Paris Fashion Week: Everyone ready for arm warmers, yes?
Seven style lessons to transform your winter wardrobe
Three women heading three big houses (Dior, Alexander McQueen and Givenchy) and some of the most grownup clothes we’ve seen in years … a coincidence? I think not. Make that four women, including Virginie Viard, now grand fromage at Chanel, although it’s too early to leap to any conclusions about the direction she’ll take there.
Not that this is entirely a gendered matter, obviously. The shift towards sophisticated, considered dressing might also partly be a subconscious reaction to the chaotic politics of so many countries – and a wholly conscious recognition that “luxury” athleisure has had its day.
It’s interesting to see the womanly spirit-guide that has been so present in Milan, New York and London ascend the catwalks in Paris, too. For while you’d assume Paris would be the first city to celebrate a mature woman; the place has for years clung faithfully to a semi-androgynous, ageless rock chick look. The spindly legged silhouette that’s one part Isabel Marant blazer, drainpipes and stilettos, two parts phenomenal self-discipline, has become as classic a formula as the three course set menu.
However, even the whim-resistant French woman may find it hard not to give in to some of the ideas on the catwalks these past 10 days. That’s because they don’t look like whims, but serious long-term players. While it was an uneven display overall, when the shows were good, they were outstanding.
Givenchy, Dior and Alexander McQueen (headed by those thoughtful female creative directors) put on exemplary displays of the kind of clothing French women approve of: classic, tailored, flattering, clearly built to last. Even Hedi Slimane, now at Celine, and last of the rock tsars, seems to have reconciled himself to the idea that his average customer is unlikely to be a 16-year-old Chrissie Hynde and more plausibly (given the stratospheric prices) a woman some way north of 35, looking for a wardrobe of clothes that can take her through something akin to real life. Hard edged? It wouldn’t be Paris if it weren’t. Shoulders were 42cm from tip to tip at Alexander McQueen – and the width of a country lane at Balenciaga. Take your power pick.
Then add polish. “I love the way the models are covered from neck to toe,” Clare Waight Keller said backstage after her Givenchy show. “It’s powerful to know that you can look seductive when you’re modestly dressed. And it looks so refined.”
The new mood is not for flighty socialites and bohos. But then, flighty socialites nearly all have jobs now, or startups, and bohemians reserve their beads and layers for holidays. The floaty printed tea dresses of the past few years have flitted into the fashion sunset along with most sportswear, replaced by elegant, effortless silk dresses, often in uplifting shots of plain colour. We’ll be wearing a version of them by next summer: these days, no one waits a whole season to act on what they’ve just seen splashed across every news platform known to humankind.
Other ideas worth cherry picking now? Slouchy boots are in and their ubiquity puts an appealing new spin on wearing skirts. If you’re still getting your head around trouser suits, which are everywhere, soften them with a toning silk blouse. Capes? Start experimenting. Add a scarf neck tie or a deluxe jumper – nothing corporate here. Just a wardrobe of clothes you’ll be wearing for a long time to come.
You can do trends and look grownup
It’s all in the styling. A key colour of the week has been zesty orange, seen everywhere from Jacquemus to Kenzo to Nina Ricci. Worn head-to-toe (sometimes with a feathered cap on top) it admittedly could strike you as challenging to pull off in real life. But then we see it at Hermes, incarnated as an expensive silk crepe dress pared down with taupe boots, or as the flash of ginger lining on a biscuit double-faced wool coat – and perhaps it could be quite delicious after all? To make a tricky trend look sophisticated takes a three-part formula: extremely high-quality fabrics, a covered up silhouette, and the addition of a classic accessory to offset the “nowness”. The coat-drobe is a thing, and we all need one
This season there is no one standout coat trend – you won’t get away with simply updating your trench (although Lacoste’s new creative director Louise Trotter has created an excellent one) and being done with it. Instead, the catwalks have presented a cornucopia of cover-up delights which means that we’re all going to need to cultivate our very own coat-drobe.
Why choose when, actually, it makes total sense to liven up one’s winter look by focusing on the piece which the rest of the world is probably going to see most? I had, rather foolishly, thought that all my coat dreams had been answered within one look of Saint Laurent’s show, where the first exit was an oversized tweed naval coat with the most fabulous epaulettes. Scale down the mega-shoulders, as will undoubtedly happen when it hits stores, pair it with something which actually covers the decolletage and it would be perfection.
