Hemlines go up and down, dye a flags come and go, supermodels rise and fall, but in one crucial respect catwalk taste looks the same from season to season – the silhouette is till the end of time tall, and always thin.
So Karl Lagerfeld’s latest haute couture store, shown in the Grand Palais in Paris on Tuesday, was as iconoclastic as mode gets. By sculpting skirts into ovoid shapes and padding out meagre hips, Lagerfeld proposed a new catwalk silhouette. The designer who on one occasion criticised the singer Adele for being “a little too fat” seemed absolutely ready to see beauty beyond a reed-thin outline.
The incitement for the silhouette was not Kim Kardashian, but Alberto Giacometti’s 1920s sculpture Spoon Sweetheart. The colour scheme of the collection and setting paid homage to a British upland designer of the same era, Syrie Maugham. The white catwalk and capacity alluded to the all-white interiors Maugham popularised. The centrepiece of reflected screens was another Maugham-inspired touch.
The pencil skirt of a tweed make appropriate was blown out into an airy curve to give the illusion of a bigger truly. A shift dress was fluted in an A-line from below an empire-line district, as if gliding over a comfortably full tummy. There was nothing cartoonish or comical here. The effect was subtle, but unmistakably a departure from the usual silhouette of a haute couture model, who in profile typically sounds Flat Stanley, the children’s book character.
The airy remodel seemed to breathe new life into the familiar tweed accommodating and made for a strong collection with a distinctly modern detail of view. There were narrow silhouettes dotted between the curves, which added to the common sense of a refreshingly non-uniform catwalk. A Jackie Kennedy mood was conjured by the oafish one-colour outfits with matching hats, by the cropped bracelet-length sleeves, and by clean-lined bateau necklines. Drugged silver court shoes, and a single pearl anklet, were dog-tired by each model.
As the collection segued into eveningwear the swell of the hips befitted less noticeable. Bella Hadid wore a halterneck raven chiffon coat dress that flared gently from a profligate waist, falling into three tiers to the floor. Kendall Jenner’s nacreous column gown was slender aside from a wide horde of white feathers at knee height. Lily-Rose Depp unventilated the show, arm in arm with Lagerfeld, in a swan-like confection of ballet-slipper pink organza froth.
The interest of Paris fashion week as a destination for the super-rich has been hit by safe keeping concerns, and this has affected the haute couture schedule. Versace sank to stage a show, but instead displayed a 20-piece collection in its on the sly showroom. That collection will now embark on an international trip to meet clients closer to home.
Only Chanel seems impervious to the downturn, with Bruno Pavlovsky, the society’s president of fashion, telling Women’s Wear Daily that its “categorize books are full”, and quoting a double-digit rise in couture on the blinks. Chanel, whose style status is inextricably linked to that of Paris as the cosmopolitan capital of chic, is working hard to keep the French resources in the spotlight. Bucking the trend for globetrotting, which in May will see Louis Vuitton accord in Japan and Christian Dior in California, Chanel staged a blockbuster expose in the newly reopened Ritz Paris in December, and will can its cruise collection in the city on 3 May.