Sunday in Paris: Magnificent Alaïa, liberated Paco Rabanne
The Paris menswear season hadn’t quite ended, and the haute couture season has not begun. Nonetheless, the city witnessed two striking women’s ready-to-wear shows by the houses of Paco Rabanne and Alaïa on Sunday evening.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, there was an entire audience of beholders chez Alaïa to witness a truly magnificent show by Pieter Mulier in his second collection for the house.
For his debut in July, Mulier respectfully interpreted many of Alaïa’s key codes. This time, he bravely created a stunning, sexy and sumptuous Fall/Winter collection 2002, that was an avowed hit.
Where his ability to flatter and enhance the figure, rendered so many of the cast into modern day goddesses. Few designers had a better eye for a great model than Azzedine, and that tradition continues with Pieter, who assembled a brilliant cast of young and mature stars.
There was a keen sense of expectancy before the show had even begun, as the likes of Naomi Campbell and Kim Jones took their places in the front row of a show staged under the glass verrière Alaïa’s Rue de Moussy headquarters in the Marais and outside in its courtyard.
Mulier opened with valkyries and amazons in one-shoulder leotards with one-leg mega flared pants; white stretch lace flamenco dresses; and uber-high collared men’s shirts paired with denim flamenco pants.
He enveloped the torso in perfectly judged volume, patent leather cocoon coats in soft pink and crinkly black.
Though the most fabulous was a double-breasted general’s coat in midnight blue, worn by veteran super, Elise Crombez. Too much recent volume in fashion has been freakish, this was just fabulous.
“I think of Azzedine as the father figure of this place. And I also think of my mother. With this collection I wanted to mix our heritage, our stories. Dialogue with the past. The inspirations. The arts. Write the future together. Create and experiment. Follow a quest. Of beauty and fashion. Nothing more,” Mulier explained, in a program letter to guests.
Even when he lifted ideas directly from Azzedine, like the stretch lace cocktails, Peter added his own tough sexy twists, like adding giant leather thigh boots or matelassé leather corsets.
Before a truly stunning quintet of v-line dresses, hand-embroidered in metaphysical sketches that reached all the way to collars that covered the mouth, in a visual play on Covid masks. Nor was he afraid to inject a little humor, like shaggy yeti shearling thigh-boots. All very commercial too, with peg-leg denim jeans that grew into black midriffs; or sensational black nylon femme fatale flight jackets.
All told, an unequivocal success. No wonder we discovered CEO Myriam Serrano and Philippe Fortunato, president of the fashion division of luxury conglomerate Richemont, which owns Alaïa, in such ebullient mood pre-show.
Even with masks on, they looked like they were smiling - like cats in front of huge bowls of milk.
This Paco Rabanne collection was perhaps easier to write about than to wear, but somehow It was still a great stylistic statement.
Paco Rabanne’s designer Julien Dossena is certainly imbued with oodles of talent, and boasts a highly fertile imagination. He combines eras and materials with great skill and audacity to make dramatic clothes that scream French high-fashion with every look.
Take two of his opening looks: a brilliant draped, speckled creped jacket buttoned at the top, which zippered open below the waist to reveal a frou-frou skirt; or an audacious school-marm’, anthracite top with lace collar, which morphed into a figure-hugging jumpsuit with a middle gray panel.
Followed by perfectly proportioned silk jackets and fracks paired with plissé miniskirts; wool bouclé coat dresses; and ruffled tops with billowing bloomers. Everything cut way up the thigh, and then some.
Presented to an audience of some 160 guests, with social distancing carefully enforced, the show was artfully staged. Turning a soaring ceiling wing of the modernist Palais de Tokyo into long narrow, mauve tunnel with an illuminated ceiling. Though as the lighting barely changed when the models appeared one witnessed most of the show in a murky scarlet or violet half-light. Oddly inefficient.
On each place sat one of nine new scents by the house: a series named 'PacCollection', each ending with Me, with names like Major, Blossom and Dandy.
“PacCollection fragrances translate a sense of liberated individualism,” commented Dossena in his brief program note. Which could have summed these clothes: liberated to the maximum.
Dossena took his bow to loud applause. One could not fault his audacity and pluck. But he is certainly not a master merchandiser. One needs the body of a lithe, young model to make these clothes work, but given their price range the target market is two decades older.
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