While some collections benefit from the pace and glamour of a traditional fashion show, others work better in an intimate environment, where close inspection reveals extra dimensions to the clothes.
Designer details and fresh starts in Paris
Models stomping and staggering their way up and down miles of catwalk offer a fascinating spectacle, but runway shows are not the only event at Paris Fashion Week. While some collections benefit from the pace and glamour of a traditional fashion show, others work better in an intimate environment, where close inspection reveals extra dimensions to the clothes. The Dior re-see, for example, brought to light an exquisite black-and-white herringbone apparently woven with stiff, springy straw fibres. On the catwalk it looked like a simple zigzag print, but at this level of fashion, detail is everything.
The Paris stalwart Paule Ka presented his collections on models in his rue St Honoré store. With the shop all dressed up with colonial wicker chairs, palm fronds and lobsters on the floor, the tropical mood extended to painted wicker clutches and an interesting take on the Hawaiian lei, with necklaces and headpieces made from strips of coloured leather and ribbon threaded on to cord in a sort of abstract floral form. The clothes were crisply carefree, from cotton shirt-and-trouser combos to loose dresses that stood out from the body as A-line drop-waisted silhouettes, with heavy frills and gathers at the bottom. The summery palette of pastel yellow, black-and-white, orange and green was also used in sweet knit and tweed jackets and tops, but the shoes were as urban as could be, in patent black or gold, with straps rising up the legs, dagger-like heels and big platforms.
Just down the road in Place Vendôme, the venerable Russian jeweller Fabergé, recently relaunched with the aim of restoring the brand's name to exclusivity after years of over-licensing, has been hosting a pop-up shop, a tiny jewellery box of a boutique, complete with red carpet, velvet rope and large bouncer. It's rather unsurprising, given that many of the pieces in there were one-offs that had taken up to a year to complete. Fabergé eggs, which were historically given as gifts from the tsar to his empress, ranged from tiny enamel pendant versions to a 60-carat monster made entirely of rectangular diamonds set in titanium, and the jewellery was just as impressive, all made in specialist ateliers around Europe.
Also in the Place Vendôme, the Ritz was host to Gina shoes, purveyor of blingy heels to the world's most glamorous socialites, and a Middle East favourite. There was lots of Swarovski crystal of course, but among the other looks were some bright two-colour patent shoes (white with neon heels, for example), flip-flops embellished with softly glowing moonstone-like gems on pale metallic leather, a reprise of their polka-dot favourites and some fantastic peep-toe bootees in star-printed canvas. Most notable was a return to wearable heights (relatively speaking, anyway), with some kitten heels, flats and classically elegant stilettoes - though there were still plenty of platforms for the look's diehard fans.
The catwalks saw two new faces (it's the theme of the week) taking their first bows on Monday. Emanuel Ungaro, a brand that is still trying to live down its Lindsay Lohan experiment of a few seasons ago, has been struggling to find its groove since Ungaro's retirement in 2005. Only last year Giles Deacon took over from Estrella Archs as creative director, an arrangement that has since come to an end, and this season it was down to the studio head Jeanne Labib to try to encapsulate the Ungaro look. It's a difficult task: the label's trademark bright colours and prints can easily tip over into tacky (as Lohan discovered), but this was a nice balance between that high-octane glamour and the prevailing minimalist mood. The palette was kept to simple blues and reds, sometimes splashed together in patterns, sometimes blocked, with white and flesh tones as a base. For evening, gold paillettes added the Ungaro glitz.
Labib's background is at Giambattista Valli, who also showed today, sticking with his favourite early-1960s inspiration and a pared-back palette that, like so many collections this season, used heavy texturing and clean, distinctive silhouettes to make its point. When pattern did come in, it was as stylised floral prints or delicate brocades that were panelled across coats and shifts with a luxe-traveller's eye: the silver and gold of sari-style edging, for example, used in a modern, blocked way at the bottom of a tunic.
Chloé debuted the first collection of Clare Waight Keller, the former Pringle creative director who has taken over from Hannah McGibbon. The mood was altogether lighter, with sharp pleating, fluid silks, easy shapes, airy colours and floral embroideries returning the brand to its feminine roots - and not a hint of reptile-skin print or 1970s kitsch. This season is, it seems, all about the fresh start.