PARIS — We saw a giant spinning globe at Chanel, heard live music by Antony and the Johnsons at Givenchy and snapped front-row pics everywhere of celebrities, including Jessica Chastain, Naomi Watts, Frank Ocean, Zoe Saldana, January Jones, Kourtney Kardashian, Kanye West and Cher.
Paris Fashion Week, which ended last Wednesday, was entertaining, whether designers presenting their ready-to-wear collections for fall-winter 2013 were dazzling with smoke effects or with an all-out assault of museum-worthy workmanship to remind us of what their ateliers can do, even if, in the end, nobody really dresses like that.
In the age of instant photos and tweets, this is what fashion has come to. Entertainment. Emotion. Seduction. No longer exclusive, it's a shared experience, whether you have a front-row seat at the show or you're on your computer or iPhone at home.
When it comes to designers, there's been change too. It's generational, with new names at the helm of nearly every major house trying to reinvent this international art form for the fast fashion crowd.
It's interesting to watch the different approaches. At Dior, Raf Simons is staying true to the couture tradition of the house but shaking things up with radical shapes, art world references and a major red carpet strategy. At Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane is emphasizing street cool over high design. Was the grunge fest he created for the season a giant middle finger to the fashion system, which expects its rarefied world to go on spinning forever as it always has? Perhaps. Or maybe Slimane is just being pragmatic about how much runway clothes really matter to a luxury brand's bottom line. (The answer is not much.)
Then there is American designer Alexander Wang, who showed his debut collection for Balenciaga. He has the best of both worlds: downtown cred and a new, uptown perch. His own namesake New York label, which epitomizes cool with relatively wallet-friendly prices, already gives him a built-in audience for this new venture. He can use the two labels, Alexander Wang and Balenciaga, to create his own high-low business model.
Runway reinvention wasn't the only take-away of the week. The clothes were pretty terrific too. And there were a number of themes that played out again and again. Among them:
The new femininity
The tomboy look was edged out by a new femininity seen in peaches-and-cream flared skirts and funnel-neck tops with jewelry incorporated into the collars at Celine, rose-print chiffon and lace gypsy maxi skirts and biker jackets at Givenchy and divine feather and pearl gowns at Alexander McQueen.
Tailoring loosens up
Building a coat wardrobe
The days of having a single cold-weather coat are over — at least that's what designers want you to think. Coats were the novelty items of the season with biker, bomber, toggle, fur and plaid variations. Scattered with crystals, Louis Vuitton's plaid topper was so pretty, you might even want to wear it to bed, which is probably how artistic director Marc Jacobs envisioned it fitting into his boudoir theme.
Fuzzy wuzzy knits
Chunky crewneck sweaters, some embellished with feathers and fringe, were shown over pleated skirts and pants as an alternative to a jacket or blazer. One of the best was Chanel's cream knit sweater with giant knit "purls" at the neckline.
Black and white all over
The two-tone color trend started with the Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton spring collections, influenced by 1960s Pop and Op art, and it's continuing into fall. Only this time, it's less a nod to mod and more to elegant simplicity. One of the most stunning examples of the look was at Valentino: a simple black, long-sleeve A-line dress with white lace collar and cuffs.
In other circles, super-short and crazy sexy was the reigning look, as seen in Balmain's rock 'n' roll genie-themed collection, where bias-draped miniskirts were as small as a silk turban, and in Anthony Vaccarello's collection, where strips of chain mail snaked around black mini-dresses.
Ear cuffs rock
Forget crystal collars and cuff bracelets. The statement piece on the fall runways was the ear cuff, seen at Jean Paul Gaultier, Chloe and Dries Van Noten.
Fur on belts. Fur on bags. And, yes, even fur on a dress. Leave it to Celine's Phoebe Philo to follow up her fur-lined Birkenstock-like sandals for spring with a tulip-skirted dress made entirely of mink for fall.
Sensible shoes go stylish