The Paris couture shows sometimes come off like a wild rampage of creativity slowed only by the odd paralytic wait as seamstresses backstage close that final seam. And then everyone returns to their black hired cars and the beetling traffic on the Rue de Rivoli until the next flash of brilliance. It has been ages since people killed off the hours between shows with a lazy, gracious lunch, a couture tradition. I smiled when a fellow journalist commended the variety of international takeout his co-workers had tasted. Personally, I like the salads at Eric Kayser, a bakery chain that opened a branch near my hotel a couple of years ago.
I did manage to go to the Ritz bar this time. It was still the same old Ritz, with the piano player and the stranded-looking tourists clasping their cocktails in a booth as a bit of air came in from the patio. I stayed for one drink.
Since couture is a cradle for extravagant clothes made individually for rich women, it’s not widely looked upon as a source of trends. A pencil skirt made of four layers of couture net (in four different gauges and colors) overwhelms any thought a copycat might have of duplicating the classic shape. It’s enough that couture refreshes your picture of fashion, and maybe, inspires you.
One pronounced change this season was the number of designers showing pants. Raf Simons kicked things off with Dior’s black cigarette pants worn with jackets or embroidered minidresses (the idea was to suggest a ball gown chopped down to look more youthful and wearable). Chanel had loads of wide-leg trousers, worn with skimmy blouses. The king of pants, Giorgio Armani, offered loosefitting velvet styles. Valentino’s opening numbers included a streamlined navy jumpsuit with slightly rounded shoulders. Jean Paul Gaultier had his share of pants, too.
Veils were ubiquitous; I lost count. But did you notice how many designers added some kind of dulled metallic belt to a coat or suit?
Patterns tended to be bold: the smack of flowers at Giambattista Valli, the patchwork at Chanel, the electric swirls at Versace, the mosaic leather embroidery at Givenchy.
But perhaps a more inspiring idea was the use of modern grids. Mr. Simons, responsible for the layered net pencil skirt, created grids in embroidery; new gray tweeds had a slight mesh pattern. Karl Lagerfeld’s many small checks and stripes were gridlocked, too.