Paris Fashion Week: The shows must go on ... and on

Alexander Fury reports on fashion’s old hands

Fashion is a cruel game. You’re either in or out. The latter, generally, is the kiss of death. It consigns a designer to the scrapheap – if not of history, then certainly of editorial coverage. If your house is owned by a conglomerate, or indeed if you’re a hired hand brought in to rejig an existing label, a run of bad collections could be the motivation for your dismissal. If you’re out, you could literally be “out”.

It’s a thought that often flickers through your mind on the Saturday of the Parisian collections, a day when we see shows from a trio of talent whose burning brilliance once ignited fashion, but whose creations have increasingly slipped into irrelevance: Viktor and Rolf, Vivienne Westwood, and Jean Paul Gaultier.

The first have a new perfume out, which explained their return to haute couture last year: their spring collection, shown in January, seemed single-handedly devoted to its promotion. What was the point, then, of their ready-to-wear show? Ostensibly, couture provides the perfume-flogging fireworks for a house, the ready-to-wear the commercial backbone. The tarmac-hued collection they showed this season was wearable, certainly. In fact, it was anodyne to the point of undesirability. Why would you buy lumpen grey knits that resemble high-street sale-rail fodder? For a backbone, they seemed oddly spineless.

Jean Paul Gaultier has an exhibition at London’s Barbican in April, celebrating his past achievements. Unfortunately, they often serve as an unfair foil to his current output – his journey from design definer to odd relic of another fashion era. The same is often true of Vivienne Westwood. She has a loyal cadre of fans – who, as Westwood herself once stated, will buy anything she makes – but the fashion world, by and large, has stopped paying attention.

A Westwood show from 1990 A Westwood show from 1990 More’s the shame, for Westwood’s  work was once summarised as first, but worst. That isn’t the snub it seems: it highlights her position as innovator, as intrepid fashion explorer. In England she is dismissed as “wacky,” her clothes as unwearable. Both are often true, but the wackiness has thrown up many ideas commercially exploited by other designers. The resurrection of the corset, a return to the padded and tailored traditions of haute couture, the revival of the platform shoe. All can be traced back to Westwood at the height of her powers, and all were commandeered by other designers. Look at the puffball skirt of the 1980s: Lacroix, Lagerfeld and Oscar de la Renta created five-figure versions, but the first appeared on Westwood’s catwalk in 1985.

A few of her innovations have been referenced (read: ripped off) so much by other designers that they have now become part of the fashion lexicon. Underwear as outerwear may be synonymous with Gaultier’s exposed cone-breasts for Madonna, but it originated with Westwood, a satin brassiere worn outside of a sweatshirt in her 1982 “Nostalgia of Mud” collection. Incidentally, that show also gave us the 10-gallon Stetson Pharrell Williams sported at this year’s Brit awards. It made a re-appearance for Westwood autumn/winter 2014.

V&R in 2003 with a younger Jacquette Wheeler V&R in 2003 with a younger Jacquette Wheeler That has become something of a theme of Westwood’s shows over the past decade or so. Rather than originality and invention, Westwood has dived into her archives again and again, reviving, reworking, sometimes merely rehashing designs from her prodigious archives. Everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t Westwood get a cut of the cash cow her back-catalogue has become?

Because it leads to stagnation, to stupor, to stale design. It means your show isn’t a must-see, but a forced-to-see. Magazine editors attend because of the demands of advertising revenue. Newspaper journalists attend because her name resonates with the public and makes good copy. And because the clothes make good pictures. Good pictures but, alas, no longer great fashion.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

    Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

    £19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future