Dark romance has been a term branded about so much over the past few seasons that you'll be forgiven for forgetting that it's an aesthetic that Ann Demeulemeester has long mastered. Completely unaffected by the encroachment on her territory, it was business as usual at her S/S13 show.
This season she was inspired by the butterfly and this was apparent on the series of dresses that opened the show that had high hemlines but extremely long flowly sleeves that looked like wings. But don't be fooled. As you would expect from Demeulemeester, her butterflies were far from sickeningly sweet. Instead, they were strong and sensual and the series of tough martial arts-like tuxedos in jewel tones and leather harnesses styled over floaty dresses made it clear that she hasn't gone completely soft.
Damir Doma is one of those young designers showing in Paris that you know will be around in years to come. Since establishing his label back in 2011, he's tapped into the dark but romantic aesthetic that has seen customers flocking to the likes of Ann Demuelemeester for years and this season felt like his eureka moment. While his past collection have shown promise, there's always been something missing but for S/S13 it seemed like he'd reflected on this and really narrowed in on what his customer wants.
The clothes were good, really good. Following on from his exploration with his current penchant for the feminine form, just about everything came with an emphasis on the waist: high waisted silk slouched pants, leather dresses and even bomber jackets. Like many designers, Doma was interested in proportions too, particularly on outerwear, which were, by far, some of the strongest pieces in the collection.
Another strong development this season was the colour palette. His usual muted palette of white and black were there but this season he introduced emerald blue and green tones on silks that had more than a bit of a Haider Ackermann twist about them, which isn't necessarily bad thing considering that the designer has been heralded as one of the best colourists since Yves Saint Laurent.
More than anything, the collection was the epitome of practicality and tapped into this new concern for fuctionality. With that in mind, clutch bags were oversized to make sure that you can fit all of your essentials in and while he decided to carry on with heels, they were sturdy and definitely a departure from the styles we've become accustomed to. The loose fit of the trousers and the oversized proportions too, will definitely go down a treat with his fan base and will no doubt get his some new fans too.
Vanessa Bruno has here eye on the ball. While she showed a series of good, but not groundbreaking, feminine summer dresses like many other designers this season, she offered that and a lot more.
The dresses, which would look as appropriate in the city as they would in a far flung destination, were shown alongside strong, urban tailoring. Cropped jackets and blazers were strong and were exactly what the collection needed, especially in light of the increasingly competition in the women's contemporary market. The cut felt cool, and admittedly quite familiar, and will no doubt have people queuing up to snap them up when they hit stores next year.
The runway was raised at the Lanvin show last week. The cynical side of me wants to believe that Alber Elbaz was make a statement that he's still up there with the best of them in light of the changes at Dior and Saint Laurent. The other side of me, less driven by a good piece of fashion drama, recognises that that was probably not the case. Elbaz has been publicly supportive of the changes at both labels but nonetheless, if the runway construction was coincidental, the message came through in the clothes.
After celebrating his 10th anniversary at the brand last season, Elbaz moved away from nostalgia and instead pushed on forward. This season he seemed inspired by the East, which was apparent particularly on the structured Chinese military-style coats and obi belts on coats. The reference was there but subtle, something that could have been difficult if done by lesser hands. The tailoring was loose, which is something different for Lanvin, but the house's codes were still there. The jewellery continued to come in strong statement metal hardware and a handful of dresses came heavily embellished and one shouldered.
Riccardo Tisci's last few collections at Givenchy haven't been rocked my boat. The embellishment that he showed for SS11 was beautiful, but felt like a step too far away from the signatures that we've all come to expect and love from him and last season, the accessories were definitely stronger the clothes. For SS13, though, Tisci was back on a track.
Like many other collections this season, everything was stripped back and the focus was on the clothes. The muted colour palette helped to show the pieces off as opposed to bright colours and embellishment, which designers have been known to use as a distraction. The lines were clean and modern and the black looks in particular tapped into the religious undertones that Tisci is known for; that and the metal collars that the models were wearing that felt like a fashion version of a priest's collar, of course.
Chloé has just opened the doors to its retrospective exhibition and interestingly, its two of its past creative directors that are responsible for spearheading the new practical and realistic approach to dressing that others are only just clocking on to. Earlier on this week Phoebe Philo showed a collection that would stand any woman in good stead no matter what scenario came her way and the same was true of Stella McCartney with her S/S13 collection.
