If anyone can be credited with the return of so-called "real" clothes to the catwalk then it is the British-born designer, Phoebe Philo, currently whipping up a not-so-quiet storm at Céline. For the past year, under Philo's creative directorship, the French luxury label has become eminently desirable.
Philo ushered in the discreetly different putty tones that were ubiquitous last summer. Her coolly minimal, predominantly smart and tailored autumn collection – complete with understated accessories – is now heading up "most-wanted" lists at the fashion glossies. And so it was with some anticipation that the fashion world gathered en masse at the Tennis Club in Paris yesterday to see what this influential designer had to offer for spring/summer 2011.
Despite a more colourful and light-hearted mood elsewhere, Philo is clearly sticking to her guns and a no-frills, highly rigorous aesthetic more tastefully proportioned and elegant than ever dominated. Low-slung trousers in ivory silk were so long their turned-up hems hit the floor. They were worn with moulded leather tanks or oversized white shirts with similarly lengthy cuffs.
Céline denim looked suitably dressed down for weekend wear. A black crepe jumpsuit with a slick racer back and nothing but a gleaming gold zip interrupting its immaculate surface was the ultimate in modern evening attire.
Although at first glance the new Céline look may seem accessible and therein lies at least part of its seductive power, appearances may be deceptive. There are very few women tall, slender or indeed stylish enough to carry off such a specific silhouette. The preternaturally chic Philo is one and that message was driven home neatly when she stepped out to take her bows.
Earlier in the day the Turkish-Cypriot born, Central Saint Martin's educated designer, Hussein Chalayan, showed his collection in an intimate gallery in Le Marais. Chalayan talked individual buyers and press through a short film he had directed as an alternative to a traditional runway show. This featured a single, spotlit model wearing his beautifully constructed, delicately construed designs, all of which explored some of the more surreal aspects of Japanese culture, the designer said.
He was quick to point out, however, that any concept was approached in an abstract as opposed to literal manner. The very precise ritual of kimono-wrapping, for example, was merely hinted at in fragile, broderie anglaise trimmed panels encasing the torso of a shirt or dress. Bonded, floral-print dresses – the skirts of which were manipulated by black-clad, "bunraku" agents – were draped to form the Japanese word "sonzaisuru" (to exist), although only a native of Japan would be able to read it.
For all the complexity of ideas and construction at the heart of this collection, the most remarkable thing about it was lightness – despite a process that is extremely painstaking.Reuse content