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.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star