Life, etc

Chronicles of Chic: Spring/Summer 2014 Fashion Weeks – it’s madness as usual

By Emilie Gambade 3 October 2013

The fashion mob marched through New York, London and Milan, before it settled for a week in Paris. Following its peripatetic footstep, a long tail of Instagrams, filtered shots capturing the Spring/Summer 2014 collections. EMILIE GAMBADE looks at yet another month of fashion weeks.

Fashion week in the northern hemisphere has become a serious affair: in New York, for Spring/Summer 2014, more than 260 designers presented their work over eight days; London had 58 catwalk shows in only five days while Paris is currently hosting over 100 designers; that is excluding off-site and off-schedule shows. Amid the numerous productions, more garments parade, like stroboscopic images presented to the beat of carefully selected soundtracks.

The New York Times’ fashion reporter Cathy Horyn called this accumulation of clothes “a jolting train of images” that made her feel like “on a collision course.”

Indeed, the pace is swift and the binge very real: there is no time for ennui or idleness; one sits, watches, gulps down collections, sends laconic tweets, #regrams, hops from one show to another and starts all over again some many miles away; it’s Groundhog Day on steroids. In this pandemonium, picking up the best designs or drawing up trends has become a Kafkaesque experience.

But fashion week is not only about trends; it is also, and most importantly, about the designers who, in spite of the season, the hype and a demanding clientele, keep on producing collections that command attention. In an article for the New Yorker, Literary Editor Sasha Weiss, describing fashion designers, quotes Barney’s Ambassador-at-large, Simon Doonan: “A fashionable mind is a utopian one —forceful, sweeping, and imaginative to the point of delusion.”

Despite the cacophony, designers rise, utopian minds, old-guard charmers who draw collections that plunged into history, popped with colours and extravagance and competed with timeless elegance.

The sweeping scholars:

Old-timer Oscar de la Renta dug into the past, from Shakespeare to Elizabethan crewel embroideries, to create colourful, almost joyful garments that balanced between folklore chic and soft modernism; he declined embroideries in place of prints, dressed his models in mini-capes, tight pencil skirts in black and white and impressed the audience with gowns très soir: guipure and silk, frills and glitter, in bright lemon, turquoise and fuchsia. It was John Galliano’s second collaboration to de la Renta’s collection, albeit a discreet one, and the range strongly bore the hand of the eldest. The designer creates collections like an artisan: it is less about originality than his incredible savoir-faire.

Marco Zanini at Rochas told that “he was inspired by Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie, and that he wanted to capture the “translucent qualities of glass, frost, and crystals.” He translated it into impeccably cut garments, playing with fabrics, sheer velvets and organza, for a look that had some cute weirdness to it: imagine a monochromic Iris Apfel or a modern Marie-Antoinette wearing the fleur-de-lis as a label.

Photo: Model Lindsey Wixson presents a creation by German designer Karl Lagerfeld for French fashion house Chanel as part of his Spring/Summer 2014 women’s ready-to-wear fashion show during Paris fashion week October 1, 2013. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

It is hard not to like what Lagerfeld does for Chanel. His many interpretations of the little tweed jacket created by Coco in the 1950s has made it an essential item in one’s wardrobe and an iconic reference. And here it is again, slightly oversized and struck with shades of pink stripes, deformed with an exaggerated collar and asymmetrical or sleeveless and turned into a knee-length dress. The models usually wear similar hairstyles, here Cleopatra’s-like wigs, as not to distract the eyes from the clothes. His collection was particularly fun, with rainbow palettes that look like ribbons had been threaded into the fabric.

The vernal visionaries:

Proenza Schouler by Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez was avant-garde with cropped layers in scribbled print, halter-tops over wide-belted pleated skirts and flowing pants. The shoulders were slightly boxy, the skirts were slightly lengthy and the collection slightly shambolic; because of it, it was bursting with creativity and newness. Everything, in Proenza Schouler’s collections, seems to be designed with the tip (and delicacy) of an invisible brush. This time, it had the plural viewpoints of a cubist painting: geometric shapes, touches of colours that break the surface and warm tones.

Gareth Pugh designed a collection à la Alexander McQueen with sculpted silhouettes in two tones, bias-cut skirts, corset in trapezoidal shapes, and a moulded plastic top. It could have also been Mugler circa ‘Angel’s’ launch, in 1992, when he dressed Jerry Hall in a mermaid-like dress. Pugh’s collection was brave, strong, influential, and if deconstructed, extremely wearable, with white high-collars embracing the neck and shift coatdresses in dark grey.

Photo: A model presents a creation by designer Gareth Pugh as part of his Spring/Summer 2014 women’s ready-to-wear fashion show during Paris fashion week September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Comme des Garçons by Rei Kawakubo is often a feast for the eye, a challenge for the mind (what is ‘this?’) and a test to one’s audacity (would I really wear ‘this?’). For S/S 2014, Kawakubo didn’t disappoint; it was as if the world had suddenly inflated: everything looked like those bikers’ viscose jackets that puff up like helium balloons when the wind flows inside. Everything was overblown, as were the characters impersonated: here a caged baby doll in a puffed up pink dress, there a messed-up Goth in a short black & white outfit and ruined black lipstick. Whatever the message, Kawakubo is a relentless genius and pushes us to question the very reason we dress: to be noticed. Noticed one will be, dressed in Comme des Garçons.

The dear darlings:

Many have called Alexander Wang ‘the new Jacobs,’ be it for his bravura, his inimitable talent or his great sense of humour. For S/S 2014, he is more Lagerfeld (who used to call himself “Labelfed”) than Jacobs, cleverly applying his eponymous logo on selected garments. But this is a mere, well executed, wink to a narcissistic crowd. His talent really shone through the tailored, single breasted, cropped jackets in different tones of grey, trench coats turned into tailcoats worn over short tennis skirts, wide belted pants, Bermuda and boxer shorts, in pastels and light greys. Wang’s collections simply flow; it’s a fluidity of lines, textures and prints, from the defined lapels down to the shiny shoes the models wore.