Stella always does the masculine/feminine aesthetic to perfection but this season, more so than ever, she captured the need for freedom, something Raf Simons stressed at Dior too. Far from being restrictive, the loose silhouette, which dominated throughout, looked comfortable but polished. Trousers had a slouch and easy relaxed fit without looking too undone. Jackets were sporty and modern teamed with sheer insets and overlays, which were also incorporated along the hemlines of block coloured dresses in both orange and a rich green. As far as tailoring goes, the proportions were oversized and jackets were cut away from the body, something she toyed with last season after a few collections of body conscious silhouettes.
On Wednesday the weather in Paris was terrible but for the seven or so minutes that Marco Zanini showed his SS13 collection for Rochas, we were transported to a hot day in the 1950s.
The sunglasses were retro, something that we've seen a lot of in Paris, but it worked well with the streamlined silhouettes that Zanini used to open the show. Polo tops that were tucked into over the knee length pencil skirts, nipped in at the waist, were nothing new but somehow worked. The oversized shapes that served as an alternative to the clean lines, worked too. Stomach-baring cropped tops were teamed with volumous skirts that were given a relaxed, modern twist teamed with white leather boxing boots.
The star of the show was a red and black strapless evening dress that petered out from the waist, which will no doubt get its red carpet debut very soon.
Gareth Pugh's designs have always been strong and aggressive and he's clothes are unapologetically him, whether they are commercially viable or not. Contrary what critics may have said in the past, it's an attitude that's served him well as this show marked his fourth season showing in Paris; a big deal by anyone's standards.
It felt like Pugh had that milestone in mind when designing this collection, as it saw him introduce new elements and offer something unexpected. That came from the romantic flamenco-inspired dresses that informed the hemlines on dresses and details across the chests of dresses. Even the make-up was a lot less harsh, with models appearing with what looked like red tears on their faces. But let's not get too carried away with ourselves. It is a Gareth Pugh show after all so it wasn't all femininity. The structured leather pieces that he showed were exquisite and interestingly some of the most wearable pieces that we've seen from him.
Dries Van Noten is one of those designers that can take a well known reference, place or era, go to town with it but do it in such a way that it feel fresh and relevant. Last season he did that when he turned to South East Asia and this season it was all about 90s grunge. The aesthetic has to be one of the most overdone trends and in the wrong hands it can quickly make you feel like you're being transported back to a time that you could do without being reminded of. With van Noten, though, grunge felt covetable.
The collection was full of plaid shirts that came in organza, which added a feminine twist to the menswear staple. These shirts appeared throughout and came, in one instance, under a silver metallic waistcoat, which was offset with a floral printed skirt. Checked trousers were clashed with contrasting checked shirts teamed with intricate textured floral over the knee length skirts.
This season's offerings were strong, but it isn't the first time that the designer has looked to the nineties. Cast your mind back to his Fall 2012 collection and you'll remember the grunge glamour style that was replicated everywhere that season and the maxi dresses that he showed for spring were definitely a nod back to them. The result? One of my favourite collections in Paris so far.
We all missed Céline on the runway last season. As Phoebe Philo was heavily pregnant at the time expecting her third child, the brand opted for an intimate presentation rather than a runway show and the move actually supported Philo's appeal. The move showed that she embodies the women that she designs for. These are women that have busy lifestyles and have to juggle that with a busy family life too and this is something that was apparent in her latest collection.
Trousers came in a relaxed cropped style that are perfect for running around in and the more tailored but loose fit long styles that she showed were not restrictive and instead, would stand any woman in good stead for a busy day. The same is true of the draped silk tops and dresses that would, without doubt, allow you to move from a heavy day in the office to an evening 'do with ease. And that's Philo's charm. She understands what women need and it's perhaps this reason that she seemed so relaxed this season, compared to other designers who were clearly affected by the pressure posed by Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons' respective debuts.
This relaxed confidence was apparent in the silhouettes, which were a signficiant departure from Philo's former penchant for structure. Even calf skimming dresses came with frayed hemlines and if that isn't a sign of a more relaxed Philo, I'm not sure what is. The colour palette was still very much her though and didn't steer too far from black, white and navy, with the odd flash of a subtle gold thrown in for good measure.