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Balancing Act

Notions of a uniform have peppered so many collections at Paris Fashion Week in a season that’s really been about mixing it up, and wool has been one of the core materials to anchor collections that cater to a multitude of tastes, temperatures and styles. This anything-goes attitude meant that more often than not, you’d have solid wool coats or suiting acting as a way of balancing out embellishment and decoration. Or you had houses undergoing renewal that used wool as their foundation.

At futuristic French house Courrèges [pictured at top], under the new creative directorship of Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, ribbed knitted polo-necks and onesies in Merino wool were inspired by knitted bathing suits of the early 20th century. They’re available to buy straight away as see-now-buy-now took hold this season. At Christian Dior, without a definitive creative director, Serge Ruffieux and Lucie Meier are helming the house by working with the famous Bar jacket silhouette and expanding it into an opening passage of black wool jackets with misplaced martingales and slipped shoulders. They gave stability to a house that’s undergoing change.

At Balenciaga, one of the tidal wave moments of the season, Demna Gvasalia also looked to established house codes, namely a curve in the body created by sculptural cutting. His intention to reshape the house was distilled in the opening look of a brushed wool checked skirt suit with hips firmly thrusted forward. It was a sharp look with sharper intentions as Balenciaga reclaims its spot as a fashion’s directional sounding board.

At Dries Van Noten, wool suiting inspired by the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio was used as the austere foil to the flamboyant pearls and animal prints of Marchesa Luisa Casati in a poetic collection that captured an alternative take on gender bending as 1920s dandy and dandyess attire came together. You also had wool acting as protective cocoons as nubbly capes at Celine with Phoebe Philo’s drawstring hems creating bubble-esque volumes to contrast with the clingy jerseys in a neutral palette.

At Stella McCartney, her specialisation in easy day-to-day uniforms came to the fore as she sent out draped voluminous knits, billowing wool trousers and big pocketed coats that you could cosy up in. McCartney and Philo, both former Chloe colleagues, know a thing or two about finding real comfort in clothing, without sacrificing style. Even Rick Owens, known for a tough aesthetic, went for a softer approach in his opening looks of white wool draped volumes.  

Elsewhere, a military bent which could be seen in a spate of collections was used as a device to ground collections. For instance Haider Ackermann’s textural nomads complete with velvet roped hair, had military green wool shirting and jackets in amongst their rich trousseaus of jewel-toned silks and crushed velvets. Another sort of army could be seen at Sacai, where Chitose Abe once again let loose with garments that were printed with the slogan ‘Love will Save the Day’ in decorative script.  On spliced intarsia knits in shades of plum and on navy jumpers and with straps tightening and loosening silhouettes, this was Chitose’s army riling comrades up with a simple message of love. 

Riccardo Tisci revisited his military leanings at Givenchy but this time his smart black frock coats with gold buttons and red piping were there to calm down his psychedelic take on Egyptiana. Similarly at Valentino chunky knit jumpers and heavy duty wool coats in navy and blush pink were there to act as realistic counterparts to the delicate tulle dresses and tutu skirts that Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri beautifully crafted.  The act of throwing a big wool coat over something sparkly and the contrast within that sartorial combination, seems to sum up the mixed up parts of a helter skelter season. 

Susannah Lau is known for revealing the designers and trends to know from the front row. Since she found Style Bubble in 2006, Lau’s insightful writing has found readers across the world.