If I wanted to see fashion theater, a theatrical production showing new styles, I would see Cindy Lauper’s “Kinky Boots” on Broadway, once again. Viewing Paris Fashion Week, I watched gratuitous loads of overly stylized, over-the-top productions.
Way too many brands staged highly conceptualized shows highlighting unlimited artistic expression by the stylists. The result was hair, makeup and staging which overshadowed the clothing. What exactly were the designers selling? Clothing? Hair/makeup, music, front-row celebrity image making? As a fashion viewer, I was entertained, but confused.
Surely, I love spectacles and new ideas, but this trend was excessive. Sadly, the fashion world is lacking direction and is desperately seeking relevancy by incorporating outlandish styling and million dollar productions in their shows. Don’t blame the designers since they must placate their corporate backers and customers. Due to the pace set by fast fashion, designers are pressured to deliver collections year round at frequent intervals. This pace leads to design burn-out and consumer ennui.
An example of unnecessary antics was John Galliano’s collection for Maison Margiela. The collection wasn’t my favorite, but the styling stood out. I burst out laughing when I saw the models with their Spazzy-Modo-look (Quasimodo’s inbred relative), dragging their gangly limbs down the catwalk, shoulders hunched, clutching paper bags like bag ladies, swim caps tucked under inside-out wigs and neon punk clown makeup. Thumbs up to Pat McGrath’s clever makeup styling, but, really, was this necessary?
Other shows with styling and or sets which detracted from the clothing were Givenchy, Chanel, Valentino, Saint-Laurent, Anrealage, Undercover and Sonia Rykiel to name a few. Just an aside-Karl, we get that Chanel has more money than God, but why did you feel compelled to stage your show in a recreated Parisian bistro, replete with handsome waiters passing Champagne?
Designers are always trying to communicate a visual story, but sometimes the story becomes tarnished with extraneous visual devices. In most cases, simplicity and great editing are more engaging. Alexander Wang’s Balenciaga collection was in my top five. The clothing was beautifully executed. He studied the designer’s archives, and reinterpreted the signature Balenciaga cocoon shape and stand up collars with a dangerous edge. The danger was in the metal staples placed in the seams, small razor blades sewn together and diamante pins, which resembled daggers pierced into jackets. Most thrilling was Wang’s choice to start the collection with avant-garde music group, Laibach’s menacing, trumpeting “Jerzero Der See” track, which jumpstarted my adrenaline.
Watch the Balenciaga Paris Fashion Week 2015 runway video.
In contrast to Wang’s show was one that made me utter, “My God, the fashion designer-cum-celebrity is so arbitrary. Why the hell is everyone talking about this collection? Haven’t we seen this a million times?” Hedi Slimane has been Saint-Laurent’s anointed designer since March 2012 and to his credit helped double their revenue from $387 million to $787 million in 2014. But his collection for Fall 2015 in Paris made me wonder, why is the effete punk trend being recreated YET AGAIN? Do I really need a $3K dress that looks like it was found in a bin at Forever 21? Torn leather pants, ripped stockings and tutus? For whatever reason, the marketing and black and white ads resonate with 20-somethings because they are buying it. Who are these 20-somethings who can afford Saint-Laurent? Aren’t they supposed to be unemployed and defaulting on their college loans?
For a hot minute, I’ll subdue my snark. There were quite a few inspiring collections which made my fingers tingle. I gleefully created a few storyboards to share with you.
The take-away on Paris Fashion Week? We are overloaded with sensory stimulation and the availability of everything. So what makes my Paris check list? Do I want black? Plenty of it. Do I want something original with tech fabric feats and retooled mash-ups? Thank you, Japanese designers. Need to wrap yourself in a blanket? Thanks, Céline, for making the blankie chic. Do I dare take a Yoga class where every über competitive suburban mom will down-dog me since I am wearing Paco Rabanne instead of LuluLemon? Possibly. This much I know, it will cost me six months’ salary to look good, but, boy, it’s worth it. The sad news is that Forever 21 will still be around.