"Flamboyant, not eccentric." Backstage, Dries Van Noten cited the former as a better way of describing the collection he sent out to kick-start the spring/summer 2016 Paris show on Wednesday. The latter he believes "could mean an old lady with 25 cats." And indeed there was nothing of the sad old spinster in Van Noten's jewel-coloured and richly embroidered designs.
The collection ran through a gamut of references, and, as is the designer's way, evoked exemplary women. There were the strong shoulders and sinuous silk dresses of the Forties, the bad-taste beige of the Seventies and the exuberant colours and fabrics of the Eighties. Wing and bird motifs were an homage to Elsa Schiaparelli, mistress of Surrealism, while Van Noten also credited the original material girl Madonna whose ra-ra skirts were re interpreted as fine slip dresses with frothy inserts of pleated tulle.
There was a formidable sense of power and confidence to the collection, that despite such disparate references seemed totally focussed.
At Maison Margiela, John Galliano also mined the past to create a wholly modern collection. There was a sense of the Sixties-space age to the opening looks, with shift dresses and mini-skirts teamed with Barbarella beehives and silvered eye make-up that referenced David Bowie and Kiss.
That sci-fi element came through in the fabrics too - sheer wisps were layered over something altogether more foam-like, a floral print was cut in to so each petal quivered as if in a summer breeze, while abstract mirrored tiles joined together to create a hand-crafted version of Paco Rabanne's famous Sixties designs.
This sense of retro-futurism gave way to something altogether more timeless in fluid tailoring, which played on the androgyny of the original le smoking by showing silky halternecks slit to the waist on effeminate male models. There was a humour to this collection - cling-film like plastic wrapped around the clothes and models' limbs, and many pieces were imprinted as if the wearer had inadvisably ignored a 'wet paint' sign leaning against everything from a park bench to a bistro chair.
There were Japanese influences too, with obi belts tying small satchels to the backs of models. In this, his second ready to wear collection for the house, Galliano brilliantly balanced the bourgeois and the bonkers.
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