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Paris Fashion Week: Designs of the times

October 5, 2009 |  1:16 pm
Comme des garcons A few weeks ago, I wrote about the shake-up going on in the fashion industry, how the rise of Internet use and fast-fashion consumption is challenging the taste making role of the elite, and how consumer attitudes are changing regarding the economic and ecological impact of more-is-more spending.

Designers are reacting in different ways (or not at all). Some are live streaming their runway shows on the Web to communicate more directly with the Internet-savvy public, others are using less expensive fabrics to help keep prices down in the hope of luring customers back to the luxury sector. And still others are making statements through their collections.

At Comme des Garcons, a soundtrack that shifted back and forth from lulling classical music to a cacophony of noise, set the scene for a commentary on life's frenzied pace. Dresses and boleros were collages of trends past, including ruffles, frills, polka dots and sequins. Several models wore exaggerated leather shoulder pads, as if designer Rei Kawakubo was mocking the recent 1980s shoulder pad trend wrought by the meteoric rise of the label Balmain, and the cannibalization of the look by purveyors of fast fashion just as quickly.

Viktor-rolfViktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren's "Credit Crunch Couture" collection was commentary of a different sort. A news release issued after the show explained that the designers had taken the leftover tulle from their overgrown ballgowns sheared into topiary and wing-like shapes (one skirt literally had holes tunneled through it), and used it on other, more form-fitting tulle dresses. ‬But the attempt at making do with less seemed half-hearted, more an attempt at publicity for yet another big perfume launch for the Viktor & Rolf designers, Eau Mega.

MarginelaMartin Margiela's collection doesn't have the same impact as it used to either, probably because Martin Margiela is no longer involved. From the show notes, it seemed as if the collection might be an interesting exploration of excess and waste. But the tacky-looking crumpled paper postcard dresses, and gowns with trains weighted down by chains, missed the mark stylistically.‬‪ ‬‪

Hussein Chalayan's collections on the other hand, just keep getting better and better at walking the line between concept and wearability. For spring, he seemed to make an appeal for the personal touch in fashion, standing at a lectern and describing the garments as they came out. A few of the draped dresses had miniature glossy resin "hands" gripping their twisted folds, a reminder perhaps of the value of artistry in fashion.

Hussein-Chalayan-ss2010But Chalayan didn't belabor the point, but rather illustrated it through engineered black and white chiffon blazers cut out at the sides, or dropped to knee-length with apron-like overskirts. Striped shorts and weightless white blouses with dropped necklines evoked seaside chic, especially paired with straw sunhats with drop-down sun visors. Dresses in glistening blue organza plisee looked almost poured on, while others, in the delicate white foam material Chalayan began experimenting with last season, had craggy surfaces.

Let's hope good things are ahead for Chalayan. With his recent collection for Puma, and a new collaboration with J. Brand jeans, he may at last have a mechanism in place for commercial success.

-- Booth Moore

Photos: Comme des Garcons Spring / Summer 2010 runway

Photos: Hussein Chalayan Spring / Summer 2010 runway

Photos: Martin Margiela Spring / Summer 2010

Photos: Viktor & Rolf Spring / Summer 2010

Story: The fashion industry's old business model is out of style

All the Rage: More from Paris Fashion Week

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First photo: Comme des Garcons Spring-Summer 2010 runway show; second set of photos: Viktor & Rolf's Spring-Summer 2010 runway; third photo: Martin Margiela's Spring-Summer 2010 runway; fourth set of photos: Hussein Chalayan's Spring-Summer 2010 runway. All photo credits: Peter Stigter and Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times