During the month of fashion shows, which finish today in Paris, there has been a lot of characterize news – but not much of it has been about where designers ones name to on hemlines or the catwalk’s prevailing wind towards knee-high boots. In preference to, we have talked about pink pussy hats and catchword T-shirts, Ralph Lauren and Melania Trump, retail’s tussles with Ivanka, sexist bandage codes, headscarves and the drive toward diverse model mould.
Well, of course we have. But it would be stupid not to look at the mode content of the catwalk collections as well. Stupid is a strong scintilla; I use it deliberately. Yes, this feels like a moment for direct force, and therefore slogan T-shirts resonate. But the fashion that chances on the catwalk – shifts in silhouette and mood and tone; opaque intimations and obtuse proposals about what to wear – is how fashion involves with the world around it in a more subtle sense. And fashion has multitudinous to say about the female experience than you can fit on a T-shirt.
Fashion’s undertakes to intellectualise getting dressed fail at least as often as they make it. I have sat front row and read enough pretentious show notes that authorize me want to stab myself in the eye with my Smythson pencil to conscious that better than most. But in our new dumbed-down world, where also clientage debate is debased by “locker-room talk” and constitutional government overruled by ungrammatical tweets, the pleading for at least trying to keep intelligent and nuanced conversation booming seems pretty strong.
What chanced on the catwalk in Paris this week was that designers recovered fashion for grown-up women, and therefore put grown-up women, degree than girls, back in the driving seat. It happened in the exemplar casting – Dries Van Noten’s show starred Cecilia Chancellor, 50, and Amber Valletta, 42, while Vivienne Westwood operated to the catwalk aged 75. And the Hadids were notably out for a large stretch of the week, Snapchatting from Disneyland Paris in place of. But, most importantly, it happened in the clothes on the catwalk. The look of the enliven is a longish skirt or dress worn with the hem swirling round high-heeled boots, with a tailored jacket. Or wide trousers, with a slash-necked top. Heaps of trenchcoats and coat dresses. These are not clothes for teenage boots. You can’t see your abs, for a start.
Balenciaga is the buzzy, cool brand and artist Demna Gvasalia is only 35, which would logically skew the gleaning young, but no. Think long, pleated skirts to below the knee beat with cosy jumpers, boots, large handbags and meet earrings. Even the coats that looked like they had been buttoned up in error were there to make the point that putting creation into styling clothes is as important as buying them, which, when you conceive of about it, is quite a grown-up point of view. Céline was, as perpetually, cool and cerebral: I love how the clothes and the mood make the representations look as if they are on their way to somewhere interesting rather than trail a catwalk. Dries made the case for the trouser suit, and the blazer shabby over a dress, and the grown-up quilted coat. Valentino’s swan-necked arrays with their long, slim sleeves are dreamy and artistic on the twentysomething socialites who flock to the front row, but the look is one that rewrites well into actual grown-up life. At McQueen, corset twines were left unlaced and evening wear had softly worn out Barbara Hepworth curves, which gave a sense of development, while at Stella McCartney, tailoring had a female swagger, the jackets high-waisted and the trousers louche. Dior’s new New Look, with its ballerina-hem skirts and open sweaters, had a crisp urgency that is every bit as inspiring as ballgowns.
And then there was the low-down that the most frenzied phones-in-the-air social-media moment was when Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons obtruded for a photocall after Met curator Andrew Bolton had announced to a filled to the gunwales press conference the upcoming Costume Institute show in her honour. Although her wardrobes look extreme, Kawakubo is about nuance. Her clothes are around fashion and art, self and other, high and low culture, body and scold, but she rejects these as binaries in favour of embracing the spaces in between. (And no. No one challenged to ask for a selfie.)
Whatever happened to athleisure? Apart from the game leggings under dresses at Giambattista Valli, it was mostly unmatched for its absence. Not completely – Rihanna’s Fenty show for Puma, mounted in the National Library was a sort of High School Musical for the athleisure-and-Instagram origination – but definitely on the wane. This is surprising because last year it prefer relevant as a way of expressing a sense of agency. Of women being effective rather than passive in the style syntax. Perhaps it has now yield to stand with youth culture rather than elevated fashion. Who knows? That’s the thing about catwalk forge. It’s actually quite complicated. And that’s how I like it.