When models-of-the-moment Joan Smalls and Karlie Kloss took to Stella McCartney’s catwalk at Palais Garnier for the spring/summer 2013 fashion shows, a debonair new mood was set. Smalls looked powerful, fresh and modern in a boldly oversized white blouson over a see-through sheer dress.
Kloss, despite her gamine looks, appeared like a particularly well-tailored Catwoman in a black and white camouflage jumpsuit which, around the neck, resembled a neatly buttoned-up man’s shirt.
McCartney called this ‘a conversation between the male and the female’ and after the show talked about ‘a playfulness that’s quite edgy and grounded’. This conversation, it seems, is taking place throughout the city’s most fashionable areas as Paris gets in gear to celebrate the boy-girl aesthetic.
Phoebe Philo didn’t waste any time outside the comfort zone either. Her collection for Céline featured slouchy oversized men’s trousers and furry Birkenstock-inspired slippers while unfinished seams dominated this soft-focus collection. This was hardly the image one would expect from Céline, which is famous for its tailored pieces, and it brought to mind the quirky style of the actress Katharine Hepburn, who defined androgynous dressing in the 1930s and 40s.
Following a similar route was Dries van Noten. ‘What is menswear and womenswear, what is daywear, what nightwear? I like to experiment with that and see how far you can push it,’ said the Belgian couturier. Fluid trousers showed skin through panels, playing a sensual game of cover and transparency. Models paraded in simple checked shirts, which could have been borrowed from boyfriends’ wardrobes, mixed with intricately embroidered skirts.
Even Miu Miu’s traditionally über-styled aesthetic assumed a sportier look, as Miuccia Prada sent her models into the spot-lights of the runway dressed in long denim coats. She applied this workwear fabric to elegant, 1930s-style blousy tops and flowing skirts. The overall effect gave an almost cowboy twist to eveningwear.
Hedi Slimane, who has devised a new design strategy for Yves Saint Laurent, injected a sense of 21st-century underground cool into the label, which is now known as Saint Laurent. This is the label that created androgynous French dressing, when in 1966 the house revealed its Le Smoking, a sensual evening tuxedo for women. The look was undeniably French and Helmut Newton’s sexually charged photographs of slick-haired women wearing impeccable tailoring in rain-washed Parisian streets helped to define a new era in fashion.
So the proportions that Slimane displayed on Saint Laurent’s runway were something of a homecoming for the label. The Paris-born designer who lives in California didn’t bother with French chic, but plunged right into the arms of a folksy bohemian enchantress. Ultra-slim models sported black skin-tight pants matched with short jackets which reflected Slimane’s signature men’s suits. Embellished solely by sugar-soft bows and witch-like, wide-brimmed floppy hats, these were night and day uniforms for the kind of rock ‘n’ roll vixen you would spot hanging out at a party in Los Angeles.
Suited to perfection
A contrasting look has been devised by Vanessa Bruno whose easy, relaxed Parisian style is a reliable source of inspiration for women of all ages. For spring and summer, she has combined the strict rules of London’s Savile Row with a feminine lightness of hand: a well-cut suit is gently offset by a suave palette of pastel colours and petal-fine fabrics.
Naturally, the lifestyles of Slimane’s rock vixen and McCartney’s athletic multitasker couldn’t be more different, but both will interpret men’s wardrobes in a feminine, nuanced way this season. This is a thoroughly empowering notion as the founder of this look, Yves Saint Laurent, would no doubt attest.