Fashion: Punk can go to the ball: Marion Hume, at the Paris fashion shows, witnesses an exciting fusion of English eccentricity and French passion
In the past we looked to Lagerfeld. In the early Eighties we looked to him at Chlo (in his first tenure there) and then, of course, we looked to him at Chanel. What we saw were not necessarily clothes we wanted to wear, but looks that pointed the way forward. Since Lagerfeld lost his way it has seemed that no one else had a map. Then our Viv and our John put us on the right road.
What we witnessed was the exciting fusion of English eccentricity and inventiveness with French know-how and unashamed passion for fashion. What we have with Viv and John in Paris is English derring-do harnessed to enough commerciality to make these clothes happen.
Of course, we won't all wear them. I won't be running for the 214 bus in a swish of Galliano crinoline with a teeny-weeny lacy blouse on top, nor will I be dragging one of Vivienne's haute couture-inspired 15ft trains behind me. But braver dressers will wear Viv's perky suits and Galliano's sumptuous frock coats or jaunty mini-kilts. As for the rest of us, expect to see very toned down versions of these wild ideas in the high street before too long.
This isn't the first time Vivienne Westwood has been lauded. Think punk, and you have to think Westwood-McLaren. And a whole lot of fashion folk are thinking punk again now. John Paul Gaultier gave it newness in a bizarre and successful collection in which tattoos, piercing and Hare Krishna met Joan of Arc. Helmut Lang made it modern, industrial rather than Seventies DIY.
Elsewhere, designers harked back to another period of shock-dressing. After the French Revolution, women hacked off their hair and wore red chokers and shift dresses - dressing la victime in imitation of aristocrats on their way to the guillotine. Corinne Cobson did the look most literally. Other designers took the trailing, white, girlish shifts of this past summer and made them a touch harder - at Comme des Garons, Rei Kawakubo added stiff sleeves that tied over the top, bedlam-fashion.
Ann Demeulemeester's habitual 'damsel in distress' seemed to have perked up a bit in apple green, aubergine and mushroom ruched satins as well as her familiar black and white. And the leading designer of the rip-and-shred deconstructivists, Martin Margiela - whose clothes we can't show here because he refused to allow any photographers in - was probably feeling cheerier, too. Even though he had over-dyed everything gunmetal grey, his collection (a recycling of his past 10 seasons) had a strange prettiness, particularly his reconstructed Fifties chiffon ballgowns, ripped down the front and tied over skimpy jeans.
But it was our Viv and our John for whom this Paris season will be remembered. There are other designers - Valentino, Cerruti, Rykiel - whose clothes women can rely on. But they rarely make the heart beat fast. When it does, we die-hard fashion folk say we have experienced a Fashion Moment. This rare season, we experienced two of them.
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