On the Runway

Paris Fashion Week: Day 1 With Dries van Noten and Gareth Pugh

Rue de Mail Spring/Summer ’11; Photo by Anthea Simms

Rue de Mail Spring/Summer ’11; Photo by Anthea Simms


Last year, British designer Gareth Pugh’s show blew me away. The feathered headdresses worn by his towering models draped in putty-hued layers were astounding and original. This season, he chose to show a film, starring model Kristen McNenamy, instead. He’s not the first to put a runway show on the backburner – everyone from Halston to Hussein Chalayan to Viktor & Rolf has done it in recent seasons – but I’m not convinced that it’s a good idea. On the plus side, the film goes global immediately and likely costs less. An army of models and backstage talent adds up fast in Paris. But on the downside, few things show the theatricality, fabric and detail better than a runway show – and those images also go around the world instantly. How garments look on different models, how the fabric drapes or clings, detail in makeup, and the ambiance of the setting express the designer’s vision in another way. I don’t find the clothes in most of those films memorable – it’s more about the music, movement or director’s artistry. The only way to see the collection again is in video – not print or any kind of still image. Would I like to see both? Definitely! But my guess is that film will be the growth of the future – but hopefully with a more defined focus.

Next, I went to Rue du Mail, a short walk from my hotel. The models were rehearsing when I arrived. I didn’t plan on staying until I realized that all of my favourite girls were here including Karlie Kloss, Alanna Zimmer and Shu Pei. The show itself focused on tulle layers and ropey embellishments over light dresses. The pops of neon looked freshest.

Day one done! Off to bed. 

– – – – –

Cool grey skies greet me as I step off the plane at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Dragging two big suitcases behind me – I tried to pack better, I really did – I’m here for the next 10 days to see what designers are dishing up for Spring 2011.

Stacks of invites are scattered across my bed. They’ll arrive throughout the week but so far, two have made my skin tingle – Dries van Noten (this afternoon) and Balenciaga (tomorrow morning).  

Look under the bridge by the Gare d’Austerlitz to find Dries van Noten. Can’t find it? Just follow the parade of editors and fancy boys in their long sweeping skirts and heels (that would be the boys).

Dries van Noten sent out a subdued and casual but gorgeous collection – unlike his normal explosion of print and embellishment. He paired tux jackets – some fitted with satin lapels, and others oversized in Margiela proportions – over wide leg denim trousers. Colours were powdery soft overall with kimono florals in deeper tones. He deftly mixed white cotton shirt dresses with printed tunics and sparkly skinny trousers. A stand-out? The chunky block heel suede shoes, some with patterned heels. Capped off with natural makeup and slicked-back hair, it was a sexy sleek look.