Fashion types love their drama and this past Paris Fashion Week, those that chose to forgo the new production of La Veuve Joyeuse at the Palais Garnier were not disappointed. After all, what can be more dramatic than a change of designer at a storied French fashion house? Some designers were brand new and others who had taken the reigns a few seasons ago were finally spreading their wings. Here is my take on the new and new-ish Paris-based designers and their collections for Fall 2012.
In 2008, Matteo Marzotto, who you may recall from various scenes in Valentino: The Last Emperor, took over Vionnet. Since then, he has been trying to restore the luster of the much revered brand. You may even recall a few Vionnet gowns designed by Rodlofo Paglialunga appearing on young starlets during the 2010 red carpet season. This season, Barbara and Lucia Croce presented their first collection for the brand to much critical acclaim. The difference is literally night and day. Whereas Paglialunga focused on evening wear and red carpet looks, the Croce sisters dress the Vionnet woman for day. Madame Vionnet may have drawn inspiration from Isadore Duncan’s movements for her bias cut gowns, but the Croce sisters design for today’s woman and her demanding active life.
Fans of Chloe were relieved to find that Clare Waight Keller stayed true to the brand’s sensibility of effortlessness for her second season. Her British roots showed through a little bit in the hint of casual sportswear that she infused into the collection and her Pringle of Scotland roots blossomed this season in the many knits featured in the collection. The Chloe woman may be a woman on the go, but next season she will definitely be moving forward.
Fans of Manish Arora’s extravagant designs were delighted last season to see the perfect fusion of his own sensibility and the iconic Paco Robanne aesthetic. Having come so strongly out of the gate, many expected him to leapfrog into another future altogether, but instead Arora drew inspiration from some of the most recognizable archive pieces and brought them confidently into our collective future. The color palette, silhouette and materials may be classic Robanne, but the modern sensibility is entirely Arora.
Those of us who came of age fashionwise during the 1980s, recall vividly the designs of Thierry Mugler. Who can forget the images of models perched atop the Paris Opera or lying on one of New York’s own Chrysler Building’s eagles? For a whole new generation of future fashion types, Mugler, now helmed by Nicola Formichetti, has created a whole new set of iconic images featuring none other than the ubiquitous Lady Gaga. This may all feel new to the young ‘uns, but we old-timers see the 80s power shoulders, skin tight shapes, and overt sexuality that Thierry Mugler himself burned into our fashion brains forever.
One of the surprising reversals of the season was Bill Gaytten of Christian Dior. Just a month ago, the fashion press was delighted to see him expressing his own deconstructivist take on Haute Couture. Now with the RTW, Gaytten seems to have pulled back and simply recycled the archive without freshening it up. These looks seem far more archive than modern.
Sarah Burton has been one of the most closely scrutinized successors to a fabled designer and she had been playing it safe by putting out collections that were mild variations of a well established theme. This season, she finally moved the designs forward in her own way while still being respectful of the brand’s DNA. One of the criticisms of McQueen when he was still alive was that he continued to revive the instruments of female oppression – high collars, corsets, hobble skirts. Some contended that his designs betrayed a form of misogyny. With a woman at the helm now, the aesthetic and the fit had to change. This is the first collection where we see very clearly a woman’s touch. Burton has just broadened the appeal of this brand, simply by introducing her own feminine sensibility.
Only time – and sales – will tell if these “new” designers will be able to move these historically revered fashion houses into a bright modern future. In the meantime, at least we know that Fall 2012 will bring a breath of freshness to some of our favorite brands!
– Jospeh Ungoco
Photos: Style.comSee the Top Ten Summer 2016 Trends for Women Over 40
Tags: Barbara and Lucia Croce, Bill Gaytten of Christian Dior, Chloe, Clare Waight Keller, Manish Arora, Mugler, Nicola Formichetti, Paco Robanne, Paris Fashion week, Paris Fashion Week Fall '12, Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Vionnet