion institution. If you’re not the patient type to flip through countless slideshows or the rich type to fly to Paris, here are five of the most exciting and memorable exhibitions that are sure to be big in conversation for months to come.

Rick Owens


Rick Owens is the rare designer who waits for the trends to come to him, rather than waste his breath catching up. However, now that Paris has caught up to his lavish silhouettes and his black-and-white aesthetic, the goth-ninja originator has something new to say.

Owens’ show took Paris by storm as forty mostly African-American models trampled down the catwalk with a snarling intensity, performing a thundering sidestep to a harsh, militaristic beat. The show took Owens’ primal undertones to a thrilling extreme. The clothes were nothing spectactularly new for Owens: luxuriously draped pieces dominated by black tones and leather. However, this wasn’t a fashion show as much as it was a performance piece. The designer launched a guerilla attack on the state of the fashion world, skewering the unhealthy, racist concepts of beauty that have plagued the institution for too long. While this show was as anti-fashion as it gets, it has captured the attention of the entire fashion world, the sort of paradox that has defined Owens’ career.

 

Saint Laurent

Thanks to Hedi Slimane, 2013 saw Paris fall in love with the cigarette-slim punk look helmed by Saint Laurent. Their Spring 2014 line continued the designer’s subversive vision and his keen obsession with musical subculture. Slimane’s typical characters of teddy girls, tattooed motorcyclists and heroin-chic rockers raced down the runway, adorned with the razor-sharp silhouettes that we’ve come to expect from Slimane. The collection demonstrated particular influence by the 80s industrial nightclub scene and Slimane’s experience with menswear, a haphazard contrast that somehow worked in remarkable ways. Dresses were decorated with campy yet retro patterns such as glittery lip prints and tiger stripes, followed by peak-lapel blazers stylized with an anti-establishment air.

All these things and the signature moto jackets that come with them have become the norm for Hedi Slimane, no longer shocking audiences as he did three years back. However, Slimane seems comfortable sitting high on his punk rock throne. Looking at Saint Laurent’s sales of late, the masses seem to agree.

Lanvin

Known to be Jay-Z’s go-to sneaker brand, Lanvin has gained recognition for its sophisticated yet aggressively urban lavishness, arguably the most contemporary of the Old World fashion titans.  Lanvin has taken this reputation for the aggressively urban to a whole new level, dispensing with traditional notions of fabric, in a collection seemingly from a European disco club 50 years into the future.

Lit by a cold, hard blue, the stage was electrified by a series of models in dresses and jumpsuits that were dominated by a maximalist metallic sheen. Sewn almost exclusively in lamé, a fabric woven by metallic yarn of gold and silver, the dresses were a sharp, alarming break from the sophisticated cool that the audience had expected. The house even traded in its usually cool, chic blues for loud tones of brass, gold and jewel tones. Sparsely thrown into the collection were more conventional Lanvin dresses that were sleekly cut and minimally adorned, but these seemed to only serve to highlight the striking contrast with previous collections. Who knew that Paris’ oldest couture house could also be its most electrifyingly youthful.

Christian Dior

With a reputation for beautiful pastel florals and an air of nostalgic femininity, Dior has become near-synonymous with the Parisian belle. Two years ago, no one would have expected Dior to be a fashion house that rebels against its brand identity. However, in an effort to be fresh and engaging again, the brand has let Raf Simons take creative lead, and the Rick Owens contemporary has already sent shockwaves through the brand in a drug-induced swirl.

Simons’ recent show took Diors’ pretty efflorescent world and dipped it in acid, as models paraded down the catwalk in unsettlingly strong fluorescents and bold Tahitian prints. Even the most classic and iconic of Dior silhouettes such as the bar jacket were reinvented, as Simons’ version was cut erratically and was decorated with another flash of fluorescent on the back. Dresses crassly printed with “primrose path” and “Alice Garden” made the intent of the show clear, as the show sent Dior’s image down a psychedelic Wonderland.

Commes Des Garcons

Every fashion week has its token “monster fashion” runway, evoking snarky parodies and countless questions of “who would wear that?” Last year’s was Thom Browne’s line of preppy schoolboy frankensteins, and now it’s Comme des Garcon’s line of uber-nightmarish lolita dolls wearing what might be considered clothes. The streetwear-meets-avant-garde brand has always had a penchant for revolting against fashion norms, as their past collections saw chaotic ruffles blossom across otherwise elegant dresses.

However, Garcon mastermind Kawakubo’s Spring 2014 vision totally abandoned any traditional notions of beauty in favor of masochistic effectations of cages and leather, as well as outlandish oval cutouts that sinisterly recall tentacles. To call it a bit fetishistic would be an understatement. However, ignoring what it means to wear “clothes” allowed Kawakubo to forge one of Spring 2014’s most astonishing and unforgettable artistic exhibitions, one that demonstrates why the people in Paris who are most ahead of the curve are the Japanese.