Paris Yet another new start today, as the former Chloé designer Phoebe Philo presented her long-awaited first catwalk collection for Celine. The murmurs surrounding her short tenure at the company began last September - rumours that there have already been disagreements between Philo and management, and speculation about the decision to move the Parisian label's design studio to London, allowing the designer to continue to prioritise her family life with her husband and two children - seemed groundless: this was a fresh, confident, coherent collection.
Philo's stated aim was to simplify and pare down, and she achieved this in bucket loads, with crisp A-line skirts, plain tops and dresses and rigid fabrics, devoid of all but the most basic details - a lace-up fastening here, a self-coloured belt there. This left the emphasis entirely on cut. Here she proved her tailoring credentials with well-proportioned separates, from the wide, high-waisted trousers to the neat leather jackets. Skirts ranged from bell-shaped micro-minis to demure knee-length dresses, while trench and safari details made a pleasingly bourgeois statement. Sure, one or two pieces in the middle of the show fell flat, trying a touch too hard with their asymmetrical draping, but where her vision remained clear, grown-up and functional it was generally agreed to be a worthy debut.
The predominant colours at Celine were safari tan and khaki, part of a trend across the shows towards functional, preppy basics. Not for nothing did the ultra-hip denim brand Current Elliott reveal its hot new garment, the chino - that's right, the chino, albeit a very fashion-forward tapered and cropped version- in its Paris Fashion Week showroom this week. Stella McCartney, too, featured plenty of putty, tan and khaki in among the royal blue shantung silks, floral frocks and rich orange minidresses. Guy Laroche also mixed a camouflage palette with black, white and orange in a slightly clumsy take on the ruched and draped look. While not an entirely accomplished collection - even the models looked a little stocky with all the gathered fabric - there were one or two very wearable pieces, especially the black-and-white block-printed minidresses. And, of course, Barbara Bui's rock-chick leather trousers and jackets came in a variety of neutral shades.
Yet even in these almost military collections, monochrome remained the story of the season, from crisp white tops and shirts to classic black dresses, with plenty of frills, textures and patterns to keep the pieces interesting. Celine's glossy black leather tops tucked into white trousers or a tan A-line skirt looked strong, though more demure by far than Barbara Bui's biker styles. Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent is a past master at monochrome, too, and this season was no exception, with plenty of contrast details, such as a white belt on a black dress, or a black collar and cap sleeves on a white dress. He, too, used tan, but more interesting were the few pieces that came in light raspberry, cornflower blue and, a colour that has been picked up in small quantities elsewhere, including at Celine and Giambattista Valli: midnight green. Expect to see more of this next autumn.
Valli's collection, shown in the tent at the Jardins des Tuileries, was perhaps the highlight of the day. This still-young designer has become a fixture at Paris Fashion Week after just 10 seasons, with an aesthetic that recalls the heyday of French couture more than his Italian roots might initially lead one to expect. Known for his Fifties shapes, this time he moved on a little to the early Sixties, with tiny flapper-meets-Twiggy drop-waisted dresses and demure knee-length coats with raglan sleeves. Characteristic curved shoulders acted as a sort of counterpoint to the broad peaks that prevailed across last season's collections, redirecting his silhouette to a tapered, unwaisted cocoon shape that is refined but still youthful. Another fan of monochrome, Valli's coats, dresses and separates were plastered in black and white feathers, making rough, painterly patterns across the pieces, while black belts cinched in waists on ultra-feminine minidresses with cupola skirts.
The feather theme was taken to an extreme for eveningwear, with collars and skirts consisting of thick sprays of dip-dyed orange-red feathers. Valli's beloved ruffles had their place too, densely packed at the necklines, scattered across bodices and adding chunky volume to skirts. The pieces most likely to fly out of the shops, though, were the stylised leopard print rompersuit, dress, skirt, coat and belt: fabulously glamorous, and a piece of frivolity that stands out in this sometimes puritanical season.