Westwood, Gaultier, Viktor & Rolf play on style

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

PARIS (AP) — It's going to be a black and white Christmas this winter, judging by the lack of color on the Paris catwalk Saturday.

Fall-winter 2013-14 shows saw several houses chose a more muted color palette — among them Viktor & Rolf, Comme des Garcons, Jean Paul Gaultier as well as Madrid-based Loewe.

Belgian designer Veronique Leroy, who also used black, added to the one of the other stories of the season: large rounded shoulders — in what was an inventive, off-kilter show which will add to her reputation as a skillful surrealist.

Predictably, the British master of unorthodoxy Vivienne Westwood bucked the trend with panache, in a display of tailored pointed shoulders.

One of the highlights of Paris's fifth day of collections, Westwood's show was an inventive tour de force, inspired by the rich fabrics and draped silks brought to Europe by the medieval crusaders.


Medieval references were interpreted with signature zest in Saturday's show, in flowing feminine silk silhouettes. Sublime silk-wool jacquards with medieval images of birds, flowers and strawberries mixed with capes and puffed Juliette sleeves.

"I have a book of reproduced medieval illuminated manuscripts," explained Westwood backstage, provoking smiles from some journalists.

Patterns such as rings, polka dots, interrupted lines and squares were aimed to evoke the decorative patterns on the handmade manuscript borders.

But perennial eccentric Westwood, who turns 72 next month, loves mixing up her eras. Here the anachronism saw some great contrasting modern, even futurist, suits with tiny waists and provocative peaked shoulders. Some of the shows best looks combined both time periods: like one voluminous white knee length skirt with medieval motifs in ultramarine blue and rose pink.

Without sacrificing any of her usual flamboyance, Westwood has achieved the feat of producing a supremely wearable collection.


Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren are taking no risks this season.

Following the trend to de-clutter the catwalk, the Dutch duo replaced their normally inventive art-infused style in Saturday's Paris with simpler silhouettes and a muted palette of black and white.

Horsting described the collection backstage as "slightly rebellious."

"Slightly" was the key word here. There were some subtle nods to rebellion, like dropped waist lines and short flared minis (a clever play on peplums.)

But at times it felt like the boundary-pushing quirkiness that made them famous in the '90s was in hibernation this winter. Perhaps they are tapping into their commercial potential?

Elsewhere, beautiful three-dimensional effects in fabric were sometimes hard to make out because of the flat black and white.

As ever, though, there were some great abstractions, like their signature bows blown up in leather smothering the torso.


Clothes as body armor was the concept behind Jean Paul Gaultier's rather dizzying Paris show.

A play on voluminous layers of leather, fur, silks, chiffon and even knits — both hanging and enveloping the body— constructed a protective silhouette over models. It all made for a varied collection with some great looks, but one that was frustratingly hard to pin down.

Graphic '80s elements, such as Polaroid-type prints, followed a long sheer chiffon dress in eggplant with '70s pleats. Long stripy scarves accompanied a tartan dress. And studded leather bustier tops with '50s peplums could easily have come from another collection altogether.

Gaultier explained backstage: "It was also the idea of patchwork."

Indeed, patchwork — the mixing up of contrasting styles or fabric — did show there was a method in the madness.

When interpreted literally, it made for one of the show's high points: a sumptuous patchwork fur coat in panels, with a stylish cinched waist-strap. But the collection remained elusive.


Veronique Leroy's fall-winter show was inspired by a disturbing Claude Chabrol movie called "The Ceremony."

It produced a strong, subversive collection with broad and surrealistic downslope shoulders; with oversized pockets and exaggerated cuffs adding to the off-kilter feel.

Fabrics expressed what the program notes call "schizophrenia" style with plays on matt wool versus shiny satin; and two-colored graphic toes and heels.

Great colors included copper kaki, gold, burgundy and pop geranium - with stand-out streaks of optical white, and as well as navy and lots of black.

But the show was really about the coats.

Boxy blousons, graphic Ottomans, and uber-cool robe styles all make this Belgian designer one to watch.


Thomas Adamson can be followed at