It’s fashion week in Paris — time for TV audiences and online readers around the world to stare at their screens and shout out that most popular of fashion comments: “Who on earth would wear that?”
The answer is, of course, nobody. Proper catwalk fashion isn’t meant to be worn. It’s meant to be photographed, looked at, talked about, in the hope all that buzz will help the fashion label sell products that are actually profitable, such as perfumes and sunglasses.
To see those unapologetically opulent and unwearable clothes at their most outrageous, head to the haute couture shows in Paris — the fashion equivalent of the football world cup.
As recently as January, when the rest of the world was anxiously checking how to grow potatos in case of a prolonged recession, Paris fashion was still happily partying on. There were sweeping ballgowns, dresses like Chinese pagodas, headdresses made of paper.
“High fashion is like watching a beautiful film, it belongs to a different world,” Giorgio Armani said at the time.
Sadly, couturiers have now discovered that this isn’t strictly true. High fashion does not belong to a different world at all. In fact, it belongs to the same world as cash-flow problems, unpaid suppliers, cash-strapped clients and angry creditors.
And even though I still saw dozens of well-dressed private clients at this season’s shows, many of whom have supported their preferred label for years or even decades, the reality is that many designers are facing the kinds of problems that forced Christian Lacroix to be placed under creditor protection in June.
What this means for the shows is that all of a sudden, the collections have become quite wearable.
Yes, you might decide to accessorise the white jacket from the new Dior collection with a pair of trousers rather than a garter belt, and wear a top rather than just a bra with the skirt.
But all in all, there’s been nothing that would make you choke on your dinner.
And designers, those creative souls who used to declare that they would never, ever let market trends sully their artistic vision, are suddenly talking about commercial viability, sales, core markets.
It’s a more realistic take on the world, I guess. Though it makes me miss the days when you would open the newspaper, see a picture of a model wearing a pair of antlers, and mutter: “I mean, really…who on earth would wear that?”
- Reporting by Sophie Hardach. Photos by Reuters