STELLA MCCARTNEY

The equestrian theme was traditional - but an emphasis on the bust was surprisingly subversive

Stella McCartney made a boob of it. Her sweaters for AW17 included a hidden bra, which gave the bosom a pneumatic Jayne Mansfield-style lift. Other pieces were inset with conical swirls. Even the suiting had pointed peaks of interest.

There has been a lot of talk about the silhouette this week: the Comme des Garçons show proposed its future, while at Balenciaga, designer Demna Gvasalia re-examined its past. Stella McCartney’s collection was focused on British equestrian tailoring, prim plaids and knit jumpsuits in a palette of khaki green, petrol blue and sand. The tailoring was traditional, with quirky extras - a double lapel, a triple-breasted top coat - and she had reproduced a George Stubbs painting, “Horse Frightened by a Lion” on silk shirts and trousers for added heritage appeal. All very day-trip to Balmoral: a quilted green hunting jacket and headscarf would suit HRH very well.

But I couldn’t stop staring at the models’ chests. In these airbrushed days of “free the nipple”, when we prudishly circumnavigate the specifics of the female body even while pretending we’re far more evolved and emancipated than our Victorian forebears, it was the pointy breasts that stood out. Will anyone dare wear them? There was a song and dance at the end. The models came out to the tune of George Michael’s Faith with a punchy refrain by Princess Nokia: “don’t you f*** with my energy”. For all its traditional verve, the collection was surprisingly subversive, all about women who aren’t afraid to fill a room with their personality and pointy bits. Sometimes you’ve got to make a tit of yourself to show you’ve got some balls . . .

Image: Getty

VALENTINO

For his second ready-to-wear collection, Pierpaolo Piccioli combined a demure attitude with tiny rebellious touches

“It’s really just a new expression of daywear,” said Pierpaolo Piccioli indicating towards a knit black dress embroidered with tiny fragile feather flowers. Some sweater dress this. Piccioli’s casual appraisal of this most delicate of garment knits belied its painstaking construction. He described his opening look, a voluminous black dress with a yoke neck and bell sleeves, as being “just like a T-shirt”. A “shirt dress” was covered in a print he had developed with Nathalie Du Pasquier and George Sowden, founder members of the Memphis design group. Covered in geometric florals, it had a ruffled high-neck collar and a sweeping sophistication: its folds revealed yards of fabrics. Let’s just say this isn’t the sort of daywear one wears on the school run.

For his second ready-to-wear runway show since being made sole creative director last year, Piccioli had fused two cultures: the nostalgic, memento mori culture of Victoriana, with its mourning lockets, scrapbooks and mouldering baptismal gowns and the bright graphic optimism of the 1980s movement that offered a playful take on anti-cultural design. “There’s nothing new in fashion,” explained Piccioli backstage, “there are only fresh perspectives. I wanted to find something new by finding common historic threads.”

The collection had a clever tension: long covered-up silhouettes in pretty colours and exuberant prints featuring numbers, florals and disembodied hands. The clothes had a demure attitude, with tiny rebellious touches - the dresses were worn with flat black boots with the brand’s distinctive “rockstud” details, there were sneaky transparencies and sensual dark velvets.

The house of Valentino, under the ownership of Mayhoola, an investment group backed by the Qatari royal family, has built a billion dollar business on its brand of demure femininity with tough-girl touches. Piccioli, who was instrumental in its success  with Maria Grazia Chiuri (now at Dior) leads the house alone. Two seasons along and it’s more apparent where he is going, with an emphasis on print, colour and classical silhouettes. The lengths are long, the volumes (which are vast) strictly controlled. Piccioli’s collection popped, but it never felt too fizzy. For all the pretty touches, it had a powerful grace.

Image: Getty

HERMÈS

As revenues reach €5.2bn, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski brings good vibrations to the French heritage house

Hermès has joined the €5bn club: in its annual report released last month the company posted revenues of €5.2bn and 7.5 per cent growth in the past year. Ready-to-wear sales were up 4 per cent in the fourth quarter, with womenswear and shoes being especially strong categories.

So what does the €5bn Hermès woman look like? Well, this winter she’ll be wearing lots of colour, leather trousers, quilted jackets, blanket coats and beanie hats. Colour was key for AW17; navy blue was punctuated with fine scarlet marl-knit polo tops, and a long leather coat with shearling lining was made in the palest pink. There was a rainbow of prints: a trio of feather-light chiffon paisley dresses, rich blue scarf-print dresses, a red and white glove design, smock-top silks with key charm illustrations.

Designer Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski has worked hard to make her Hermès contemporaneous: trying to unlocks its “stuffy associations” and bring some “vibration into the house”. She had chosen the illustrations as a counterpoint to the usual equestrian symbols one associates with the label - Hermès may be high luxury, but it can still be fun.

Vanhee-Cybulski’s vision is now well established: she has found new expression in the house’s sporty heritage, helped showcase the different categories on sale (shoes, bags and jewellery all enjoyed strong growth last year and were well-represented on the catwalk) and employed the house’s huge archive of illustrations on every conceivable material, from punched leather to printed silks.

This collection had more vibrancy about it, the leather trousers and long slim button-through skirts had a zesty sensuality, a navy suit looked effortlessly cool. But sometimes the styling was a little overwhelming; a leather jacket with multicoloured shaggy shearling details worn over an emerald knit skirt and chunky-soled walking boots hid away the rather lovely rose-coloured shirt underneath. Some of the colours clashed more than combined, and did so many ensembles require such lurid thick-rib tights?

The best looks were those left alone: a leather tuxedo suit with a glove-print blouse and navy tie, a double-faced cape coat and camel cashmere trousers, the lust-worthy chiffons and silks. These worked wonderfully well and they looked, you know, expensive. Just as you’d expect from a modern billionairess.


This article was originally published by the Financial Times.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017.

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