Paris Fashion Week Fall 2019 Mid-Week Highlight

PART 2

As a multi-part coverage of the ongoing Paris Fashion Week, we bring you some of the standout hits during Part 2 of PFW Fall 2019. 

Rick Owens

“I felt like I needed some grim, determined glamour.” Rick Owens has been dwelling on decline and devastation for seasons now, and audaciously so. No one does post-apocalypse chic quite like him. But for Fall 2019, he was after something different.

It started at his men’s show last month, when he referenced Larry LeGaspi, a guy who designed costumes for LaBelle, Kiss, Grace Jones, and Divine. Up until then, LeGaspi had been more or less an invisible designer, responsible for much, but getting little, if any, credit. In January, he didn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Thanks to Owens’s work, now he does, and a book too, penned by the designer with the blessing and assistance of LeGapsi’s widow and daughter and due out from Rizzoli in August.

“It’s how I got through the ’70s—that kind of sensational flamboyance,” Owens said backstage today, wearing platform Kiss boots. LeGaspi was up to taboo-busting, gender-bending, high camp, ultra-glam stuff, and as a small-town kid from California, Owens was dazzled. Fast forward 40 odd years and he sees a similar kind of transgressiveness in the young people experimenting with prosthetics and body modification on Instagram. He hired one of them, 18-year-old Salvia (@salvjiia, NSFW, but definitely worth a look), to consult on the show makeup.

So, a little about the clothes, which were inventive and daring and, considering Owens’s recent preoccupations with outlandish volumes and otherworldly silhouettes, wearable in the extreme. Alien prosthetics aside. He opened with tailoring: streamlined jackets and coats with sculpted shoulders. The first model wore her blazer over layered bodysuits, the top layer traced with studs at the crotch—a reference, Owens explained, to LeGaspi’s codpieces for the band Kiss. Like the looks that followed, it was extremely leggy: sexy, but not coy. Owens can’t abide coy. (Don’t get him started on miniskirts, which are all about vulnerability and coyness, and drive him crazy.) Fabulous silver-dipped ponyhair jackets constructed with the seams exposed—shoulders almost like wings—conjured images of Kiss in their concert regalia, too.

Isabel Marant

Isabel Marant’s nomadic roots always inform her inspiration. More often than not, her muse is the archetypal global traveller with a taste for style and adventure. This evening, the French designer took many of her most recognizable signatures on an urban safari of sorts, conjuring the scene with a palette of sandy neutrals and earth tones that recalled a desert landscape.

An eighties vibe has been in the air across the board this season, which is undoubtedly Marant’s sweet spot—strong shoulders, nipped waists, and peg legs have long been a recurring theme in the brand’s repertoire. Marant never loses sight of the female form, in fact she’s one of the few designers who can make a turtleneck look sexy—a particularly alluring look from the lineup was a draped, high-neck top that was paired with a charming rock-candy printed wrap skirt. The only insinuation of skin was the tiniest sliver that appeared between thigh-high boot and boho wrap skirt.

Neo-bohemianism has been making a tentative comeback on the runway for the last couple of seasons, though for Marant that free-spirited mood never left. The colorful, quilted jackets were reminiscent of classic pieces in her archives, and will likely have success with her fans second time around. Judging by the French It girls and Parisian editors on the front row, so will those cone-heeled slouchy boots.

There’s no doubt that Marant has a winning formula for French girl cool—her best-selling L’Oreal collection of barely-there makeup is certainly proof of that, and was a sensation all over the world. Still, it would be nice to see Marant break the mold with the casting of her shows. Her clothes certainly appeal to a wide audience across age, size, and race: representing more of those women on her runway would send a powerful global message.

Jacquemus

Earlier in the week and on the far outskirts of Paris, a cavernous warehouse space was converted into “Place Jacquemus,” a colorful South of France town square with impressive verisimilitude, down to the drainpipes and the laundry hanging out to dry. The charm of the set prompted one influential Frenchman in the audience to call Simon Porte Jacquemus “the new Karl Lagerfeld.” That kind of comparison is bound to happen more frequently in the wake of Lagerfeld’s death. Design-wise, Jacquemus’s ambitions are more circumspect than Lagerfeld’s, but his ability to conjure a scene is evocative of the master’s.

As with most seasons, Jacquemus had his countryside childhood in mind—the films Mon Oncle and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort were also references. But with the clothes he took a more holistic approach than he did for Spring. “I didn’t want people expecting from me only the sensuality, I have so many more things to say,” he said. The collection did read like a corrective to his last show, which erred on the side of the insubstantial. The ability to respond to feedback and reinvent is a positive characteristic. Here there were pantsuits, skirt-and-sweater combinations, and button-downs and culottes to wear to the office, and even double-face coats, much of it with workwear-inspired utility pockets—an extension of his recent menswear outing. What gave it its particular southern flavor—what made it Jacqumeus—was its Instagram-ready color: brighter-than-bougainvillea pink, vivid shades of orange, green, and azure blue. The designer also loaded up the collection with personal references. Earrings were modeled off of his own 1stdibs.com furniture obsessions, or they featured snapshots of himself and his mother in tiny plexiglass frames.

Jacquemus has a knack for accessories. On the runway, the clog-soled knee-high boots struck the right real-world note between the rubber waders and the pointy-toed pumps.

Off it, showgoers gathered around the Place Jacquemus “storefront” to snap photos of this new release for Fall, a bag so small it’s only big enough for AirPods, just impractical enough to be irresistible. As he recalibrates his ready-to-wear, that inventive approach to the extras is going to be a boon.

