If these catwalk shows are any indication, designers are in a dark mood.
Hues reflect the chilly mood
To the layperson, fashion might seem to be all about frivolity, fun and selfish pleasure. To those attending fashion week, however, it is all about suffering. How far one had to journey to reach some out-of-the-way former garage for a show; how painful one's bunions are thanks to the necessity of wearing eight-inch-heeled, thigh-length platform boots; how uncomfortable it is to sit cramped up to the people either side, four rows back, with no real view of the catwalk; and, most pertinent to this season, how very, very cold it is.
After half-hour waits outside Jardin des Tuileries, the Lycée Carnot and the Halle Freyssinet - one of the designers' favourite venues this March, and one of the guests' and photographers' most despised, for its distant location, seamy atmosphere, inadequate lighting and spine-numbing benches - the least you could hope for would be a bit of cheering fashion. But that was not to be. Andrew Gn's collection at the mercifully central Tuileries was the start of a black-dominated day. Prettily embellished and flatteringly cut though it was, there was no escaping the hard silhouettes and rigid fabrics, save for one or two flashes of colour on bright cocktail gowns.
A couple of hours later, Sonia Rykiel, usually to be relied on for a lively, colourful collection, went beige and neutral. Even the sweet pompoms worn on the side of each model's head and the girls' happy, chummy demeanour failed to hide the neutrality of the collection. That's not to say it was dull - there were some interesting experiments in combining different knit-gauges, textures and panelling, and some extremely wearable pieces, from the oversized, mannish suits to the delicate chiffon and silk flapper frocks. But colourful it was not.
Thankfully, John Galliano, also at the Halle Freyssinet, did not succumb to the gloom and torpor pervading the frozen city, as he sent his nomadic models striding down the catwalk in brightly coloured pieces covered, as at Gaultier's show the day before, in ethnic embroideries and embellishments. Galliano went further East than Gaultier, though, and while some of the looks were pretty incoherent, there were plenty of pieces to interest the UAE fashionista, from long, fluttering dresses to punchy accessories and glittering head pieces.
After this excursion to sunnier climes, it was rather a shock to be back in the icy weather, over in the 17th arrondissement for Givenchy. Entering the hall where the show was to take place was no help at all: it was exactly as cold indoors as it was out, with the breath of the shivering suit-wearing ushers visible as they showed shocked guests to their seats. To be rewarded for an hour of frostiness with a collection so hard and industrial was perhaps not the most pleasing moment. But once the indignation had died out, the prettiness of the - again predominantly black - pieces sank in. From utterly unadorned suits and double-breasted coats, the collection evolved into an interesting experiment in layering, with unzipped waistlines and necklines being used to sculpt new shapes from the garments. The addition of Michael Jackson-style sparkling gloves and, for evening, of Leavers lace, chiffon and beading, vamped up the collections. The ravishingly pretty cocktail frocks at the end, with ostrich feather all over the bodices and gazar silk floating out in streamers from behind, like phosphorescent jellyfish tentacles, made up for the uncomfortable circumstances. As far as we know, no fashionistas were hurt in the making of this collection - but boy were they cross.