Paris offers a unique panorama of global design
The sixth day of Parisian runways offered a thrilling round-the-world tour of creative design, with shows from Japan's Junya Watanabe, Colombian-born Parisian designer Haider Ackermann, Britain's Vivienne Westwood in collaboration with her Austrian husband Andreas Kronthaler, and Rokh, the label from young South Korean designer Rok Hwang.
Unruly manes of platinum blond hair, smudged makeup, leather dresses and deconstructed perfectos attached at the hip like tails or voluminous skirts all came together at Junya Watanabe's runway show, where models started out walking in silence under a red light that put one in mind of a photographic darkroom, the only sound to be heard being the flashes of cameras.
Suddenly, the lights went up and the voice of Debbie Harry began singing "Heart of Glass." The frontwoman of Blondie, the legendary new wave rock band of the 1970s and 80s, was the muse chosen by the Japanese designer and former Comme des Garçons protégé for this punchy and rebellious collection for next winter.
Leather was the dominant material, appearing in flared apron dresses in black or red, which were worn with tulle petticoats, mini-skirts and quilted shoulder pads, but could also be seen in more recognisable elements of the iconic rocker jacket, which were inserted into coats or blazers.
Above all, though, leather was used to give a kinky boost to the silhouette with a range of accessories, such as belts, bras, buckles, straps and removable harnesses featuring a multitude of bags and pouches, which were worn over classic tweed coats and jackets, as a means of protection or restriction, depending on one's taste.
Overall it was a skilful collection, where the designer mixed commercial basics with inventive, deconstructed creations, accompanying the apparel with a number of fashionably twisted accessories.
Haider Ackermann also opted for silence, not to open but to close his runway, a powerful show built around pure simplicity. Men and women came down the spotless catwalk in elongated monochrome looks, their bare chests peaking out from long half-closed coats or little jackets with lace necklines.
The women looked like they had been airdropped in from another galaxy, giving off a strange majesty with their towering hairstyles and virginal outfits. Maxi-coats were worn over legs that were clad in rubber or squeezed into leather.
Dark, elegant sheath dresses opened up into a saw tooth pattern at the top, revealing a white vest, while the trains of long skirts caressed the ground. The men donned impeccable coats and banker suits, as well as shimmering velvet ensembles in nocturnal shades, shot through with luminous flashes. Everything was perfectly balanced through sober, minimalist tailoring.
As has become her custom in the last two years, at the start of the latest Vivienne Westwood show, the label's eponymous founder came and took a seat right in the middle of the front row, while her husband, Andreas Kronthaler, who is now in charge of the house's signature line, was busy putting the final touches to the models backstage. At the end of a show rich in flashes of inspiration, the Austrian designer hurried over to the queen of punk with a bouquet, leading her up to the centre of the runway to thundering applause from the audience.
Men and women walked together, often in outfits cut using the same materials. This season's Westwood woman was multifaceted. At times she was aristocratic in Victorian dresses in tulle, moiré taffeta or flannel, puffed out at the hip with drapery or bubbly volumes, while her waist was cinched with a corset that also accentuated her bust.
At other moments she became an eco-warrior with something of a wild edge, wearing mix-and-match ensembles created using recycled or recovered materials. She walked proudly in her unmatched socks and her ruffled maxi-dress, which looked to have been fashioned from a black bin bag. She even traded her pearl necklace for triple strings of garlic or chili peppers. Her black coat featured fluorescent graffiti, while long muffs stretching up to her armpits seemed to recall straitjackets.
Over at Rokh, South Korea's Rok Hwang returned to a more classic – though no less inventive – vision of chic for Fall/Winter 2020-21, with a collection dedicated to his little sister. "I wanted to write her this visual, textile love letter, on the day that she is getting married in Seoul, while I have had to stay in Paris for this runway show," explained the talented designer, whose brand is currently distributed via some 150 top multibrand stores around the world.
The collection explored the different faces of a young woman "with a strong and determined attitude, on the one hand, and a sunny and joyful disposition, on the other." In the first part of the show, the models walked through the rows of heather in mules and sheer black stockings, over which they wore dark suits and coats with a tailored feel. Some featured slits and removable sleeves or were decorated with construction stitches. Slim, celebrity-inspired sunglasses completed the look, along with chunky chains that bordered collars and sleeves, or were used as bag straps, belts, headbands or necklaces.
This dark lady then gave way to a more romantic aesthetic, seen in long dresses and flowing floral-print silk blouses with pagoda sleeves, created by the brand in collaboration with English artisans, as well as skirts of different lengths featuring fine pleats and tartan patchwork, and little jumpers decorated with floral embroidery. For day-to-day wear, Hwang played with deconstructed trenches, the tartan lining of which was sometimes exposed, or remixed suits, sending out one version which could be buttoned and unbuttoned at both the front and the back.
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