Jean Paul Gaultier Couture Fall-Winter 2009 – Paris Fashion Week

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Jul 282009

There was no misunderstanding the opening, at least: the MGM signature tune and Lara Stone strutting petulantly in a leather trenchcoat, beehive, and giant pout—it was Bardot to a T! Jean Paul Gaultier always lets us know where we are at the outset, and for Fall, we were off on a movie buff’s coach tour of the gracious wardrobes of Hollywood heroines. Ostensibly. In fact, it proved a bit of an elastic theme that at times meandered off-script. It ranged so widely—from a Louise Brooks flapper dress and gilded fur coat to an ultrashort gold T-shirt under a black leather vest that looked like a possible choice for Lindsay Lohan—that it was sometimes hard to see where the designer was going. (Geometric-Deco meets sci-fi was a particularly odd patch.) Still, theme fashion shows are a dusty old concept in the first place. All that matters in haute couture is a strong voice, incredible workmanship, and whether a balance between timelessness and timeliness has been struck. Gaultier did all that by working in his stock characters and garments: the matelot, the androgynous lady in the pantsuit, the trenches, the smokings, the corsets. No one in Paris can top his tuxedo coat with velvet revers, the just-so cut of a pantsuit with a double collar, or the funny showgirl things he did here as an excuse to spotlight the kind of corseting he’s been doing since before Madonna was a star. As for the timeliness, he threw in a nod to sporty-casual chic (a notion that’s raising its head with persistence this week) via overalls in both amethyst velvet and gold paillettes. Goodness knows where they came from, but they seemed kind of right.



Chanel Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2009

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Jul 262009

Before rating Chanel’s Fall couture, let’s consider what Karl Lagerfeld has already done for the house in the last six months. There was the indelible, incredible high of his all-white couture show in January. Then, a matter of weeks ago, the staging of an unforgettably glamorous Resort collection on the beach at the Venice Lido. All this supremely heart-lifting fashion, delivered in a year that is technically the most depressing in living memory.

Back in Paris again, was it going to be humanly possible to top that for a third time? As it turned out, not quite. The Chanel couture for Fall, shown in the Grand Palais on a stage set with giant white N° 5 bottles, had a comparatively toned-down atmosphere. Lagerfeld’s single conceit was a play on graphic proportion—suits and dresses with a longer flyaway panel in the back, all shown with lace tights and stiletto-heeled booties. As the show progressed, he offered up some remarkable looks: a “smoking” redingote with a ruffle-necked blouse; a crinolined dance dress; pretty, light chiffon dresses in nude or midnight blue with ruffled trains. The outstanding look, though, was the one where the panel device was the least evident: a superchic spiral-cut dark blue dress with an asymmetric “tail” lined in red. All the Chanel craftsmanship was there, of course, and impeccably achieved. For all that, Lagerfeld didn’t manage to outstrip the genius of those previous two shows. That’s the annoying thing when you’re competing against yourself.