Paris Fashion Week came to a close this weekend with strong showings from Louis Vuitton, Lanvin and John Galliano. Marc Jacobs, the creative director at Louis Vuitton, was clearly keen to strike a more grown-up note than he did last season. Not only were the clothes more elegant and sophisticated, but instead of an industry spat over a late start at his own label, and Jacobs pulling faces on the catwalk at Vuitton, the show started promptly and he appeared beforehand urging everyone to take their seats.
This was the only tongue in cheek touch, however, as the kinky, cartoonish feel of last season's collection, on which he collaborated with the artist Richard Prince, was replaced by something more serious and luxurious, and therefore in keeping with the label's customer base.
Clean structured lines put the emphasis on the cut and quality of the fabric, as well as ruching, draping and moulded volume which nodded towards vintage Balenciaga. Sparing embellishment came from small scrolls of fabric which resembled chocolate shavings atop a nouvelle cuisine dessert, and these also appeared as hats. The hips were emphasised throughout, by exaggerated ruching on pale mint silk taffeta skirts, cropped jodhpurs in wool and leather, and a pale blue wool coat with moulded waist and hips. Black dominated along with chocolate, cream, pale mint and camel, and the eveningwear featured black pencil-shaped cocktail dresses – the most daring of which had a net and wire bustle – as well as stiff silk dresses with fitted bodices and bunched skirts.
The handbags, too, had undergone a make-under, and in place of cartoonish colours and designs, these modestly sized bags featured the Louis Vuitton name stamped more discreetly on to quieter shades of leather.
Refinement and sophistication was the order of the day at Lanvin, where designer Alber Elbaz showed once again why he is the toast of Paris. The slim, dark silhouette has been gathering momentum, and after appearing at Lanvin you can be sure women will wear it come autumn/winter. Form-fitting silk cocktail dresses in black and inky blue took their drama from fine detailing and clean shapes, rather than from flesh. There were navy silk dresses finished with small, overlapping horizontal tiers, and also with vertical tapes made to look like pleats. A bolder stroke of bling was saved for crystal spike stilettos and chunky metallic costume jewellery.
Earlier in the weekend, the British designer John Galliano lived up to his reputation for lavish shows and sets. The invitation quoted from Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan, and the audience were treated to a "stately pleasure dome". Despite the extravagant set which featured glitter-flecked pools and gold Buddhas, there was no danger of the clothes themselves being upstaged, as this was Galliano at his exotic best. The designs recalled the late Belle Époque, the 1920s, and the designer Paul Poiret's interest in Orientalism and draped, unstructured fabrics.