1) Christian Lacroix
While Christian Lacroix’s Haute Couture is consistently strong, his ready-to-wear is often less reliable; however, for fall/winter 09, Lacroix delivered a strong ready-to-wear collection, which was chic, sophisticated, and more modern feeling than normal (in the past his ready-to-wear collections have felt a little dated). The colour pallet was restrained for Lacroix, but this didn’t detract from his signature style: the prints, the patterns, the ruffles, the tulip skirts were all there, but toned down to the perfect compromise between design and wear-ability.
2) Junya Watanabe
Junya Watanabe showed a stunning collection, which elevated the simple black puffer jacket to couture levels. There was a haunting dark beauty to the collection, which managed not to feel over-thought or over-laboured, but rather showcased amazing creativity and great technical skill. There was no indication whatsoever that Watanabe was designing for design’s sake or merely looking to fool around with puffer jackets just for the sake of trying something new: what he achieved was majestic in its beauty, dark, slightly troubling, yet perfectly controlled and perfectly executed. Questions like whether the cocooning of the puffer jackets is a response to the economic downturn seem to melt away and become utterly irrelevant as this magnificent and affecting collection unfolds. A real tour de force, and probably our favourite collection of the season so far.
3) Dries van Noten
There was something about this collection that felt a little uneasy, a little disjointed. Something to do with the colours probably, an odd pallet inspired by Francis Bacon’s paintings, including a hue that renowned editor and journalist Suzy Menkes rather wonderfully termed “decayed shrimp.” That said, considering outfits individually, it becomes clear that once again van Noten has provided plenty of very wearable pieces, characterised by a sort of soft luxury and quiet elegance, which in these tough economic times is undoubtedly a good thing.
There’s still something a touch awkward about Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy, it seems to lack a clear identity and sense of self-assurance: there are some great pieces and some strong moments, but overall we’re never really sure where it’s going, or indeed what it’s about overall. This latest collection is the case in point: some beautiful dresses, sharp tailoring, ‘fierce’ leather and fur, interesting draping... but overall, a rather discombobulated effect.
5) Sonia Rykiel
Sonia Rykiel’s collection was as cute, and as French, and as fun as ever. Sometimes, aesthetically speaking, things just didn’t work for us (long-sleeve, past knee length black sparkly dress with bands of ruffles in peach, burnt red, blue, and off white, being a case in point), but overall there was a lot of positive energy and some very wearable pieces.
6) Comme des Garçons
The way Rei Kawakubo takes such an intellectual approach to fashion, but at the same time presides over a large and commercially successful Comme des Garçons’ empire, with its myriad offshoot brands, never ceases to amaze us, even if we often have difficulty making sense of her visions. Indeed, it is with some reluctance that we even approach trying to review Comme des Garçons collections, because we feel as if we’d almost certainly do Kawakubo’s very real design skills a disservice by ‘not getting it.’ Cathy Horyn, of the New York Times, described this collection as [one of the] “truly emotional experiences in fashion,” something you perhaps had to be there to experience. We’d be interested to hear what view you take of Comme des Garçons and how you approach their collections... we can appreciate the technical brilliance with the cuts, tailoring, and draping, but in a sense we find Kawakubo’s approach a little too intellectual, and would prefer something slightly more grounded. We by all means like ‘intelligent’ fashion with thought behind it, but sometimes Comme des Garçons seems very remote to us… but it could well be that we merely lack the necessary knowledge and experience to properly understand it.
7) Emmanuel Ungaro
Emmanuel Ungaro is a brand that’s been off our fashion radar for quite some time (in London, their store closed a few years ago, you don’t see it in the shops, you don’t see adverts, and it is featured in magazines very rarely), but perhaps that will now begin change because Esteban Cortazar (and who had ever heard that name before?) showed a fun, glamorous collection which, while not spectacular, certainly dragged this brand into the 21st century, and made us sit up and pay attention again.
