You can jostle to get into the shows of cool new labels and flashy (often trashy) influencer brands. But nine times out of 10, your best bet would be to join the queue for one of those tried and trusted names who season after season turn out influential looks that real people will want to wear, rather than just pose in.
So it was with three of Paris’s biggest draws in recent days as Isabel Marant and Dries Van Noten did… well, what they’ve been doing for years. Meanwhile Chloé, with still-new creative chief Natacha Ramsay-Levi now in charge, continued the evolution of its look – from festival/boho chic(k) to contemporary urbanite – without delivering a shock to the system.
The transition from Clare Waight Keller to Ramsay-Levi at Chloé was so beautifully handled last season that that it would have been a great model for Céline to follow post-Phoebe Philo had LVMH not put Hedi Slimane in charge. But that’s another story.
So what did she deliver for her second season in charge? A 70s-influenced look that was inspired by the middle of that decade and grown-up style icons like Isabelle Huppert, Stéphane Audran and Anjelica Huston. We got a sophisticated mix for city-dwellers who want to be on-trend and demand to look good.
In a palette dominated by 70s brown tones, it followed a slim, but not constricting silhouette with ‘fluid’ the guiding principle.
Dresses flowed sensually around the body, while the softness of a silk blouse, a flared pant or a silky knife-pleat cuffed pant screamed ‘ease’.
Ramsay-Levi nodded to season’s key trends (the must-have aviator jacket, the chubby ribbed or fine Lurex knits with curvy sleeves adding shoulder width) without slavishly following the crowd.
But the devil throughout was in the detail. From the laced or strap-wrapped boots with embossed heels, to the tiny dancing horse repeat patterns on clothes and bags, the tiled metal ‘bangles’ punctuating the sleeves, the studded silks and studded appliqués, the clips adding interest to simple mid-70s blazers, the geology prints, the sequin-scattered lace, the goat hair trims that looked almost like fringing, the metal caps replacing stitching to hold the different parts of a dress together. It all made this into a collection that begs to be viewed up close, as well as looking great from a distance.
For Isabel Marant meanwhile, AW18 is offering up a wearable mix of easy pieces that are youthful but will also appeal to the label’s range of customers in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s.
It was what we’ve come to expect from the designer with plenty of Marant favourites worked into the collection, but all overlaid with a heavy dose of Americana, which is a theme she’s visited plenty of times before.
Expect the high street to be all over the blanket coats, low-key cowboy boots (complete with metallic toecaps), prairie floral and lace inserts, fringing, serape-style tops and gilets, shearlings, Western leather shirts, and motifs that were gently influenced by Native Americana (but hopefully not enough to raise a chorus of cultural appropriation disapproval).
And the after-dark dresses that took their American influences from other sources should be instant high street fodder too. There was more than a 1980s Dynasty edge in the short skirts, ruching, shirring and oversized shoulders but this was 80s style that was made to wear rather than just look at in magazine editorials. The dresses will strike a chord with young customers, as the sexier end of the Marant line-up always does. And it’s to be hoped Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent pays attention because he could learn a few lessons from Marant about how to ‘do the 80s’.
Another name who could teach his peer group some lessons is Dries Van Noten. Consistently responsible for some of the best collections Paris turns out, his trademark celebration of rich colours, patterns and textures is rarely about overwhelming silhouettes but is always about standing out from the crowd in a relaxed way.
His pieces cocoon the body without swamping it and tap gently into seasonal trends, again without going too far. This season, for instance, he’s got the volume bug just like almost every other designer but instead of crazy shoulders, he’s given us cosy, chubby, Mongolian lamb coats and jackets in power red, intense black or yeti white, or parkas with wide collars, and blouses with intricately draped sleeves.
All these pieces underscore just how important colour is to this label from the delicious yellow silks to ginger and lilac, plus the brocade or satin parkas in oranges or blues. In the latter case, the blue botanical prints looked almost like Delft china patterns and like many of the collection’s pattern stories, were as effective on coats as pantsuits, gloves and boots.
In fact, pattern has been used throughout to transform the collection. Madcap stylised florals made sheath dresses seem like more than the simple slithers of silk they actually were, while his expert colour mix and Art Deco-influenced embellishment turned his more casual looks into statement pieces.
Like Marant’s (very different) collection, it left an impression despite being deceptively simple. At its heart, this was just a combination of coats, easy pants, sweaters with skirts, and blouses with fluid skirts. The fact that the skirts came with tinsel fringing, the coats were often beaded, the dresses had silver and gold inserts, and the blouses were ruched, draped and shimmering – well, that was the bonus you get with Dries Van Noten.