Liberté, égalité, reality: Key themes from Paris

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

From oversized coats to flattering tailoring, the Paris collections had accessible clothes – and flashes of truly imaginative brilliance. Susannah Frankel introduces the key themes



In the Navy


French navy – with camel and, of course black – looks set to become the colour of the autumn/winter 2010 season, and it is the smartest of all shades.

In her second season at Celine – the revitalised status label du jour – designer Phoebe Philo certainly drove that message home. Narrow coats with funnel collars and impeccably cut shift dresses with big leather pockets were the stuff that fashion editors' – and perhaps even more so, buyers' – dreams are made of. And so too were vertiginous black suede loafers and riding boots with polished gold heels. This was a cleverly thought out and executed collection of real clothes – and real clothes are the story of the season – promoting a basically minimal mindset that was present on this as well as many other catwalks.

Yohji Yamamoto's aesthetic has its roots in men's workwear, and this season saw an immensely dignified and impeccably edited reprisal of this particular theme. Although Yamamoto is most famous for his allegiance to black he has also always been in love with navy, and navy gabardine in particular. So here were some of the finest coats, fisherman-knit dresses and kilts suspended from a single diagonal strap, jumpsuits and overblown skirts.

In the Future

"The revenge of nice clothes" was how one fashion editor in particular summed up the season, and it is true that the catwalks were less pyrotechnic this time around and – for editorial purposes at least – potentially challenging for that.

It would be all too easy for Nicolas Ghesquière, designer at Balenciaga, to send out an impeccable collection of tailoring – his is some of the finest in the business. While the Balenciaga selling collection will no doubt include such staples, Ghesquière's main line is more of a laboratory, or "the brains" of the label, as he puts it. And this designer has more ideas than most of those working in fashion put together.

There was, as always, a futuristic feel to bright white, quilted coats with scaled up collars, knitwear that stood away from the body in Pop Art colours, and a final sequence of "bubble" dresses – shot through with text from the French press critiquing the art world – in equally pretty, but this time metallic, hues. Fabrics were as technically advanced and difficult-to-identify as ever, as experimentation dominated on every level and throughout.

No one would ever expect Comme des Garçons' Rei Kawakubo to play safe either – it's simply not in her nature. Even by this great designer's standards, however, clothing that boasted organically shaped padding trapped between layers of classic Comme des Garçons fabric – from pinstriped wool to demi-sheer polyester – making models appear at least twice their real size, was "strong", to use that company's own parlance. The idea, according to a spokesperson, was to externalise the way in which we protect our inner selves, and it was a lovely one – as indeed were the clothes.

In a Jacket

There's been an emphasis on the jacket for some time, but this season there's more choice than ever. Stefano Pilati's collection for Yves Saint Laurent, which was black almost in its entirety, boasted a fine selection – this is the spiritual home of the Le Smoking tuxedo. In particular, a fluidly tailored design, wearable with arms in or out of sleeves and teamed with wide-legged trousers, was the height of elegance. For his finale, Pilati introduced a sequence of vivid shades.

Cocktail dresses in fuchsia, emerald, violet and gold were pure Yves Saint Laurent in flavour. More tailored jackets were on display at Givenchy, where models with sparkling crimson pouts wore inky black tailoring with a markedly Gothic edge, at Stella McCartney where mid-Nineties minimalism was key, and at Hussein Chalayan, whose American road trip opened with the type of androgynous, no-frills look loved by the New York uptown girl. Chalayan's collection was remarkable for its authenticity: he is as determined to maintain individuality as he is to dress women in an interesting and elegant manner.

In the Cold

Controversially, and for the first time in years, autumn/winter clothing actually looked like autumn/winter clothing this season. Oversized knitted bed jackets woven with ribbon in sugared almond colours were as pretty as a picture at Dior. Snow boots lined with faux fur as white and fluffy as cotton wool were the order of the day at Junya Watanabe, and as for Chanel on ice – think yeti boots with Perspex heels...

The most beautiful coat of the season was, perhaps, Alber Elbaz's black blanket design for Lanvin. With a broad, softly rounded, dropped shoulder, and nothing but a giant safety pin disrupting its soft surface, this was a fine example of why Elbaz – a technician par excellence with a proudly romantic heart – is continuing to whip up a quiet storm at that label. From the sublime to the plain insane over at John Galliano, where fashion's favourite fantasist had what is described in fashion circles as "a moment", with quite the bravest, boldest coats imaginable – best with a dropped waist and big bouncing skirt, and worn with equally oversized hat. This came courtesy, as always, of the milliner Stephen Jones.

In the Army

Patch pockets, epaulettes, camouflage prints and a veritable deluge of green were on display everywhere in Paris. Demonstrating a technical virtuosity that is second to none, Junya Watanabe's intricately worked flight and bomber jackets and parkas, army rib knits and softer pleated, draped and folded jersey dresses and skirts were an exploration of this particular theme from start to finish. Then there were sweet puffed taffeta skirts in sludgy military hues and sprouting silver-grey fringing at Vivienne Westwood, and cavalry jackets in tweedy fabrics worn with ruffled chiffon at Dior. At Dries Van Noten, meanwhile, army green jackets, coats, jodhpurs, skirts and more saw the designer adapting a principally functional mindset to suitably metropolitan effect; very chic in a quintessentially Parisian manner. Also of note here were ultra-luxe sweatshirts that were perhaps the most desirable take on the re-emergence of sportswear-influenced clothing of the season. They looked brilliant worn with opalescent dirndl skirts.

Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Business Development Manager

    Salary/Rate: £32,000/annum: M&E Global Resources Ltd: Description/Main Duties ...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor