Portraits of a lady: Visions for next spring

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

In the final week of the collections, designers’ visions for next spring spanned everything from modern minimalism, via glittering grunge to elegant film noir, says Susannah Frankel

It's a great time to be a woman – in terms of fashion, at least.

Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton said that her show, which buzzed with golden honey bees, was "a celebration of femininity", and that could be a mantra for the season as a whole.

In place of ephemeral, trend-driven fashion, spring's focus is on character, of putting a look together more than stepping into a single statement piece. The Paris catwalks, still home to the most gifted designers, are the place where individuality shines. And so it did, brightly.

If there is an overriding mood, it is a minimal one. That could be seen in the pure lines and fondant-bright colours at Hussein Chalayan, in the prevalence of white and in a love affair with the trapeze line given to the world by Yves Saint Laurent but this season all over other designers' runways too.

Raf Simons's debut ready-to-wear collection for Christian Dior was so full of ideas it was difficult to keep track of them, on the runway at least. Simons paired a fine-gauge knit sweater with an overblown silk skirt, elaborate bell tops with black shorts and veiled black, strapless cocktail dresses to lovely effect. This was a huge collection, most impressive, perhaps, for its diversity: almost every piece told its own story.

Nicolas Ghesquière's collection for Balenciaga not only upheld the new season's central contradictions – hard and soft, masculine and feminine, black and white, often in a single garment – but also had a humanity to it that was good to see. Models looked as if they'd stepped straight off the street in their own clothes – albeit amazing clothes – wearing tiny golden charms round their neck and rings on every finger. The new so-called "minimal ruffle" (can there be such a thing?) found its spiritual home here – it is, after all, a name famed for architectural rigour. Tailoring – with sharp, laser-cut edges and in double-faced fabrics that stood away from the body – was masterful; the elaboration on dresses extraordinarily complex but never fussy.

"Crushing. The energy of an explosion," was how Rei Kawakubo summed up her Comme des Garçons collection and, with scrap-metal crowns made of battered upturned paint cans and broken toys, that rang out loud and clear. The clothes began with toiles – pieces of garments in raw-edged calico squashed together to form dresses, tops and skirts: a sweet frilled sleeve here, a ragged shoulder there and the odd padded protuberance. Glittering pale silver and gold followed and finally black, which was where this collection truly sang. Comme des Garçons pretty much invented the non-colour of modern fashion and uses it less these days now that everybody else does. This was a masterclass in invention: brilliant, brave and bold.

The spirit of punk that swept the London collections was evident in this collection and in Dries Van Noten's show, too. Here arms were stripped off jackets and wadding was on show, the tartan beloved of the movement was cut in finest silk chiffon, and black leather thongs tied the open backs of tops and jackets to suitably déshabillé effect. There were shades of grunge, too, as Dries Van Noten's woman layered a boyfriend sweater over a shirt, over a pair of floral-print sheer trousers, over tailored shorts.

"Friendship, beauty, support, life" were the words that Phoebe Philo used to describe her collection for Céline, which was her most gentle so far and wonderful for that. Clothing that caressed its wearer was deceptively simple – the low-slung but still hugely elegant proportions are clearly worked on to the nth degree. The pairing of white and ivory shouldn't work but it did. The teaming of sandals that make Birkenstocks look light with coloured mink was equally unexpected: witty and surprisingly pretty. The finest raw-silk dresses were finished with coarse cotton fishnet, the most lightweight pale-gold trench coats were fashionably frayed all to discreetly but extremely desirable effect.

Next season's Miu Miu girl is equally relaxed and mischievous too, as always. Miuccia Prada's take on film-noir heroine meets nerdy student was as upbeat as it was – for all its maverick playfulness – chic. An exaggerated A-line silhouette was here juxtaposed with a more distressed, narrow one as aged fabrics and skins – including bags – rubbed shoulders with the super-shiny and new. Add to the mix giant fur stoles, long leather gloves and elegant court shoes gorgeous in rose pink… We could all be forgiven for wanting to be this person. Maison Martin Margiela's muse was something of a swot too, with her heavy glasses (sans lenses), jewelled nose clips and in clothes that were ultimately French classic with a huge twist.

How great to see yet another new lease of life on the Chanel catwalk, where a youthful and fresh play on scale – shoes, bags and pearls were huge, clothes were teeny tiny in places, bell-shaped and swinging on bodies in others – was on show. The Chanel suit, meanwhile, was barely recognisable: bolero jackets, A-line dresses and colours that one might not unreasonably want to eat.

At Junya Watanabe, the Puma logo appeared on the back of some of the designs – a collaboration, perhaps? No. Watanabe simply acknowledged the fact that he'd borrowed high-performance fabric from the PPR-owned brand. Lucky Puma. This show took sport couture to a new level: bright, clashing colours, T-shirts and trousers with curvilinear go-faster stripes, techno-stretch dresses that made the body-conscious look cool (that's not easy) and spiked, studded silver head pieces all made for a look that the sartorially discerning bright, young thing will love to wear.

The shadow of Helmut Newton loomed large over collections including Peter Copping's Nina Ricci (black fishnet, zips and underwear as outerwear more dominatrix than David Hamilton in flavour), Givenchy (a lovely juxtaposition between the curve of an oversized frill and a more sharp-edged silhouette) and Lanvin, where a particularly powerful vision of a woman was upheld as Parisian style was duly reinvented. The "underpinnings as outerwear" theme that ran through the aforementioned Burton's collection also nodded to this woman, all while showcasing the fetishistic attention to detail this house is now known for.

More "butter wouldn't melt" than siren was a perfectly pitched show by the Valentino designers, Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri, the refinement of which doubtless fills that house's namesake with pride. And finally – fashion heaven courtesy of the Louis Vuitton designer Marc Jacobs. Perfect set, perfect soundtrack and perfect clothes all worn by not-quite-identical twins who were more beautiful than nature ever intended.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living