Recessionistas look for more from fashion labels

13th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

The week-long Paris fashion show sees designers focusing on multi-functional clothes.

PARIS – The high-spending fashionistas of the boom years have become recessionistas and designers are having to focus on what women actually want to wear if they are to survive the current crunch.

At the just-ended Paris ready-to-wear collections, the buzz word was house DNA, or what makes a label distinctive.

The chief buyer for the Paris department store Printemps Aymeric de Beco said he had been struck by the "insistence at all the shows on the house's genetic code".

"I think that's also what the consumers are looking for, to go back to the basics of a brand."

Maverick British designer and eco-warrior Vivienne Westwood urged women to "buy less" and wear outsize jackets that could double as coats and turn their shirts back to front or do them up differently to create different garments.

French designer Roland Mouret, whose "galaxy" dress was a Hollywood hit, agreed that in the current crisis clothes needed to be multi-functional: "I won't spend a fortune on a mobile phone if it can only do a few things. The same with clothes."

But the more general response has been to show collections focussed on the strengths of the label: nobody is calling this playing it safe.

Karl Lagerfeld's dandy show for Chanel was built round the house's signature little black dresses and suits.

In their first ready-to-wear lines for Valentino, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli concentrated on chic frocks for the smart cocktail circuit.

At Ungaro, Esteban Cortazar showed lashings of the house fetish fuschia pink, ruched dresses and trademark polka dots and spotty prints, while Christian Lacroix toned down his flamboyant colours and resisted the tendency to overdo decoration. John Galliano at Dior gave the house's classic tailoring a discreet oriental twist.

Stefano Pilati's careful collection for Yves Saint Laurent was judged classic by some fashion editors, but staid by others.

The most striking effect of the global downturn in the past week was not in the clothes on the catwalks but the choice of venues for shows and slashed guest lists.

Hip or small labels have always shown in unlikely locations, but this season Lacroix's stiletto-heeled customers were summoned to a dingy concrete-floored garage instead of the Pompidou Centre.

Hermes, Nina Ricci and Lanvin all showed in a chilly warehouse in the far flung 13th arrondissement, although Chanel hired the Grand Palais as usual.

While economies might have been made on the catwalk presentation, there was no evidence in the clothes, which for next winter used fur even more lavishly than usual, despite the noisy protests of animal-rights activists.

De Beco said he had been struck "by the enormous amount of fur and leather" in all the shows he had seen.

At Hermes, Jean Paul Gaultier put women aviators in mock croc bomber jackets with fur collars, and veiled it in fishnet for his own label X-rated show, while Lagerfeld covered motorcycle helmets in fur for his own label.

For Kenzo, Antonio Marras used Siberian winters as an excuse to wrap up his de-luxe nomads in fur-hemmed skirts and body warmers for his Doctor Zhivago-inspired voyage to the Russian steppes. In her hommage to the Old Silk Road, Taiwan's Shiatzy Shen edged beautifully embroidered shot taffeta coats with mink and shod her models in shaggy fur boots.

Crotch-high leather leggings or over-thigh boots shaped up to be a must-have for next winter. Committed vegetarian Stella McCartney produced a synthetic leather version to go under her little slip dresses.

There was also a new emphasis on shoulders, whether softly rounded, with cocoon sleeves, or sharp and pointy. Lagerfeld insisted it was not a return to 1980s power dressing, but a new shoulder-line to dictate the silhouette and give garments movement.

AFP / Expatica

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