PARIS — The fashion message for spring rang out clearly on the first day of ready-to-wear shows in The Tuileries. Close-to-the-body clothes are here for at least another season. And no matter how good (or bad) a body you have, there'll be something from these designers to make it look better.
The two Japanese superstars, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, were the first biggies to unveil their collections. Both drew immense crowds of buyers and design students eager to see what the inventors of the layered look would come up with next. They were not disappointed.
Kawakubo's spring things are so soft, pretty and delicate that some in the audience used words like lyrical and poetic to describe them. Colors were black, white or unusual, misty pastels in shades of peach, pearl gray and green. Shapes are basically long and lean, stopping just a few inches above the ankle. Everything was shown with flat shoes.
Within those general perimeters, Kawakubo presented an astounding array of soft shapings, as if to emphasize the fact that there are no longer any particular fashion rules in any given season.
One sleeveless sheath dress, for example, was nothing more than three cotton-knit tiers of unequal size layered over one another, each tier in a different pastel color. It was dramatically slim and simple. In contrast, other Kawakubo outfits were more than minimal. Some featured short jackets with pleated panels dangling from one side, like paper airplanes that had fallen. Other simple black or white jersey dresses were frosted, like pastry, with short, puffy, organdy boleros.
Long, Skinny Skirts
There were plenty of long, skinny skirts, some full skirts under belted shirts and a new version of the summer jumper. This one has a high neckline and drops in a straight line to well below the calf. It is held up by flat, narrow straps that cross at an angle from front to back. The designer also showed fuller skirts on long-waisted silky dresses and some wide-legged pants cropped short and shown below loose shirts. Even these wider, away-from-the-body styles are of such frothy, delicately colored fabric that they emphasize the figure beneath.
Yohji Yamamoto revealed the body in quite a different way. He wrapped it, draped it and swathed it with floating, scarf-like pieces of fabric. Sometimes the fabric was wrapped over a dress, covering the full length of the torso. At other times it was wrapped over a blouse and under a jacket. These scarfs ended with long drifts of cloth that hung down on one side, from the waistline to the ankle.
A romantic grouping featured absolutely slim and simple black dresses topped off with capes that billowed in back when the models walked.
Yamamoto's clothes were more somber and probably more difficult to understand than Kawakubo's. But it's a sure bet that Yamamoto gave the students in his audience a lot of food for thought. And within he next few months, we'll probably see versions of his body-wrap idea on lots of youngsters along Melrose Avenue who will be wearing their outfits wrapped in scarfs.
Thierry Mugler, another superstar, showed on the same day. A designer of wit and artistry, he put every bit of both assets into every outfit he sent down the runway. What he has done for spring is spectacularly glamorous and sexy.
Mugler's primary colors are white, beige, putty, and ecru with some sherbet colors to spice the overall creaminess. Unlike Kawakubo and Yamamoto, whose clothes follow the natural body form, Mugler uses the body as a substructure, building upon it until his fantasy is fully shaped.
Suit skirts are short and slim, some with inserts of fabric that dip below the hemline to swing and sway sensuously when the models walk. Suit jackets have softly rounded, padded shoulders. They narrow down from there to gently indented waistlines and then arc out over the hips. Some jackets have peplums. Instead of traditional lapels, a few of Mugler's jackets have wide dollops of fabric that fall in soft drapes from neckline to waist.
The overall illusion is languid and curvy, rather than aggressive. It's a theme carried out in pantsuits, jump suits, side-draped summer dresses--all made of silk, cotton, gabardine, crepe or linen.
Mugler's highly theatrical show ended with a Salome-like character wearing a sarong of coffee-colored chiffon over gold lame, and nothing but gold breast plates on top. In the midst of such drama it would be easy to believe that Mugler's clothes looked good simply because of exceptional lighting, music and the undulations of his models. But that is not the case. If there had been no theatrics at all and the models had simply paraded his clothes without benefit of special effects, they would have looked every bit as sensational.