Apart from a few exceptions, Paris’s experimental, bombastic tendencies looked to have been reined in, but a closer look revealed innovative use of texture, silhouettes and patterns.
It seems like the huge carousel at last season’s Louis Vuitton show was prophetic of a mood that has recently struck the fashion community. Barely had the applause for Raf Simons’ Jil Sander swansong died down before it was announced that former Dior Homme man Hedi Slimane was hot on the heels of outbound Yves Saint Laurent creative director Stefano Pilati.
Pilati’s legacy at YSL cannot be underestimated – he took a historic loss-making house and reinvigorated it, creating a profitable brand that respects its past but also has its eyes on the future. Just as Jil Sander will find back at her eponymous label in the wake of Simons’ departure, Hedi Slimane also has some big shoes to fill at one of Paris’s most iconic labels, even if the collection Pilati signed out with was a little too close to the YSL comfort zone.
This ‘play it safe’ attitude is not something Paris usually adopts. The home of avant-garde has seen some of the most experimental designers not so much push the envelope as burst through it, and autumn 12 was no different. Gareth Pugh, Mugler, Comme des Garçons and Alexander McQueen all presented collections that challenged the observer but, in general, Paris’s overblown costumes of the past were replaced by dense texture work, sophisticated silhouette manipulation and pattern play. No less dramatic, complex or technical, crucially the textile, shape and print innovations are aspects customers and copycats alike will relate to.
Make no mistake – the full black looks Paris is famous for were still out in force for autumn 12, but the interplay between leathers, peplums, wools, wallpaper patterns, pumped-up sleeves, furs, trouser suits, jacquards and velvets made for a rich and refreshingly new tapestry of interesting yet eminently wearable pieces.
Back at Louis Vuitton, the carousel was swapped for a full-sized steam train – as it pulled into the most stylish of stations it posed the question of whether Marc Jacobs’ set was the Mystic Meg of the fashion world. Perhaps we’ll see more departures and arrivals this autumn.