This Being Paris ...

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2014 New York Times News Service

PARIS — Christophe Lemaire is exiting his role as creative director at Hermès, presenting his last collection for the luxury house next week, but he does so on his own winged sandals.

In the sunlight-flooded Bibliothèque Nationale here, Lemaire’s label issued a strong and simple set of looks based on natural fibers, his savor of which could be detected in the menu-like program notes, with its references to “crispy cotton,” “broken twill” and “molded leather.” Could I get those with a side of seersucker, please?

When using fabrics like denim, chambray and linen, it would be easy to fall back on the American catalog, specifically J. Crew and other repositories of prep. But Lemaire cuts, drapes and wraps them in a personal and unusual way. A few of the garments bagged unflatteringly, and I don’t see much call for a jumbo gilet in khaki gabardine. But most promised enduring and confident comfort in a manner that recalled, as his work has before, the American sportswear designer Claire McCardell.

Seasoned travelers from Planet Fashion often talk about how different and special shows used to be in those bad old days of the ’80s, before they were overrun by publicists wearing more wires than the Secret Service and instantly channeled into clickable online galleries.

The spring show presented by Anthony Vaccarello, on a bank by the Seine before graffiti-covered pillars that hold up the City of Fashion and Design building, felt like a postcard from that time. A cumulus cloud of cigarette smoke hung over the audience, which was filled with women in black, including one of Jane Birkin’s daughters, Lou Doillon. (Real celebrities in the bad old days rarely bothered with fashion shows.)

The models that filed down the very, very long runway were also wearing a lot of black. Their skirts were sliced to bare one hip, or simply very short. Necklines tended to dangle in long open cowls or Vs, and more than one woman’s bosom was revealed through translucent chiffon or sprang free altogether, though it wasn’t clear whether by accident or design. This being Paris, nonchalance was woven into the outfit.

Vaccarello’s other big idea was to cut up his name and the date of the collection and rearrange the letters on the garments in a kind of mega-logomania that, while felicitous, anagrammatically, for this particular reviewer, will probably not guarantee the posterity for which he hopes.

Cédric Charlier sent another, more colorful postcard, from the Espace Modem — “a concrete bunker,” my seatmate, crammed next to me on the bench, called it. Across from us there were fishnets, silly hats and a hoisted toddler, giving the room an improvised “Pretty in Pink” air.

And many of the clothes, correspondingly, looked run up on the Singer. There were exposed stitches, like basting, on a sleeveless jacket. Under this undone tailoring, many of the skirts were colorfully layered, one strapless dress rippling casually in blue and green like a sea creature, with asymmetric hemlines.

And the ubiquitous shower sandals had made it out to the 10th Arrondissement. But this being Paris, they had big bows on the toes.