You have to wonder how it feels as a fashion designer when, having laboured for six months to create your new season's collection, secure in the belief that yours is a unique vision, collection after collection appears featuring the same themes and fabrics.
Paris Fashion Week features Chloe and Stella McCartney
You have to wonder how it feels as a fashion designer when, having laboured for six months to create your new season's collection, secure in the belief that yours is a unique vision, collection after collection appears featuring the same themes and fabrics. Such is often the fate of designers who show towards the end of Paris Fashion Week, by which time those showing at Milan, New York and London have already revealed their wares and Paris is almost finished too.
For those watching the Chloé show today, that sense of déja vu was profound, not because Hannah McGibbon is in any way a derivative designer - indeed, there were some beautiful and unusual pieces in the show - but because we had already seen, time and again this season, the paper-stiff starched white cottons, the moulded leather tops and the raglan-sleeved shifts that were a mere twinkle in fashion's eye last season.
Whatever the reason, it is the nature of fashion that certain themes and trends are mysteriously consistent across different collections, and by a quirk of timing, McGibbon will be one of the last to espouse the new minimalism - which is a shame because hers was also one of the most accomplished and wearable takes on the trend. Where other designers insisted on cardboard-straight silhouettes and sternly clinical, featureless shirts, she was wiling to manipulate those crisp cottons into flattering waisted, full-skirted dresses, to soften the form-fitting Lycra tops and dresses with forgiving diagonally ruched chiffon and to balance out the smooth, opaque square-cut tops with sheer, flowing pleated skirts and well-cut trousers. The colours were the height of neutrality - white, black, camel, coffee - and were given an edge with shiny metallic belts and cuffs. It wasn't groundbreaking, but it was certainly an appealing approach to the what is undoubtedly the direction of the season.
Earlier in the day, Stella McCartney had offered her own take on the season's tailored silhouettes in a grand show at the Opéra Garnier. With an invitation bearing the name "Stella" spelled out in multicoloured Silly Bandz, and the perky electro sounds of Blur's Boys & Girls kicking off the show, a playful mood seemed to be in the offing, but the first models who strode along the catwalk were anything but perky, wearing pale pastels in the form of mumsy loose-cut jackets in nubby fabrics and matching turn-up trousers that ended slightly strangely just above the ankle, above clumpy sandals. McCartney has long made a virtue of reappropriating the shapes of middle-aged suburbia, but these came perilously close to dowdy. The requisite raglan-sleeved tunics were also on show, in heavy, stiff denim, and later in boxy tops that sat over denim culottes or front-pleated skirts, and it was only in the soaring splits of the long-sleeved or halter-necked silk dresses and knee-length skirts that the designer's sassy side revealed itself. Then, with the appearance of a vivid powder-yellow long, hooded poncho, it was as if the sun had come out. A gorgeous giant oranges-and-lemons print was used symmetrically on a tunic, then on a top and knee-length skirt, and suddenly it was everywhere: used in miniature on the collar of a silk shirt or the seam of a skirt, or at full size on each side of a long-line jacket. It was a thirst-quenching end to a show that had threatened at the start to leave its audience unsatisfied.
Minimalism with maximum glamour was the ethos from start to finish at the ever-popular Giambattista Valli, who has taken his signature early-sixties shapes and heavily stiffened fabrics and imbued them with a sort of space-age simplicity reminiscent of early Courrèges and Balenciaga. The models stomped robotically around the Place Vendôme venue wearing neon orange, optical black-and-white checks, techno whites with liquid-silver necklaces and pin-thin trousers. Already the king of the raglan shoulder and slash-necked tank, he softened the super-plain, square-cut panelled minidresses and tops with lightly draped skirts, sharply pleated chiffon and silver, red and leopardskin panelling. For evening, his trademark dense ruffles remained, but this time in bright colours sharply cut off by plain A-line minidresses or long, springy, bell-skirted evening gowns. Draped and ruched chiffon was also used to create volume beneath high-waisted fitted bodices. It was very pretty, very wearable and just what was needed to lend some joy to the season's po-faced utilitarian mood.