Alas, the coat-drobe tally continued to soar: Dries van Noten delivered gorgeous botanical print throw-ons, ideal for evening and lighter climes. The blanket/cape hybrid is also a thing, whether you take Akris’s lightweight graphic check option, Chloe’s funnel-necked camel or Miu Miu's sleek navy floor-sweeper. For a neater addition, Givenchy delivered super-sleek double or single breasted knee-length styles in everything from pristine black to snake. That coat-drobe is groaning already. We’ve finally found something to do with our silk scarves
Scarf-neck silk blouses and enormous pussy-bows have been omnipresent this fashion month, but leave it to the French to have the last say on foulard chic. At Celine, Hedi Slimane tapped into the elegant heritage look of house founder Céline Vipiana with 1970s checked skirts and glossy over-the-knee boots. His styling nuance was to finish many of the 59 looks with a ladylike flourish of patterned silk around the neck. Tie your scarf into a voluminous flounce and skew it to one side for the best results. The takeout combo for now: slouch boots and midi hems
There was a ubiquitous bottom-half style formula pervading silhouettes across the catwalks and it boils down to slouchy knee boots plus a midi-length something. It’s a look that plays to the mood for modesty while still creating a flattering, elegant feel. Celine rammed the message home through a deluge of culottes which were just long enough to cover the top of knee boots, Isabel Marant slicked up her signature boho dresses with shiny black cone-heels and Bruno Sialelli offered up low-heel boots with a silky scarf calf skirt in his debut collection for Lanvin. The skirt was an essential element here, too. Your next season midi may come asymmetric and pleated, as at Altuzarra, as a swooshy modern kilt (see Dior) or a flippy wool staple (Holland & Holland). But what’s fabulous about this look is that you can probably create it from your own wardrobe now. Why you need a curated belt library
As a certain Gucci logo belt has played a dominant role in most wardrobes for several seasons now, it has meant that all other types of belts have been grossly overlooked. The Paris shows served as a reminder that you can get belts in any colour and material: enormously wide 1980s belts with crystal buckles to wear to parties (Alessandra Rich); belts with equestrian clasps to offer a heritage vibe (Celine); belts with squared-off khaki wool buckles that will punctuate a utility jacket (Sacai); and hardware-free, futuristic and metal-buckled (Louis Vuitton) pure gloss-leather belts to wear with minimal one-tone dresses (Off-White).
Most important to note is their styling potential; a simple strip has the transformative powers to nip in the waist of a jacket, draw together any random combination of layers, or offer a pop of a contrasting colour where one may be desperately needed. Assess your belt stocks at home and begin applying to every outfit immediately. If you buy one thing, make it the effortless silky dress
We live in the era of The Dress. Its dominance is absolute, and many women now depend entirely on a collection of them to get through every style scenario. The designers of Paris have listened and collectively created a gorgeous update for the category – the effortless silky dress. The ESD came in various guises spanning maximal and minimal persuasions.
Valentino’s candy-floss pink floral midaxi was saved from being too saccharine thanks to black etchings and a pin-sharp collar while Paco Rabanne’s starburst number had something of the Hedy Lamarr about it. Chloe and Stella McCartney had no fewer than 13 ESDs each to choose from but perhaps the purest iteration was Loewe’s liquid silk, bias-cut navy design which had a great keyhole detail at the back – the ESD dream. Who knew? Arm warmers can look chic
With every fashion week comes an unexpected new accessory proposition, which is hardly surprising when you consider what a cash cow these pieces are to luxury brands.
Chloe is going full pelt with this philosophy right now - see its logo socks. The latest addition to its oeuvre is the arm warmer and I’m all for it – it’s a solution to all those “it’s freezing but I want to wear my silky blouse” moments, adding a pleasing sense of intrepidity to those items. Of course, you may choose to wear yours with a fleece and gumboots for a bracing hike ... I don’t think Chloe’s creative director, Natacha Ramsay-Levi, would be entirely against it. – ©The Daily Telegraph