Whatever the season, Paris Fashion Week is no holds barred, in-your-face fashion with a big capital “F.” It’s unapologetic, fiercely original, and often times, delightfully perplexing. Let’s face it: Parisians have a knack for taking getting dressed to the level of art form. Spring 2012 is no exception. Some of my favorite moments, full of unusual shapes, a sense of irreverence, and loads of luxury-loving wit, from a few of Paris’ most deftly creative:
1) Dries van Noten: With a sense of calm sobriety, not to mention an air of deep intelligence, Dries van Noten set an alluringly stern – yet completely fluid and enjoyable – tone for his Fall collection. He applied scarf-like prints to liquidy silk dresses and toyed with military-style menswear out of the Edwardian era. The result was a sense of vivacious modesty, a contradiction in terms that only he could execute so seamlessly. Fur-trimmed wool coats will look fantastic come fall, but it was the bursts of color that really excited me. A fur chubby in chartreuse? Yes, please!
2) Nina Ricci: Nina Ricci, designed by Peter Copping, is hitting the big time for fall. It’s as if a smart young girl got a hold of her chic mother’s wardrobe – and then turned all of her clothes on their head. With a mix of sheer and thick (a big trend for fall), oversized jackets with extra-long sleeves and wildly slit skirts abounded. Fur, slink, pearls, and froth: there is a great sense of slouch to all this ladylike garb, one that makes it feel exhilarating. Because there is, indeed, something so exhilarating about taking the most glamorous garments and just tossing them on without a care in the world.
3) Balenciaga: This season, Nicholas Ghesquière got to work. Literally. Models played the parts of high-powered office employees – at the coolest, wackiest company of all time. Some of it futuristic-slick, some of it spacesuit-wild, and some of it classical Cristóbal. High-octane metallics met boxy-stiff jackets and ultra-sheer skirts. It was all at once architectural and fluid – mixed up with a heaping of purposeful kitsch, as seen on holographic zebra-print sweatshirts and wacky metallics. No doubt about it: this is not your ordinary office, and Ghesquière is not your ordinary designer.
4) Balmain: Who would have expected the wildly young Olivier Rousteing (he’s only 26!) to revive the house of Balmain to its glory days? But it’s happening. Last season, he was infatuated with Las Vegas; this time, he’s taking another slice of Americana, but it’s not so literal. It was the Fabergé egg that belonged to Elizabeth Taylor, which he saw at Christie’s on a trip to New York, that got his wheels turning. It materialized in the form of ornate embroidery, spectacularly embellished velvet pants, and cozy sweaters. Oh, and the Balmain blazer? Like so much at PFW, it’s big and boxy. Balmain’s sense of opulence is right on.