Images by Samantha Casolari
I always love the invites for the Paris shows. They’re somehow more refined, delicate and, well, Parisian than those of the other cities. New York’s are slick and chic. London’s are witty and wild (remember Giles Deacon’s court summons?). Milan’s are bold in a way that only Italians could make them. But Paris’s invites are sophisticated. They’re elegant and haughty in an understated way, like that French woman who sits at Café Flore in her Lanvin trench, casually dragging on a cigarette, peering over her sunglasses and sipping an espresso. So when Damir Doma’s soft grey and whitewashed invitation arrived, I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
Doma’s show, held at the top of a deadly staircase at le Grand Palais, had the same kind of rustic beauty as his invite. Once guests settled into the raw stone space, many turning up in leather jackets and skinny jeans (it is Emmanuelle Alt’s Paris now, after all), a harp could be heard over the speakers. One by one, Doma, who has become known for his dramatically draped, raw fabrics and severe yet feminine aesthetic, sent a series of decidedly sporty looks down the runway. There were white sweatshirts, spandex shorts and wide-legged martial arts pants. Zippers were used to bring strict lines and architectural shapes to black tech-fabric jackets while long, geometric drop-panels on leggings and skirts brought an aerobic crusader vibe to the collection. Then there were, of course, several pieces that were typical of Doma’s austere fluidity, like a long cashmere coat that was drawn in at the waist by a thin leather belt, a black leather tunic topped with a black Mongolian lamb jacket and a paneled copper silk skirt. But it would seem that the designer had a bit more fun than usual with this collection; there were several uncharacteristic appearances of leopard print on pony fur skirts and dresses, many of which were paired with fantastic tribal copper cuffs and textural rust sweaters. Additionally, the grey strips of lamb hair that hung from the waist of a pair of skinny black pants, as well as a distressed nipped-waist short sleeve leather top and a shaggy black cape that swept the runway at the show’s end, demonstrated a mature balance of refined, edgy and whimsical.
After lunch at Café Ruc—where after paying seven euros for a Cocacola Light, I have vowed to never return—and a sunny stroll through 1er arrondissement, it was time to head to Dries Van Noten. Judging by Mr. Van Noten’s summons….
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….a clean cream square printed with royal blue velvet text, I knew it was going to be a good one. The designer always holds his show in Paris’s Hôtel de Ville a.k.a. the capital’s grand City Hall, and what place could be more appropriate to host the king of fabric, textures and prints’ runway spectacle?
As editors settled into their seats in the dimly lit, chandelier-garnished space, a remixed version of David Bowie’s Heroes began. The room was stiff with anticipation as the first look, a swirling black-and-white jacket paired with a contrasting black-and-white skirt in an updated herringbone, took to the runway. Inspired by two entirely different forms of excess, Bowie, himself, and the Ballets Russes, the designer presented a parade of lush velvets, wools, tweeds, furs and even shimmering sequins. With easy yet classic silhouettes, the collection—with its fusion of organic, opulent and retro prints, and vivacious fire-red, blue, gold, lemon and neutral palette—was classic Van Noten. And while the clothes, like a violet, aqua and turquoise textured wool trench, gold jacquard suit and silk skirts and tops printed with spindly, blossoming branches, evoked an emotional response that would only be matched by Issey Miyake later in the week, it was the shoe and sock combos that really got me going.
First, there were saucy black leather booties capped with orange snakeskin toes and matching Lucite heels. Paired with black-and-white psychedelic swirly socks (Bowie’s influence, no doubt), they exuded luxurious, sexy ’70s cool. Tricolor snakeskin and leather sandals also had a strong vintage vibe. On the other side of the spectrum and clearly inspired by the grandiose luxury of the Ballets Russes, there were blue velvet booties teetering on either Lucite or rich wooden heels. By the time Mr. Van Noten stepped out to take his humble bow, it was clear that he had lived up to the promise of his exquisite invitation.