Jean Paul Gaultier adopts unusual quirks for his catwalk show.
Cool looks from Martin Grant as temperatures soar at Paris Fashion Week
A few days into fashion week, this should be the moment when people start talking about the big gestures of the season: the distinctive sartorial statements, the mind-blowing catwalk events, the celebrity guests. There haven't been too many of these so far, though, with a tentative return to the safety of recession-era fashions. With Europe's financial status shaky, that's not too surprising, but the week does feel rather lacklustre so far as a result and with the temperature and humidity rising in the catwalk spaces, many guests are more concerned with bad-temperedly fanning themselves with their invitations than actually watching the shows.
One of the less sauna-like presentations, though, was that of the Australian designer Martin Grant - held in a baroque salon at the Westin hotel - and his brand of utterly wearable slink was just as cool and collected. With barely a bow or a frill to be seen, Grant relied on fabric, cut and colour to make his clothes stand out, and from the bright orange duchesse satin utility minidress that opened the show to the fluid black and yellow gown that closed it, every piece would slip comfortably into the modern woman's wardrobe. A subtle disco element pepped up the longer pieces, particularly the cobalt column dress with a strap that doubled as a scarf, and the black toga-like one-shouldered satin number with its giant bright-yellow chrysanthemum print. The straight-up-and-down pieces were given movement with slashes of diagonal print or cut. The coolness didn't last: Viktor & Rolf's show, in the furnace-like temporary tent of the Tuileries, was a chore to sit through, but the duo did their usual best to entertain the tetchy masses and the results couldn't have been more different from Grant's.
When things finally started, the catwalk was lit to reveal a giant pink evening gown, rather drolly topped with the French pop duo Brigitte, who sang through the show. The skirts parted to reveal a model striking a pose in silhouette, who turned out to be wearing a coral brocade jacket, pink bra top and black skirt, all embellished with giant contrast-coloured hemming stitches on every edge.
The huge stitch would run through the whole collection, which offered an elaborate, over-the-top version of Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren's favourite Parisienne-princess look. Satin dresses with bouncy, tiered frills and kick ruffles, wide, stiff satin shorts in shell pink or black, and chic black dresses: few pieces were spared the magnified-tailoring treatment. In some cases, particularly on jackets, it was naively lovely; too often, it was overdone.
As the collection moved into eveningwear, the stitch was replaced with an oversized cut-out curl motif, almost a giant paisley, which was brilliantly used to provide extreme contouring on waist-cinched dresses, high-collared coats and, finally, theatrical ball gowns. The regal wedding dress at the last exit was the most successful look of all, thanks to its pure, creamy palette.
Out in the desolate Halle Freyssinet, Sonia Rykiel's newly announced style director April Crichton, who took her first bow with Rykiel's daughter and creative director Nathalie Rykiel, offered a crisp, clean collection that neatly straddled the kooky 1940s-meets-1970s look that defines the brand with the bright, modern, almost at times minimalist approach of today's fashion. Sporty white, cream and yellow were punctured with black lines, and silhouettes were mostly casual and undefined - dropped-waist dresses, relaxed herringbone trousers, country-style linen frocks that could have been constructed from antique table linen, and a sweet suit in snowy lace. Things got more fun with little Lurex sweaters and knitted rompersuits, and when evening came round so did long chiffon dresses in vibrant sunset shades.
A designer who can always be relied upon to ramp up the fun in his shows, Jean Paul Gaultier surprised everyone by slowing the pace right down, ditching the normally mandatory musical soundtrack, and employing a French former weather girl to flirtily read out descriptions of each look, together with tidbits of information about the models' favourite colours and so on. At the end of the catwalk was erected some scaffolding on which the models were dressed, a sort of open backstage. What was in effect the opposite of a gimmick caused some consternation, particularly among the booing photographers, outraged that the girls were ruining their shots by carrying cardboard signs bearing the numbers for each look. But beyond the brouhaha was a collection of beautiful pinstripe subverted tailoring, perfectly cut coats, skirts and trousers, fluid blue and orange dresses, splashed-paint prints and delicately rococo eau-de-nil trenches. Best of all was the main attraction: flesh-coloured leather or soft, second-skin silks "tattooed" in smudgy blues - echoing the painted (and real) tattoos worn by the models. It proved that, even when revisiting a favourite theme, Gaultier, after 35 years in fashion, remains a creative force.