In Paris, Affairs à La Mode

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

c.2015 New York Times News Service

PARIS — The thousands of cadenas d’amour, or love locks, attached to the Pont des Arts are hidden by graffiti-covered hoarding these days, there to discourage anyone from adding to the wishes that are endangering the bridge, but along the sides the locks poke out, impossible to contain. It’s not that dissimilar from the situation on the runways.

President François Hollande may have finally moved the conversation from his colorful personal life to his leadership style, but when it comes to clothes in Paris, the subject is still romance, and all that implies. In forms both overt and covert.

For the first, see Roland Mouret’s sheer leotards beneath body-conscious folded and seamed jersey dresses and little suits; best when flirting with a wink and a flip of a skirt; less alluring when twisted into origami knots. For the second, see Ann Demeulemeester, where the designer Sébastien Meunier continued what may be the most seamless transition of creative leadership in fashion via swooning black dresses bound by leather obi belts that could be unzipped down the center at will, gathered jackets over sheer shirts and swishing trousers, and the occasional pop of a blood-red gown.

For a bit of both, however, see Rochas, celebrating its 90th anniversary, where the designer Alessandro Dell’Acqua dipped into the past — sweetheart necklines and midi skirts, heavy land-girl fabrics, a 1934 print of swallows in silhouette from Marcel Rochas, remade as appliqués on belts and loden coats, or a sky blue silk — and then gave it a Betty Boop twist: those curvy, frilly necklines bearing a startling, and kind of subversive, resemblance to Katy Perry’s whipped-cream bra.

Sheer lace negligee frocks mixed with fur, and a bristling jacket over a buttoned-up chocolate shirt with a bow at the neck topped a transparent lace skirt finished in feathers, as if the top and bottom half of the body existed in two entirely different hemispheres. The result was a collection divided, at least until the push-pull confusion got resolved in a mix of materials that was seductive instead of jarring.

Sleeveless dresses and peplum tops in asymmetric combinations of jacquards and embroideries, matte and shine, black and earth brown had a come-hither elegance. Suddenly, everything perked up.

It wasn’t until Paco Rabanne, however, that a true shot of serotonin kicked in. The designer Julien Dossena has been updating the brand’s former futuristic vision for today’s utilitarian Lolita set by mixing classic Rabanne vernacular with the language of the street, and this season he refined the message.

There were babydoll jackets in molded Neoprene over very abbreviated white shirtdresses; silver chainmail minis under oversize sweatshirts printed with urban scenes (girders and gas stations); iridescent plastic disc dresses in devoré shades over Lurex thin-knit tanks; and now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t sheer slithers of nylon sweats.

If some of it was a bit obvious, it had a bracing physicality that was hard to resist — unlike the orgy of 1980s excess at Balmain.

Although the designer Olivier Rousteing said he was celebrating the “Parisian tradition” of “defending essential liberties and artistic freedom” on his catwalk, it was hard to see the connection between his words and the pleated palazzo pants under broad-shouldered sunburst jackets, the sheer lace stretch bodysuits and asymmetric stiff ruffled miniskirts, and the gold-crystal striped clown trousers with black velvet leotards. Not to mention the Vegas-ready lavishly fringed crystal-paved sheaths with stripes of gems running up the arm. Freedom to revisit the mistaken couplings of once upon a time? To celebrate a former love affair with linebacker shoulder pads? It was a thoughtful sentiment, but an odd translation.

Yet there was purple! There was orange! There was an entire pantsuit in Swarovski-covered leaves of red and blue and gold! Krystle Carrington of that ’80s classic TV show “Dynasty” would have been over the moon (and the clan Kardashian in the audience certainly seemed happy), but the connection to today was hard to imagine.

It’s true that we are shaped by our past, but that does not necessarily have to mean literally.

Sex may be power and all that, but these clothes did not exactly make the heart beat faster. They did, however, spark visions of big-ticket divorce.