PARIS — New designer debuts from powerhouses Lanvin and Saint Laurent — and popstar Rihanna’s first Paris catwalk show for Fenty Puma — marked the start of Spring-Summer 2017 shows in the City of Light.
Here are the highlights of ready-to-wear collections.
SAINT LAURENT DEBUT
A huge crane in the colors of the French flag hoisted a giant neon YSL logo above a construction site in the French capital, literally setting expectations high for this year’s YSL show at Paris Fashion Week.
The decor announced that the grand debut from Saint Laurent’s new designer, Anthony Vaccarello, on Tuesday night aimed to dramatically reconstruct the YSL aesthetic following the departure of Hedi Slimane.
French singer Jane Birkin and her two actress daughters, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon, stared up expectantly alongside myriad iPhone-snapping fashionistas to marvel at the radiant 50-meter (164-foot) crane — a machine being used to rebuild the house’s Left Bank headquarters in Paris.
“The derelict aspect sets a nice metaphor,” said Gainsbourg, speaking from the show’s front row.
As the designer’s revealing looks filed by, the metaphor of reconstruction and renewal of the Saint Laurent image was heard loud and clear, but the high expectations set by the decor were dashed.
This “new” image was largely a rehash of the Glamazon, uber-sexy, ultra-mini styles that have come to be synonymous with the 34-year-old Italian-Belgian designer’s own brand and his work at Donatella Versace’s flesh-baring Versus house.
To his credit, Vaccarello’s debut featured a check-list of YSL archive references, with iconic YSL pieces fused alongside the sex aesthetic.
A sultry leather variation on the voluminous sleeves of the Flamenco Dress shimmered with a cool ’80s micro-mini. Yves Saint Laurent’s 1968 transparent looks, which once shocked the fashion establishment, made a comeback and Vaccarello gave a nod to the textured materials of the famed 1976 Ballets Russes collection.
There was also, at times, a marked return to elegance, which had eluded his predecessor Slimane. Those touches turned up in revamped archive YSL tuxedos and lashings of black.
It was certainly not a groundbreaking collection, but many of the styles could prove highly appealing to the younger clients the house has courted in recent years.
RIHANNA CHANNELS DIVERSITY
The most striking thing about Rihanna’s catwalk collection for Fenty Puma was the models.
There has been increasing criticism in recent years that fashion shows in the major capitals have a dearth of models from different ethnic backgrounds.
So the popstar’s latest outing for the sports brand garnered praise for its use of male and female models from diverse backgrounds.
The catwalk collection itself — Rihanna’s first in Paris — got a more lukewarm reception.
Pearl necklaces, lace headdresses, sheer shawls, fabric fans and glimmering corsets took inspiration from 18th century France. But against the backdrop of the venue, the grand 18th century Hotel Salomon de Rothschild, they came across as somewhat saccharine.
Loose pastel-colored silhouettes that floated seemed at times overly embellished, and there was a cluttered feel to some of the layering and gathered detailing that moved in convergent directions.
Still, there were some nice styles — such a coat or a silken jumpsuit that unraveled at the shoulder that captured the feeling of hurried undress.
“I am really excited about this collection as it’s very fun and light,” Rihanna said.
“Showing in Paris was the perfect backdrop, as I pulled a lot of inspiration from France, Marie Antoinette and the Palace of Versailles specifically,” she added.
FEMALE DESIGNERS ON THE UP
Women’s fashion is very much a male-dominated world.
But things are slowly changing in Paris.
First it was Hermes that appointed a woman, Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski, to be its new creative director. And now it’s Lanvin’s turn.
Bouchra Jarrar unveiled her first collection for the storied house that was originally founded by a woman — Jeanne Lanvin — in the early 20th century.
Hermes’ menswear designer, Veronique Nichanian — one of the few women who designs for men — sat proudly on the Lanvin front row Wednesday.
“It’s ironic that most designers who design for women are men,” Nichanian told The AP.
“It’s wonderful that there are now women at Lanvin and Hermes, but they have come because of their talent, and not because of their sex,” she added.
Jarrar treated guests to a rich, sumptuous and accomplished debut at Lanvin’s Spring-Summer show, which was held inside Paris’ gilded, but rather stuffy Hotel de Ville.
Overheated fashion insiders fanned themselves with floral Oriental paper fans provided by the house.
As it happened, the elegance and delicacy were translated into the clothes.
They fused Jarrar’s signature intricate couture with silk Lanvin archive gowns that were draped and gathered, evoking the house’s heyday of the 1920s.
Silhouettes were loose and long, featuring complex plays on lines and asymmetry as well as dazzlingly contrasting materials.
Lacquered velvet mixed with silk chiffon and powdered satin pants, lace sequins, gold petal embroideries and diaphanous organza.
Sheer, colored gowns — such as a series in vivid bluebonnet — gave this strong debut a memorable vibrancy.
But the collection wasn’t all softly feminine.
A welcome dark, brooding edge provided by large black feathers embroidered on menswear jackets nicely balanced the diverse, 49-piece display.
DRIES VAN NOTEN GOES ORIENTAL, VICTORIAN
Master of contradictions Dries Van Noten went to the Orient for inspiration for his vivid Spring-Summer collection.
A silken Japanese kimono coat with large lapels in midnight blue, worn by an Asian model, appeared alongside a modernized version of the raised Japanese “Geta” sandal.
Vivid floral prints — with standout acid yellow — also peppered the color-rich show and reminded the audience of the Belgian designer’s unrelenting passion for blooms, which he tenderly cultivates in his garden at home.
But to pin the ever-creative 58-year-old down would be an impossible exercise as Wednesday’s diverse show proved.
He mixed up his Oriental musings — of course — with flashes of the vestimentary styles of Victorian England.
Voluminous 19th century leg of mutton sleeves were fused with matronly high neck details in Victorian lace, as well as beading and needlework from that period.
Successfully combining the two diverse references is a feat that few designers could pull off.
But here, it worked.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP