x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Power and passion on the catwalks

Paris fashion week Paris remained in combative mood as guests had arrived to a roaring Peta protest and the curtain was raised to reveal a set piece of one model on a chaise longue in a red silk dress fringed in black.

Models swaggered down the catwalk during the Jean Paul Gaultier show.
Models swaggered down the catwalk during the Jean Paul Gaultier show.

Paris remained in combative mood on Saturday. As two impressively coiffed models on the Jean Paul Gaultier catwalk staged a convincing catfight, scrapping in heels and tearing down each other's fluffy up-dos - all to the sound of El Tango De Roxanne - a predatory, aggressive show roared to a halt, rounding off a day of uncompromising shapes and intimidating colours. The mood at the show was already keyed up, as guests had arrived to a roaring Peta protest - the French Vogue editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld receiving an especially violent jeer for her white Chewbacca-style coat. So when the curtain was raised to reveal a set piece of one model on a chaise longue in a red silk dress fringed in black, surrounded by other girls wearing lean masculine trouser suits and slicked-back hair, it was clear that drama would ensue.

Those tuxed-up models strode down the catwalk with a Latin menace, swaggering in their elegant menswear, followed by a parade of femmes fatales wearing slinky frocks, strong-shouldered coats with leather-strapped bodices and exquisitely tailored black dresses, marked by mesh "X" cutouts. Gaultier ran out to acknowledge the cheers carrying a huge bunch of long-stemmed red roses, reflecting the high-octane passion of the show.

Earlier in the day, Loewe's staging had been a more civilised affair than the push-and-shove chaos of many of the Paris events. Held in a small baroque university hall, the collection was shown in three sittings to fit all the interested parties into the tea-party-style setting, as guests sat on tables of three nibbling delicate little sandwiches and pastries. In spite of the decorous introduction, though, Stuart Vevers' collection for the Spanish brand was not exactly shy and retiring. Strong dresses, coats and suits in flawless, glossy leather were created with highly disciplined tailoring and combined with starched white shirts and black polo necks. Showcasing the biggest strength of Loewe - the leather - allowed little room for the fluid draping seen elsewhere so far this season, instead playing up the sharp cropped trousers, neatly punctured dresses and skirts and richly gathered folds of leather and wool belted tightly at the waist. Beautifully simple coats, with rounded shoulders and clean lines, featured cropped sleeves met by long, butter-soft leather gloves, and glossy ponyskin in black and purple added velvety, silken texture. Best of all, the knee-length boots, with their blockish wooden heels, called to mind the flamenco and riding boots of southern Spain, reinforcing those Velasquez aesthetics.

Commes des Garçons, too, used a military theme, if extrapolated in their customary manner to the point where it was barely recognisable. But as tightly fitted cropped great coats opened out over huge tartan or chequered blanket skirts, the khaki and navy shades, the pocketed, double-breasted shapes and the heavy-duty fabrics were all reminiscent of those too-tight uniforms of soldiers photographed in the early 20th century.

The Colombian designer Haider Ackermann harked back even further, with chain-mail-style studding riffing through his simple, almost medieval shapes and pared-back shades. Softly draped dresses in fluid, dip-dyed fabrics were subtler than the ruched swathes of Mad Max-style drapery in previous collections, while edge was added by his trademark sharp-shouldered cropped leather jackets. Still, there were one or two rays of sunshine breaking through this stormy season. Jeremy Scott punctuated black minidresses with primary-coloured structural sworls around the shoulders and skirts and graphic prints and polka dots perfectly calculated to appeal to his hip, poppish, music-industry crowd, which included Beth Ditto, Peaches Geldof, Kanye West and his fellow British designer Gareth Pugh. Bright red, yellow, green, blue and orange all featured on block-coloured stiffly structured coats, dresses and suits, and one coat was entirely covered in an assortment of brightly coloured buttons, pearly queen style.

Also striving for optimism, Tsumori Chisato went out in a direction of her own with a gorgeously whimsical collection based on the night-time cityscape, but without the implied urban edge. In her own naively fantastical style, shooting stars and moons glistened in pretty prints that were also influenced by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's children's tale The Little Prince. Ballooning golden harem pants, ruffled collars and cuffs and Pierrot eye make-up enhanced the fairy-tale magic, yet the individual pieces remained exquisitely wearable in fluid silks and soft, icy shades.

These flights of charming fancy may not have the bristling energy of the gothic looks elsewhere, but they are a pleasing sliver of hope in the face of some seriously aggressive power-dressing.