Paris Fashion Week ended on Sunday, capping a season which saw designers play it safe to coax customers into stores despite the global financial crisis.
“I don't think it's been as exciting as other seasons,” said Alexandra Shulman, editor-in-chief of British Vogue. “On the whole, most of the designers here have kind of stuck to what they know they can do, and not really tried anything that's going to scare the horses.”
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Major trends included lashings of color and print, sheer fabrics, sequins for day and sky-high hemlines.
“We've seen a lot of very short clothes, which goes against the old idea that when the economy is bad, hemlines go down,” Shulman said.
The skirts at Louis Vuitton suggested the economy will be skyrocketing by next summer.
“There's next to nothing, there's nothing, and then there's less than nothing,” designer Marc Jacobs joked backstage, referring to the miniskirts that were sliced in the back to reveal a hint of bare bottom.
Models paraded to a soundtrack of Edith Piaf songs in outfits that blended a retro peak-shouldered silhouette with exotic embellishment, to stunning effect. Feathers, totems and beads dangled off fierce platform sandals, while waists were nipped in with leather obi belts.
Models with sleek hairdos and crimson lips marched robotically in burlap dresses pocked with holes. Italian designer Miuccia Prada also put fine fabrics through the wringer, ripping tears into a scarlet silk pleated cocktail dress that was layered with a short pleated apron.
References to ancient civilizations ran through the collection, with clashing tops and skirts that featured photo prints of mosaics and classical art.
Perhaps the message was that fashion fades, culture remains.
Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz knows his customer well – he regularly checks sell-through figures to find out what works on the shop floor.
His spring-summer collection combined clean lines with opulent volume in gowns made from vibrant silks that looked like they had just been thrown on. Fabric flounced over one shoulder or draped above the hip in deep swirls.
Standouts included a blush-pink slim satin trench worn with a tone-on-tone statement necklace.
“Women are not going to buy less, they're going to buy different. I think that they're going to buy emotional pieces that they cannot resist,” he told reporters. “They may skip dinner or lunch, but they will get the dress.”