fashion week diary

Yaeger: The Celine-ification of Paris Is in Full Swing

Remember when the recession first hit, and everyone in the fashion industry was going around saying that people would only part with their precious money for a really special, unbelievably irresistible, one-of-a-kind item? Wrong. It turns out those unicorn boots embroidered with angel’s hair are not what customers really want, at least not according to the Paris runway this season. Instead, it seems that what women are supposed to get really excited about are neat little overcoats, double-faced wools, double-breasted jackets with little belts, trim trousers, and a slew of other proper items straight out of Jenny Cavalieri’s closet.

Phoebe Philo at Celine is generally credited with first promulgating these notions, and as the week goes on, the Celine-ification is in full swing: At Stella McCartney, which is held in the Paris Opera House under a gilded mosaic ceiling so exquisite that nothing in a century of fashion could possibly rival it, begins with a recording of Tiger Woods (well, we think it’s Tiger, though it might be an actor) urging a paramour to please, please remove her number form his phone, or some such. It is not apparent why this is being played (though it is mordantly amusing) since it is not followed by clothes particularly suited for a golf course or a dirty tryst. Instead, the first looks are schoolgirl coats with little V-shaped cutouts in the front, followed by parkas with hoods, and tiny short dresses covered by sheer panels, which, come to think of it, Tiger might actually enjoy very much.

No rational, sane person would tolerate the freezing-cold temperatures at the venue where the Givenchy show is held — but that lets out the fashion flock, including me, who sit for 45 minutes with blue lips waiting for the event to begin. When it does, and you see lovely dresses artfully constructed to look like they’ve been left open in the back and filled in with lace, and Nordic sweaters with high, strapped necks, as if the wearer was suffering from whiplash and had commissioned a super-stylish bandage, you want to applaud — not only because the clothes are appealing, but because the gesture might warm up your hands.

I am hoping that Vanessa Bruno will distribute miniature versions of her famous sequined tote as show favors, but in this gift-bag-deprived season, she apparently isn’t feeling any more generous than most other designers, with the exception of the winsome Stella, who sends a flashlight owl with her invitation. (“Wait till Chanel tomorrow!” an editor tells us. “Free makeup!” We shall see.) Bruno does present a number of ideas, at least some of which provide a welcome antidote to the prevailing “squeaky-clean college girl circa 1963” aesthetic: Give me Bruno’s deliberately holey sequined chiffon frock covered by a tatty sweater anytime.

The French flag glimpsed fluttering through the glass dome of the Grand Palais would make even the stoniest heart flutter just a bit — you’re in Paris, you’re at the Yves St. Laurent show, what do you really have to complain about? If you’re going to spend a lot of money on your wardrobe, you might as well get beautiful black clothes like these. The collection hit a lot of YSL’s traditional marks: peasant blouses, high-waisted skirts, etc. And you needn’t worry about getting your expensive new ensemble dirty: Many of the outfits are topped with clear plastic capes, like super-chic versions of plastic furniture covers, as if Jackie O. had metamorphosed overnight, Kafka-like, into a sofa.

See the fall 2010 Celine collection.
See the fall 2010 Givenchy collection.
See the fall 2010 Stella McCartney collection.
See the fall 2010 Yves St. Laurent collection.

Yaeger: The Celine-ification of Paris Is in Full Swing