8) Jeremy Scott
We’ve always loved the light hearted joie de vivre that Jeremy Scott brings to fashion, with his fun prints and amusing outfits resembling day-to-day objects (book shelves, juke boxes, ice creams..), but that spirit seemed to be missing from this collection. Or rather it was there, but not sufficiently so to make this collection really ‘pop’. The collection wasn’t very cohesive and it lacked the energy and originality of previous seasons, making it feel rather ‘seen before’ (at Castebajac in the 80s) and slightly dull. If Jean-Charles de Castelbajac can still find ways to be original and fun with ‘pop art fashion’ after more than 30 years of doing it, we’re sure Scott can get back on track again next season to have us amused and delighted by his collections once again.
9) Ann Demeulemeester
Following a brighter spring/summer collection, Demeulemeester returned to a strictly black and white colour pallet for fall/winter 2009. Yet another case of going back to basics, perhaps, since the collection felt ‘very Demeulemeester' (with the pervading darkness, the unexpected cuts, the rather cocooning feel) and not particularly innovative. Still, there was a sort of ‘poetic beauty’ to it, and that dark, brooding elegance which her collections tend to conjure up was there, which should keep her fans happy. A subtle, elegant evening dress, with a sheer top, towards the end of the collection particularly caught our eye. It is more fun to see fresh directions and greater innovation on the runway, but at this difficult moment for luxury we really don’t blame her, and other designers, for wanting to keep things relatively simple.
This season Jun Takahashi eschewed a runway show, instead photographing the models on a makeshift runway in a freezing cold forest near Tokyo. The point (in part, at least) was to demonstrate the practicality of this collection: the models weren’t cold because Takahashi had constructed the clothes with high-tech NASA developed insulating linings. Except for a few sci-fi styled pieces, there’s nothing to tell you there’s anything high-tech going on, which we rather love. Interestingly, it was foregoing a runway show that gave Takahashi the time to develop the incorporation of these new materials: technical product research and development is something few designers can devote much time to, given the restrains of showing every six months (and even more often if men’s, diffusion line, resort/pre-fall, and Haute Couture collections feature). Aesthetically speaking, the collection was sound too, with a typically quirky Takahashi edge.
11) Hussein Chalayan
This season Chalayan dispensed with his customary conceptualism and experimentalism (recession strikes again?), and showed a collection with much more sex appeal than we’ve come to expect from the master of table-dress hybrids and exhumed buried garments. Frankly, it just wasn’t as exciting as when Chalayan provides weird and wonderful yet oddly beautiful creations that amaze and astound us, but that’s not to belittle what he did achieve within a more restrained context. Inspiration came from the streets of London, which lead to fabric printed with asphalt, concrete, fences, and even a manhole cover. Construction was clever (like the sharply-cut geometric trench coat, with a padded collar), and, even if potential customers for them are likely to be few and far apart, the shiny breast plates in bright primary colours (part warrior, part fetish) added interest towards the end of the show. There was something quite techno about the collection, and we rather enjoyed the fact that it brought to mind minimalist Jil Sander and Prada moments from the 90s.
12) Haider Ackermann
Haider Ackermann, previously a name known only among dedicated followers of smaller hip labels, seems to be coming to greater prominence (as Style.com put it, “Has Haider Ackermann finally arrived?”) and, judging by his latest collection, deservedly so. Using the black and neutrals colour pallet, punctuated occasionally by a dull red, (which is shaping up to be a big trend for this winter), Ackermann conjured up a very sleek elegance, with lots of interesting design touches in the cuts, the draping, the semi-deconstructed masculine tailoring... fluid fabrics which added movement often completed the effect, while the dark boots added a tougher edge. A very interesting collection, and definitely a name to listen out for more in the future.
13) Jean Paul Gaultier
The name of the game at Gaultier was fetish: almost every outfit was heavily bestowed with bondage straps or fishnet/mesh detailing, while leather, gloves, masks, and boots were high on the agenda too. Still, Gaultier came up with some perfectly respectable, wearable pieces too, and even if this collection didn’t exactly set our pulses racing (despite the kinky references) it’s near impossible not to love a designer who ended his show with a staged cat-fight between Coco Rocha and another model, which ended with the intervention of a female dominatrix brandishing a whip…
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What do you think of these collections? Agree/disagree with us?
Check back later in the week for Part 3, which will include YSL, Chanel and Alexander McQueen, and Part 4, which will include Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, and Chloé.