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Paris Fashion Week autumn 09

Nostalgia for the 1980s and a Second World War look informed collections, in which the focus fell mostly on skirts

Catwalk presentations in Paris were polarised between prim and demure 1940s-inspired shapes aimed at an older, more conservative customer, and a fashion forward 1980s handwriting targeting a younger and more frivolous shopper.

Headline grabbing trends included a pervasive return to skirts, a renewed focus on the waistline, dramatic shoulders, draping, tailoring and an obsession with surface texture. Black provided the backdrop for most designers with very little unifying direction on highlight colours.

Like the preceding fashion weeks in New York, London and Milan, Paris confirmed a desire for brands to identify their individual personalities and core customer. Lanvin then, went back to cleverly constructed and timeless tailoring, Balenciaga played to its luxury strengths and Chanel maintained its feminine aesthetic with an instantly identifiable black and white presentation.

The fabrics may be softer and the silhouettes more considered but brands including Christian Dior and Lanvin had clearly looked to the 1940s for inspiration. Waisted jackets and matching pencil skirts in fabrics traditionally associated with men’s tailoring were brought up to date with draping and swagged details. Coats, an important category in Paris as it was elsewhere, were also driven by this era, with narrow shoulders and sharply tailored shapes which flared gently from the waist.

While Second World War archives were important for some designers, the majority were swept away on a torrent of 1980s nostalgia. The blame can largely be appropriated towards Balmain whose autumn 08 statement shoulders lit the fuse on a barrage of similar styles from brands including Yves Saint Laurent, who added micro peaks to simple white shirts, Louis Vuitton, where shoulders were inflated with cloud-like puffs and Martin Margiela, where squared off shoulders framed models’ faces.

With dresses largely on the wane for autumn 09, it was up to skirts to take on the mantle of most important product category of the season. Structured tulip, bell and bubble shapes were all in evidence, with surface interest created via petal like ruffles, drapes and knotting, or contrast fabric layers. The pencil skirt was the stand out shape however, yet another nod to the strong tailoring trend dominating next season’s high end fashion landscape.

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