A retro space age mood permeated Paris ready-to-wear shows on Thursday, as Balenciaga and emerging Indian madcap Manish Arora sent out looks perfect for a stewardess on an intergalactic fight.
Balenciaga s Nicolas Ghesquiere, who dusted off the storied Paris label and turned it into one of fashion s hottest properties, continued to push the envelope, churning out yet another breathtaking collection, this time made up of short, 1960s-inspired skirtsuits and patchwork vests imbued with sci-fi flavor.
Arora plucked Art Deco motifs out of the 1920s and projected them into a distant future, delivering 22nd century flapper dresses covered in citrus toned sequins and space flight attendants uniforms with sculptural shoulders and protruding hips. For the finale, three models wore what looked like oversized headphones with glowing plastic tassels protruding from the sides that rotated as they walked.
Bizarre headgear was also de rigeur at the Belgian design duo AF Vandevorst s show, where models in military-inspired looks – some covered in chalk doodlings – had their lower jaws bound shut with leather straps.
Nothing could have been further from the regal seventies vibe at Balmain, another once-dusty Paris label that has become hot fashion property over the past years: Everything there was pretty, shiny and perfect. Christophe Decarnin, the designer behind the brand s renaissance, looked to royals from Louis XIV, the Sun King, to pop demigod Prince for a collection bathed in regal purple and dripping with gold sequins.
Rick Owens had a sort of regal air, too, but his were tribal princesses, Barbarellas of the post-apocalypse, out on the town in leather dresses covered in sequins fashioned from horn and sleeveless fur vests.
Paris fashion week gained momentum Thursday with several after-show parties competing for A-list guests, including Chanel uber-designer Karl Lagerfeld, who was spotted outside Vogue s soiree at the tony Hotel Crillon, or Grace Jones, who was slated to perform at the Viktor & Rolf bash nearby.
Paris eight-day-long ready-to-wear displays moved into day three Friday with shows by luxury giant Christian Dior, the much-coveted Paris label Lanvin, Britain s zany Vivienne Westwood and Issey Miyake of Japan.
BalenciagaIt was a showstopper.
Ghesquiere served up short skirts in perforated leather with A-line vests in a patchwork of fur and vinyl, cropped skinny pants shot through with Lurex and jumpsuits with bodices that unzipped, oragami-like, to reveal tops printed with Pop Art posters in primary colors.
The clothes were intricate and elaborate, and stylists, editors and buyers leaned in as the models breezed past, straining to make out what exactly what going on.
And then there were the shoes. The shoes! Astounding concoctions of leather, vinyl and polystyrene with geometric stacked heels made out of blocks of what appeared to be cut and polished rocks.
The catwalk was lit from beneath, bathing the models in white light and making them look like flight attendants gliding through a spaceship.
Asked about the marketability of retro futuristic stewardess pieces, Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing said he was sure this collection would prove as hot those as of seasons past.
It s really those over-the-top pieces that people are going to covet because they re looking for that distinctive Balenciaga piece to put into their wardrobe, Downing told The Associated Press in a post-show interview. Season to season, Ghesquiere is moving the collection forward in a way that feels really of the moment, or even ahead of the moment.
BalmainEvery It Girl worth her painted-on jeans or her peak-shouldered jacket is also coveting a piece by Balmain. And Decarnin gave them what they want with a collection that took the label s now hallmark distinctive shapes and served them up in a new, richer, more luxurious palette.
The skintight pantsuits – which had 0s glamrock feel – and minidresses with shoulders as outsized as Louis XIV s ego were served up in rich, regal purples and sparkled with a royal treasury s worth of gold.
As a medley of Prince hits blasted over the loudspeakers, models in stiletto booties pounded the catwalk in long-tailed jackets in velvet brocade and pants in sequins and leather that looked as if they had been shrink-wrapped to their size zero bodies.
Fringes of fine gold chains dangled from the sleeves of dresses so short it seemed as though the lion s share of the fabric used to make them went into the sleeves.
Supermodel Carmen Kass, a regular on the Balmain catwalk, said the clothes even made her feel like royalty.
You feel very powerful, the platinum-haired model told a scrum of reporters after the show. Powerful and sexy and gorgeous.
While designer Decarnin, whose sculpted shoulder blazers and ultra-mini dresses have made the label a must for jetsetting party girls the world over, didn t exactly break ground, he did finally move beyond the hardcore rock princess aesthetic of the past few seasons.
Gone were the oversized tee-shirts with sequin stripes, replace by translucent silk blouses with an oversized bow at the neck that were pure Prince. In rich paisley-covered velvet, instead of the leathers tattered with holes, this season s blazers were decidedly more Versailles than nightclub.
Manish Arora Not for the timid of heart, Arora s collection looked sure to please the hot young things who have turned making an entrance into an art: Paging Lady Gaga and Katy Perry!
Everything scintillated, sparkled, flashed and blinged. Dresses with sculptural puff sleeves and gravity-defying epaulettes, plunging V-necklines and low-slung waists were awash in sequins: Irregular stripes and patches of blinding mint green, tangerine, flamingo paillettes covered every square inch (centimeter).
Even the models hair was covered in bling: Some wore rigid half-wig, half-bucket hat hybrids covered in electric blue or eyepopping orange sequins.
Prints, in a saturated rainbow, were culled from stills from the 1927 Fritz Lang movie Metropolis, early 20th century stained glass and neon signage and worked into cap sleeved dresses with protruding hips and old-school stewardess uniforms.
We took familiar codes of the Art Deco period and, in a word, messed them up, the genial Delhi-based designer told The AP in a preview ahead of the collection. We pushed everything so far into the future that it s hardly recognizable.
Rick OwensOwens, a Californian whose hardcore aesthetic has won him a devoted fan base, didn t stray far from his trademark aesthetic, sending out sumptuous leather leggings and sleeveless dresses and vests in a somber palette.
It s pretty much the same thing over and over again, but I try to give it a twist every season, he told reporters backstage. I wanted it to be more opulent … more about ceremonial armor.
Models in platform boots and gloves that tapered into a kind of suction cup shaped cap at the fingertips skulked down the catwalk in putty and mud colored ensembles. Triangular flaps of leather dangled from their oversized vests and shrunken biker jackets.
A mosaic of horn sequins – which appeared to be attached by twigs – embellished the tank dresses, which had standup paneling at the throat.
Af Vandevorst The Belgian design duo took fashionistas back to school with a collection of layered pant suits and asymmetrical draped dresses that doubled as chalkboards.
Long lean column dresses in draped black jersey were smudged with chalk dust or bore the ghostly remnants of doodles and complicated mathematical calculations. A black blouse was fitted with rings that doubled as chalk holsters, and the little pieces of chalk studded the garment like bizarre beads.
We just love this material, like the way you can work out ideas, change them, get new ideas, An Vandevorst, the female half of the duo, told The AP in a backstage interview.
Many of the other looks had a military flavor. Cavalry pants tucked into platform boots fitted out with a knee-concealing flap for an extra-long si
lhouette and silk shirts, vests and jackets with the pair s trademark rivet closures were piled on in messy layers. Cardboard panels were tied onto the model s bust like armor.
It was an elegant, ladylike-but-relaxed take on military.
Still, the bizarre headgear jarred the show s strong woman vibe: What could the leather bands, which fitted under the models jaws, strapping their mouths closed, possibly mean? They looked simply ghastly, and honestly, what exactly was the point?