The 12 best shows in the world this season
After 30 days of shows that began on the Bund in Shanghai with Tommy Hilfiger and ended in Paris in the Louvre with Louis Vuitton, we rate the 12 most beautiful and influential shows of the international season. Some for their influence or audacity, others for their energy and sheer beauty. Though all containing a common chord, a celebration of diversity and fashion’s ability, however obliquely, to comment on the huge divisions one finds in so many countries today, especially within the four democracies in which the shows the greatest shows are always held – the United States, Britain, France and Italy.
Chivalry met sisterhood in the season's most beautiful collection by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Knight's armor suits made in molded white, red or black leather - overpainted or embroidered with bold crimson flowers; shredded silk taffeta deconstructed wedding dresses; or ruffled chiffon dresses worn with a series sleek cutaway riding jackets. Middle England Mode par excellence with the greatest atelier in London operating at fever pitch.
The Venus de Milo for the Internet Age at Marni, where the goddess appeared in bizarre silk prints, jumbled together with photos of classical architecture, statuary and ethnic polka-dots. Designer Francesco Risso revolutionized 18th century pleated frocks, adding ecru leather bustiers; or cut Grecian goddess frocks at bewildering angles, before trimming with small stones.
Plus, he built the most suggestive set in Italy, hundreds of Art Deco, country house, hospital ward and school dormitory beds. “Frankenstein bringing back to life the Venus de Milo. Classicism and metamorphosis in progress,” said Risso of his greatest collection for Marni.
A fashion commentary on today’s opposing forces of reactionary conservatism and the liberal desires for freedom and liberty. They were only showing clothes at Prada, but the message was clear, inverting classic fashion codes with unlikely patterns, fabrics, imagery and prints. Fusing tie-dye and psychedelic prints with pictures of the countryside and images of naked men and women on rather proper coats, dresses or tennis skirts.
Her classic nylon looks were undermined by their colors – sherbet, lime or copper – and paired with satin shorts, athletic Grecian elastic sandals, mini corset tops and see-through nylon knee socks with big triangular Prada logos. Fashion as a clash of political ideologies.
Now, we know that our dear Anglo-Saxon cousins got rather hot under the collar due to the debut Hedi Slimane collection for Celine. But to the savvier among us this was a powerful collection of clothes, and all about the sexual allure that is Paris after dark. His dazzling metallic cocktail and inner-city Paris cowboy boots with buckles knocked two whole decades off the Celine customer. The debut men´s collection for Celine starred impeccably cut new curvy pants and some ace long double-breasted jackets. Ironically, while Hedi staged his destruction of the Ancien Regime at Celine beneath Napoleon's tomb at Les Invalides; a group of fashion royalists, called Les Philophiles, held a nostalgic reunion on Ile de la Cité, right beside the Conciergerie. Our nostalgic friends perhaps unaware that this prison was where prisoners were held before going to meet Madame la Guillotine.
A beautiful contemplation of Seventies hippie style with Rajasthan prints and Moorish patterns mingled together with high tech finishes, from Julien Dossena at Paco Rabanne; where he finally established a hip new signature style for this storied house. Everything trimmed, piped and held together with metal chains, shackles and strings, or decorated with silk tops and sarongs with golden coins. For too long, Paco Rabanne had remained stuck in a metal mesh and chain mail time warp. But this show broke new ground, while still maintaining just enough mesh references to respect the Rabanne DNA. Dossena is the new Paris darling.
“A celebration of fashion through texture,” explained Jonathan Anderson of his latest collection, the stand out show of the UK season. Dresses sweeping away from the torso, made of large rectangular swathes of contrasting fabrics – from chalk stripe linen to floating chiffon – cut with handkerchief hems and flowing as the models dashed by. Semi see-through extended men’s shirt dresses with contrasting plaques. With every model in a leather pirate cap, encouraging the audience to focus on the clothing. Certain to be the most influential runway show in London.
A sci-fi collection with medieval shapes for Louis Vuitton from Nicolas Ghesquiere staged in a twisting space station inside the courtyard of “the most beautiful building in the world, the Louvre,” according to the designer.
Joan-of-Arc chiffon armor; American football tops; articulated tanks, baggy bloomers and staggered cocktails all printed with computer images of an intergalactic city, being rebuilt by giant robots. Hyper artificial landscapes computer designed and printed on everything in the most revolutionary materials of any show this season. Lush, luxurious and exuberant, and unquestionably now.
A meeting of haut bohemian Marrakech and rural funky Bohemian, the pre-World War Two rural hippie shrine of Maverick in upstate New York, and the result was a collection of great quirky beauty and polish. Brocade floral robes; gothic paisley gowns and plissé dresses, worn with billowing peasant shirts, bandanas, berets and feather accoutrements in a loving expression of free spirited, yet classy, dressing.
In an era, and season, of gender bending, this was the most transgressive fashion statement of all. A political comment by designer John Galliano for Maison Margiela. No wonder he called this collection Mutiny. Extended tuxedo coats or tweed hacking jackets, worn over incredible skin-tight turquoise legging and cut out cowboy boots, all topped by massive floral print jacquard bows in this co-ed collection. Writing on a day after the first round of voting in the Brazilian Presidential elections was comfortably won by Jair Bolsonaro, whose bigoted anti-gay rants are all too easy to view on Youtube, the memory of this Margiela show and its clarion call for encouraging diversity was important.
A deftly revolutionary collection staged somewhat ironically in that bastion of American capitalism, Wall Street, as Proenza Schouler celebrated their return home from three seasons showing in Paris. Gone were the embroideries, feathers, fabric manipulations and intricate leatherwork of Paris. In came raw and gutsy clothes made entirely of Japanese denim, cotton gabardine and poplin, and all treated, sewn and stitched in New York and Los Angeles. Acid-dyed denim, worthy of an East German trucker, cut into wide frocks with multiple ruffles; a metallic silver gabardine shirt worn with black saddle-stitched denim skirt; elephantine painters pants paired with cotton singlets. Outlandish at times perhaps, but truly original. Call it American downtown couture.
All about subversion at Miu Miu, where Miuccia Prada played with classic bourgeois conventions of good taste, all the better to give them a new, hip and novel allure.
Chopping up, almost with garden shears, many little black dresses, taffeta blouses and classic sheath dresses to impart a more rough-hewn, cooler contemporary finish. A final show to confirm the return of denim in high fashion, a trend very much begun in New York. And a clever statement from fashion's greatest feminist.
Talk about mind-blowing runway staging. An outstanding set; a digital vortex developed by artist Jon Rafman, that was the perfect foil for the latest show for Balenciaga by creative director Demna Gvasalia.
The audience of 400 walked into a rectangular tube made entirely of 2,000 square meters of curving LED screens; with immense images of raindrops on windows; volcanic molasses; churning waves; balls of fire and melting celluloid. The collection starred neo-tailoring, from the Paris house with the most famous volumes. Perfectly cut coat-dresses in pinstripe, baby blue wool or blue technical velvet, all nipped in at the waist like a chess piece and finished with exactly flat, right-angle shoulders. Demna’s remarkable shapes fully in synch with the tubular setting in a memorable fashion moment.
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