The collections in Paris have just begun and already they are 100 times more thought provoking than anything we've seen so far. Designers aren't just showing clothes, they're commenting on the cultural tide.
At Balenciaga, it was another chapter of Nicolas Ghesquière's extraordinary science-fiction fantasy. I imagined Earth in the year 2058, after the ecological apocalypse. No more nature -- just machines.
Life exists in shades of pale and metallic, ready to take on the colors of the flashing lights above. Models don't just look like androids, they are androids -- with nude bodystockings framing their beating hearts. They walk on air pockets, so as not to touch the too-hot ground. They wear strange modular jumpers -- like galactic lederhosen or papery thin pants spliced with black, like shards of the night sky.
The spring season's most impressive jackets came in micro-pleated silver and gold, as if they were molded from variegated metal. There were also wiry silver "fur" jackets and scaly "mermaid dresses" (actually made of ribbon fused with metallic film) -- the exotic skins of the future.
Forget Mickey Mouse, the Marlboro Man and Coca-Cola, the U.S.-born cultural icons that used to unite the world. Soccer is the international icon for today. At Commes des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo played with the hexagonal shapes on soccer balls, flattening and molding them into shoulder pieces, helmets and the bodices of tops.
A sport historically played by peasants, soccer is the great unifier, the great leveler, which made it all the more interesting to see these sculptural clothes in the context of Kawakubo's usual aristocratic touchstones, the powdery wigs and tailcoats.
Junya Watanabe weaved a culural tapestry too, mixing African fabrics with denim, gingham and eyelet, draping, twisting and shaping the fabric into long, bustle-back skirts and feminine jackets. It was a dramatic scene, with cornucopias of dried wildflowers balanced atop the models' heads. And on the sound system, the tribal beat played on.
-- Booth Moore
Top two photos from Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2009 runway show in Paris. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson / For The Times. Bottom photo from Comme des Garçons. Credit: Kirk McKoy /Los Angeles Times