Airy Enough to Take Flight

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2014 New York Times News Service

Magical handwork separates haute couture from the rest of fashion, but it depends on modern ideas to be relevant. Looking at the Paris spring shows online, what stands out are lightness and agility, soothing colors and a reductive view of luxury that feels unusually sensitive to the times.

These qualities were apparent at Chanel and Dior. Raf Simons held the Dior show in a small space, giving the audience an up-close view of delicate embroidery on sheer, cloudlike fabrics.

“I wanted to play with several references from the past and also how I see things in the future,” he said. “I wanted clothes that were not only for the red carpet but also to wear and enjoy.”

Many of his shapes were elegantly simple. And you can see how he dipped into the New Look, as well as the liberated ’60s, using embroidered cutouts to evoke patterns that were once done in metal. “It’s a more futuristic approach to a floral print,” he said.

Few might know that Karl Lagerfeld is a terrific dancer. That was the thought as the models came down the curving stairs of a high-styled nightclub and a band played. Except that the models wore sneakers. Lagerfeld combined two opposing obsessions: a corseted, feminine form and comfort. The mainstay suit was pure trompe l’oeil: a bustier dress with a bolero or cropped top. Here, too, the idea was freedom and energy, spun in a sugary palette.

And both Simons and Lagerfeld seriously considered casual-chic shapes, like jumpsuits and slacks with spare tops, in a further effort to break preconceived attitudes about couture.

In an email, Marco Zanini described his debut Schiaparelli collection as being “a cocktail” closer to the spirit of Elsa Schiaparelli’s daring personality than her designs. That meant a pell-mell mix of tailoring and lush evening satin, a beaded T-shirt dress and cute hats.

Donatella Versace’s homage to Grace Jones was more than a hood and a shady glance. She focused on a corseted line, draping silk or jersey to glamorous, fluid effect, often adding a fur piece. She said, “I love fur, and I love when fur is loud.”

There was a glint of futurism in Giorgio Armani’s microcheck jackets, in blue-gray silk, with skirts that swirled like smoke. In this self-assured collection, with models’ heads wrapped in scarves, he seemed to evoke the poet-nomads of the early 20th century, still lured by the Orient.

The Garden of Eden, as seen in Renaissance art, inspired embroideries at Valentino, including a serpent whirling around the bodice of a tulle dress. There were also venerable African touches.

And Giambattista Valli’s frisky poufs and peplums, with sprigs of beaded flowers, were a bid for young couture mavens.