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Paris fashion Week: Trend Report SS12

From the tough-love leather at Hermès, Loewe and Céline to the ultra-feminine approach at Chanel, Christian Dior and Véronique Leroy, spring/summer 2012 is all about showing off, dressing up and having fun, says Isabel Dexter

Feature

by Isabel Dexter
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Double trouble
If this Paris Fashion Week had an astrological star sign then it would definitely be a Gemini. It was clear that two competing trends have emerged, which both take the term ‘ladylike’ to the extreme and were seen to maximum effect at the Christian Dior show. On one hand we have the dressed-up brigade with smart separates that wouldn’t look out of place in even the most conservative office environment. On the other there was a flurry of billowy gowns made of sheer chiffon and silk organza (also seen at Nina Ricci) that epitomised the femme fatale of the Hitchcock era.

Pretty perfect
Backstage at Barbara Bui the models, arriving straight from the Balmain show, were dusted down and polished up into prettier-than-thou perfection, which contrasted neatly with this spring’s va-va-voom leather trend. It was like a scene from a before-and-after reality TV show, except this time the final look was much prettier and more natural than we’ve seen in recent seasons. Playful and poised, the girls winked at the photographers, re-applied their lipstick and played around with the little leather purses and accessories for which the label is renowned. It was the smoothest of operations during fashion week, as Barbara Bui herself floated around with an aura of calm despite the almost-tropical heat.

Ocean blues
Mermaid shapes and a fascination with the watery underworld captured the imagination of fashion designers from Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel to Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy. At Chanel, artfully placed ruffle and organza trims gave the traditional black and white dresses a feminine element. Meanwhile at Givenchy, it was rock-star glitz with the sort of ensembles Cher might have worn in the film Mermaids. In other words, think flowing iridescent catsuits and slinky, sexy trousers worn with towering heels. Next season’s hot colour, all shades of rich blue from aqua to cobalt, made a splash alongside the new powdery pastels that are anything but pure.

Retro chic
Mid-century couture was having a moment at Paris Fashion Week as a focus on shape and form led designers to raid their archives, re-creating iconic skirt suit shapes from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Taking the classic 50s skirt suit as first realised by couture giants such as Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga, even such unlikely designers as Junya Watanabe embraced the trend. Cue a plethora of peplums, bias cuts, sack dress shapes and swing coats, often in retro prints, such as at Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton.

On the nail
Despite its avant-grade reputation, Paris has usually played it safe when it came to nails, but that’s all changed this season as the accessory du jour is a highly decorated, ornately opulent nail, preferably courtesy of nail guru Marian Newman. Previously known for her work with Alexander McQueen, Newman was ahead of the curve this week with her Middle Eastern nails for Minx at Charlie Le Mindu, which incorporated the crystals used in the finale’s spectacular headdresses.

White hot
Spring/summer 2012 is set to be the season of the LWD (Little White Dress). Stand-out examples opened the show at Stella McCartney and Valentino, while white-on-white jackets at Giambattista Valli and Barbara Bui mixed textures to give a fresh, modern twist to this old-school classic. Simple hair, gorgeous glossy make-up and contrast colour sandals showed off light tans with a hint of sheen. Purity has never looked so appealing.

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