First cowbells at Céline, then dirndls at Givenchy: is fashion having a Sound of Music moment? Of course, this being Riccardo Tisci, the Givenchy designer’s dirndls were whiplash leather versions, with dangerously unlaced décolletages, and skirts sliced to the thigh and layered with studded leather panels.
“The show was inspired by Flipper [1970s pinball games], Austria and rock,” explained the Italian 40-year-old designer backstage, as actress Juliette Binoche mopped his brow, former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld cinched herself into a leather bodice hot off the catwalk, and a vast queue of fans awaited their selfie moment. So this was Tyrolean sexy? “I was looking around and I thought that a very sensual woman was missing, so I wanted to go back and do what I was doing 10 years ago. What I really like: hardcore sexy.”
Was this new focus on the “sensual woman” a veiled message that Mr Tisci is turning away from the shark-jaw printed sweats and T-shirts that have transformed his Givenchy into a pop-culture phenomenon? Is he wresting the brand from the rappers to return it to the mademoiselle?
It sure looked like it on the catwalk, where Bavarian Trachten pieces were reinvented as sizzlingly sexy clothes: leather jerkins nailed with shiny, pinball-like studs; micro shorts; stripy sheer chiffons and fabulous embellished jerkins, featuring Austrian folk embroidery, eyelet-detailed lace and extra studs. On the rock end of the spectrum, sheer T-shirts were printed with graphic motifs (or were they simply crucifixes?). All were worn with thigh-high, skin-tight boots in soft black or chestnut leather, laced to the ankle with a spike steel stiletto heel. It could have all been a bit Benny Hill. But this was a stunning show: Austria hasn’t looked so fine since Maria first climbed every mountain.
(image: junior homecoming dresses)
There were no dirndls at Chloé but the floaty lace dresses that opened the show still had an Alpine air – and the herbal whiff of an old Timotei shampoo commercial. The show, dedicated to the brand’s founder Gaby Aghion (who died, aged 93, on Saturday) drew heavily on the brand’s 1970s associations: patched lace, folkloric jacquards and long utilitarian skirts with button-down fronts and large patch pockets. There were lovely denim pieces, chic powdered suedes, and a delightful new clutch – like a coin bag – that dangled from an oversized ring. Less successful were the voluminous gauzy gowns, suspended from camisole straps in a queasy palette of mint, terracotta and turquoise, but Clare Waight Keller’s collection had a freshness and joie de vivre of which Ms Aghion would have surely approved.
Stella McCartney’s prior experience at Chloé still resonates across her collections at her own label, now itself in adolescence (she founded it in 2001). There were similarly utilitarian denims here (albeit with less structured three-quarter length trousers), and the palette of lemons, whites and powder blues was very simpatico also. No suede here – this was Meat-free Monday – and her tie-knot flat sandals, oversized Perspex chain necklaces and modish little minaudières in sky blue made a good case for the vegetarian cause.
Ms McCartney used gold buckle fastenings and embroidery to create interest on denim separates, while a “jigsaw floral” decorated a patchwork of soft summer gowns that fluttered with embroidery insets like the wings on a butterfly. Silky all-in-ones unzipped at the ankle and featherlight chequered silk trenches and pyjama suits recalibrated her emphasis on ease.
The old maxim that “blue and green should never be seen” clearly does not translate into Japanese, or at least designer Chitose Abe is not listening. Her military-themed show for Sacai drew heavily on the juxtaposition of just those colours, and Amen, say I, as I spend my annual earnings on clothes of exactly those shades.
Ms Abe would never do something so solid or predictable as a plain navy sweater, though. Her design brilliance (honed at Comme des Garçons and then at Junya Watanabe) is in the tightrope-walk she treads between avant-gardism and commercial appeal. At Sacai, no one piece is as it first appears: hence, the ribbed navy knit, with khaki patch pockets, was, in fact, a sheer tiered floral dress. It is a highly successful alchemy. Ms Abe makes women feel fashion-savvy but still allows them to lead normal lives, and in a season that has been woefully deficient in the kind of handy jackets and jumpers required for brutal air-conditioning, here were some sensible solutions.
“The theme of the show was ‘insertion’,” Ms Abe said backstage. A plaid kilt-style skirt was conjoined with graphic embroidery and sat atop a tiered floral skirt; military khakis in Cupro were merged with delicate chiffons inspired by vintage Japanese patterns; a white naval jacket with navy chevrons melted into a lace underskirt. Clothes were stitched together, slung around, buttoned on, overlaid, and sometimes even “three-in-one” – so that one might wear each item alone.
And if one were still searching for a mountain theme (which I was), there were even hints of a Highland fling, with tartan, paisley, and a Fair Isle knit. Had Ms Abe been holidaying in Scotland?
In fact, the designer said, she had only been “thinking of traditional elements”. Deconstructing such fabrics and clothes have always been at the heart of Ms Abe’s aesthetic. I wonder what her take on the dirndl might be . . . ?
Also Read: graziadress sexy homecoming dresses