Paris strikes a delicate balance between light and shadow
Two strong trends emerged on the runways at Paris Fashion Week on Friday and Saturday. On the one hand, a powerful attitude and a striking dark colour palette were explored through a singularly masculine silhouette at Haider Ackermann, a deep dive into rebel chic at Balmain and experiments with rock romance at Altuzarra. On the other, a more romantic aesthetic, bringing together light fabrics and bright colours, was proposed by Issey Miyake and Rahul Mishra.
Androgyny at Haider Ackermann
The room was plunged into darkness. All that could be heard was the sound of breathing and a beat – perhaps that of a heart? At one end of the space, a door lit up with an intense red glow, illuminating the first models with glistening hair, frozen by the cold. They strode down the long snow-white carpet, burying their hands in the pockets of their long coats or wrapping their arms around themselves as though they were shivering.
Black, red and white were the dominant colours in this collection from Haider Ackermann, where the men's and women's silhouettes merged into one another, both centred on jackets and slim trousers, some of which were so tight that they looked more like leggings. Sequins hidden in a black woollen coat sparkled as though it had been sprinkled with snow flakes.
Aside from a head-to-toe look in ruby red and some white t-shirts, red and white were principally incorporated to bring touches of colour to the collection. They were worked into dark outfits through micro-patterns or damiers on lapels or pockets, the hem of a sleeve and the top of a nylon jacket, or through stripes down the sides of a pair of trousers.
They also appeared as blocks of colour in a coat, or in the cable-knit sleeves grafted onto classic jackets, while the heavy breathing from the beginning of the show was echoed by a remix of Serge Gainsbourg's "Je t'aime, moi non plus."
Balmain's rebel chic
Black and white also dominated at Balmain, brightened up by sparkling flashes of rhinestones, sequins, pearls, studs and, above all, metal spikes which appeared on dresses, jackets, pumps and even on the brand's iconic round leather bags. On Friday, the house's creative director, Olivier Rousteing, recreated the atmosphere of a nightclub that moved to the rhythm of the hits of the 80s, including the likes of Eurythmics, Depeche Mode and Alphaville.
He picked up on that decade's sexy, rock aesthetic and accentuated it, tapping into a style which has served him well so far, with power-shouldered jackets and short dresses with plunging necklines. It was all there, from leather caps and studded motorbike jackets to looks in frayed stone-washed denim, via fringed jackets and trousers which began wide at the waist and narrowed towards the bottom of the legs, not forgetting the bows and chains, which were incorporated into belts or used as fastenings on pumps.
For the evening, this season's Balmain woman shines brighter than ever in her slick thigh-high boots, worn with looks in patent leather, satin, vinyl and transparent plastic. She even risks a daring bustier jumpsuit in black vinyl and mini dresses with long trains, opting for large majestic capes when she has to step outside.
Altuzarra's romantic biker chicks
Black leather and metal chains also put in an appearance at Altuzarra, where things took an unexpected turn towards a more aggressive style. Just like at Balmain, Joseph Altuzarra took inspiration from biker style with fringed jackets and black leather trousers, over-sized shearling parkas and belts with metal eyelets. Leather clasps popped up on the skirt of a tweed suit along with chain belts, which could also be found wrapped around the ankles of models wearing a selection of heeled sandals.
However, the clothes never veered to far away from the designer's romantic spirit. This ran throughout the collection, evident in pieces such as flowing dresses in printed jersey, draped skirts knotted at the side, and frilly silk dresses, all featuring a paisley leitmotif. For the evening, the Altuzarra woman dons pleated dresses in gold lamé.
Issey Miyake plays with geometry and colours
It was quite a change of gear at Issey Miyake, where polychromatic looks made up of clothes that floated as though in suspension, took over the playground at Paris' Lycée Carnot, cross-crossing each other's paths in a never-ending dance. Lines clashed in combinations of stripes, wavy curves and geometric shapes, while colour gradually sneaked into the pieces throughout the show, eventually building up to a chromatic crescendo.
Creative director Yoshiyuki Miyamae continued his research into textiles this season. "Dough Dough," the polythene-based material introduced last summer that allows clothes to be sculpted, here acquired a new flexibility and a refreshing splash of colour thanks to the integration of new fibres, such as wool. A new textile innovation was also introduced: "Blink," which achieves a kaleidoscope effect through the printing of resin patterns onto material.
Dresses, blouses and coats constructed from layers of blue, green and yellow, shone like luminous spectres. Elsewhere, large colourful checks overlapped one another in woollen maxi coats and long tunics.
The designer also came up with a geometric diamond design, taking inspiration from the brand's famous Bao Bao bags. This pattern appeared in relief on tops, trousers and coats that were white, black or multicoloured, and made out of a delicate paper-like fabric. By the end of the show, Miyamae had wowed his audience with his technological prowess and the poetry of his garments.
Rahul Mishra: In search of lost time
It was another kind of poetry being offered up by Rahul Mishra in Paris on Saturday. Here the fashion wasn't based on technology but the ancestral skills and traditional techniques of Indian embroiderers. Similarly to the Issey Miyake show, the Rahul Mishra collection for Fall/Winter 2019-20 opened with a neutral palette of whites and greys applied to comfortable pieces, before pivoting towards colour and adornment.
Coats, shirts, dresses and trousers were tailored in beautiful madras in understated tones of black and white. Then, all of a sudden, there were flashes of colour in shirt dresses and flowing ultra-light jumpsuits in lemon yellow or coral pink.
With this collection, the house's eponymous designer went back to his childhood, spent in the village of Malhausi in northern India. He chose grey tartan as a reminder of the uniforms worn at his school, and used it in suits with masculine jackets, long coats and a maxi shirt-dress.
Very quickly, however, nature began to take over the looks, as delicate hand-embroidered flowers and golden lace garlands crept into a range of different pieces. Further down the line, there was a veritable explosion of vegetation as embroidery in different shades of green spread across black silk tops and a transparent tunic.
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