Life lessons from Paris Fashion Week 2014

Thought fashion was frivolous? Think again. There’s plenty of life lessons it can teach you. Here are just a few to learn from the spring summer 2014 collections in Paris.

There’s nothing wrong with an art major 

Call it a way to reinstate fashion’s intellectual relevance (a reaction to mindless blogging perhaps?), or the Mary Katrantzou effect, but this season was a very artistic one. At Chanel, the reference was literal complete with Karl’s own DIY offerings and painterly eyes. At Celine, Phoebe Philo put her effortless throw-on-a-coat-and-carry-a-clutch aesthetic on the back burner for something more lively. Bold graffiti prints, paint-brush strokes and late-eighties squiggle prints were very much the graphic stars of the show (followed by the shoes), prompting the Celine girl to put down the plaid storage bag and pick up a paintbrush. Though less graphic, Christian Dior also had an artistic feel to it as well by way of Raf Simons’ illustrative aesthetic. This season though he seemed to amp it up a notch by experimenting with a spliced collage effect that combined floral prints with various slogans. Tim Blanks compared it to falling down a rabbit hole, but from an arts perspective it was a work of mixed media that used a silk skirt as a canvas.

A modern woman is a worldly woman

If designers this season weren’t brushing up on their art history, they were refining their cultural (and subsequent appropriation) knowledge. At Alexander McQueen this translated into a wonderful mix of tribal references and futurism, showing that Sarah Burton it’s just a one-trick-romantic-pony. In contrast, Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli  – ever the romantics – presented a post-modern collection of opulent cultural references from Russian folklore to Greek mythology. Even Riccardo Tisci set about cultural blending for Givenchy, in this case meditating between African draping and Japanese construction.

When frustrated, stomp it out

Or step it out as was the case at the dynamic Rick Owens show. This show was definitely one of the highlights and biggest talking points this fashion month. Not only because of the presentation and spectacle but that the collection was worn by non-model bodies, a notable fete considering he so easily could have placed the stomp dancers alongside a traditional catwalk show. But no, he chose to make it the statement and the presentation, a testament to both Rick’s forward thinking and wearable designs.

Always know when to bow out  

Though he didn’t confirm it until after the show, you could tell by looking at the elaborate ‘greatest hits’ set (from carousel through to escalator) something big and retrospective was about to go down. Plus there was the matt-black colour – a funeral for a great career perhaps? Hardly. In true Marc style the collection looked very much to the future and a new direction, pausing only slightly to reference the designer’s dynamite collaboration with Stephen Sprouse (2000s RIP). Considering his backlog of collections, each pointing in a new direction from the checkerboard to train travel and Takashi Murakami, he showed great restraint – which is quite surprising considering how hell-bent he usually heads for themes. Maybe he’d just gone in so many different directions, it was time to return home. Either way, this show was an unexpectedly quiet and humble way to go out.

There was little fanfare of celebrities (you know how he loves a celeb), nor Kate Moss smoking. Instead it was a strong collection, one where Marc let his experience with the luxury house shine amongst a a sea of black and splash of denim – once again, this from the guy that once paid Madonna to pose in a mass of green Oscar the Grouch feathers. Despite the surprises it all felt right, grown up even. The timing was right (something I think Karl needs to take note of), plus no one need shed a tear because we know Marc isn’t really going anywhere. There are though new sneakers to fill. And considering LV didn’t even have a RTW collection before Marc started – the pressure is on. Who’s up to the challenge?

When life gives you lemons, wear lamé 

Well at least, that’s a lesson I took from Lanvin. But then again that’s a lesson I always take from Lanvin. That and always wear pretty dresses and life will be happy!


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