Lanvin

It was a bright new dawn on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Drums boomed and trumpets blared to fanfare the ascension of Bruno Sialelli to the Lanvin throne. We were gathered to witness his coronation in the original Gothic 14th-century townhouse once inhabited by the abbots of Cluny, now home to France’s National Museum of the Middle Ages.

His debut was a collection that was eager to please: a huge all-you-can-eat buffet of ideas. These included woolen jackets with sailor collars and leather ties; pea jackets with quilt-piped, heart-shaped lapels; double-hemmed kilts in mismatched checks; tricksy, check blanket ponchos; and foulard smocks for him and her in a manuscript-style St. George and the Dragon print that also popped up on pochettes and as an embroidery on a backless, rope-choker-neck dress.

The venerable Jeanne and Marguerite Lanvin logo was used as a print on a skirt and pants. There was a seemingly new, all-90-degree JL logo that featured on both the carpet and the garments (and the sneakers between) as a monogram or standalone signature. There was mid-calf, wide-cut carpenter’s denim (and moleskin) worn with longer, silk Lanvin-logo pajamas beneath; fringed sneakers; suiting bisected by cinching panels of knit at the abdomen; scallop-hemmed, patched leather jackets; a suit-and-clog combination for men; blanket overcoats and skirts; and a fine silvery Lurex button-up dress undone by a skirt of sleeves for phantom arms.

The collection also included both-gender twinsets, minidresses, and shirts featuring Babar and Zephir (another beautiful French institution with a questionable narrative), a series of layered slip dresses with patched extra hems at the back that sometimes came embroidered with foxes, a very fine purple bobbled dress (vaguely caftan-y in mien) and, we’re nearly there, a final segue through some vaguely ’70s-looking illustrations and print on the closing pieces.

So, while Sialelli most certainly served a diverse spread, excellently executed, much of it felt marinated in the aesthetic of another place—his previous employer, Loewe. This is understandable in this first instance. The from-every-angle blitzkrieg of variety in the collection can be seen either as the fruits of a boundlessly fertile mind or as a bloatedness borne of lack of focus compounded by a lack of confidence in any of the many subsections in this collection. Whether it is inventiveness or insecurity, all should become clearer in future collections!

Paco Rabanne

“It’s been a search for—I hate the word—‘glamour,’” said Julien Dossena of Paco Rabanne as he explained the source materials behind his collection. “I started to look at old Hollywood movies; at ceremonials, from royalty to military to the red carpet; at dandified ’70s glam rock and Roxy Music . . .”

Yes: Terms which were banned from the lips of the fashionable, while “streetwear” and “athleisure” reigned are now being rehabilitated—couture, tailoring, and glamour being top among them. It’s not just a mechanical swing of the pendulum from one thing to the opposite, but a psychological response to events. Dossena understands exactly why: “It’s about how you uplift yourself through dress. In the end, that’s all we expect from fashion. You know—that thrill when you wear something special? It gives you power; it gives you confidence.”

The show was about to start, and the girls behind him were shimmying into slinky Deco-pattern-printed chain mail dresses, ’40s-shouldered velvet frocks, and short curvy cocktail dresses with trains. Styling assistants were moving in, lavishing them with diamanté waterfall earrings, pinning on sparkly “heirloom” brooches, fastening on a glittering silver chain belt with a starburst buckle. Other girls were climbing into suits with military frogging and gold braid.

The procession lined up to tread the carpet of a runway setting Dossena imagined as “my dream hotel lobby,” a David Lynchian fantasy space where “everyone you want to see passes by.” There were glimpses of Dietrich, Hendrix, Eno, Prince, Monroe—and for anyone who can remember it, that early-’70s moment in London when Ossie Clark and Biba revived a romance with ’30s and ’40s silver-screen goddesses.

Chloé

At Chloé today, postcards showcasing some of Karl Lagerfeld’s key collections for the house were placed on every seat as a tribute to the designer who passed away last week. On the back of each card were printed Lagerfeld’s comments about his work. He was a man of many words, and he designed at Chloé for 25 years, but something he said about an iconic 1975 collection resonated today. “The essence of modern dressing—unstructured, weightless, [and] totally feminine.”

Four decades later, that notion sums up the Chloé aesthetic just about perfectly, and Natacha Ramsay-Levi nailed it this season, with an array of the kind of breezy but polished dresses that women have looked to Chloé for since Karl’s days. The orangish-red wrap style in a silk jacquard wallpaper pattern was extra charming with navy embroidered Cs scalloping the edge of its skirt. Its sister dresses were mostly shorter, often with asymmetrical hems and volume through the shoulders and sleeves that transmitted a—yes—modern kind of ease. Ramsay-Levi sent them out with mid-heel boots (her boots from last Fall are everywhere at Paris Fashion Week) that accentuated the cool attitude.

There was more going on here, however, than billowy dresses. Ramsay-Levi has made attenuated, sometimes quirky tailoring part of her vocabulary since she arrived at Chloé. Those horse-embroidered corduroys have also had a good run IRL. For Fall, her trouser silhouette was a utility-cargo-hybrid bootcut, long and lanky; in denim, she showed them with a deep cuff. A military topcoat and cropped pants were cut in a Prince of Wales crepe with a substantial hand, very Chloé in its ’70s lines. The standout piece of tailoring was a navy coat with extra-large lapels and a swallowtail hem. Its back was ribbed knit, which gave it its snug fit without (presumably) making it constricting. That goes back to Lagerfeld’s comments about unstructured weightlessness.

All photos and re-edited writeups originally appeared on Vogue Runway . Head on over for the most up to date Paris Fashion Week coverage!