Because I am not invited to the Balenciaga show (how fun is it to travel 4,000 miles across an ocean just to be dumped from a guest list?), I am not in the house when the benches collapse and the audience is forced to stand for the duration, causing one waggish watcher to quip afterwards that this is the second forced standing ovation of the season, referring to the notorious exit drama at Tom Ford in London.
But I am in the bleachers at Dries Van Noten, where a charming collection involving couture shapes and photo-printed forests is presented with a soundtrack that features Elvis’s "In the Ghetto," a choice so odd and brain-dead (well, it was brain-dead even when Presley first sang it) that it has an oddly uplifting effect on the proceedings.
At this point, after a solid four weeks on the fashion-show circuit, incongruity rules the day — there are people living in tents all over Paris, the Occupy Wall Streeters are gaining in numbers, and yet two standout collections in Paris, Nina Ricci and Rochas, look back longingly and affectionately at the pre-liberation doyenne of the fifties, with her perfect tailleur, her matchy-match ensembles, her frankly pretty, subdued, appropriate wardrobe. At Rochas this means beehives, cat’s-eye glasses, and divine pale chiffon coats; at Nina Ricci it takes the form of pillbox hats and evening frocks with golden trim that make the wearer look as delectable, and unwrappable, as a Christmas present.
And what can it mean that you gaze at these frankly expensive-looking clothes (at least that’s better than the cheap-looking expensive items we’ve grown accustomed to) and you want, maybe for just a moment, to be Babe Paley, tying a scarf to your alligator Constance and lunching with Truman at Swifty’s. (That is, until you remember the nasty girdle Babe was trussed into under that pencil skirt.)
A rather different fantasy animates the universe according to Ann Demeulemeester. Sand covers the floor, and the models are spooky, sad heroines right out of Jane Bowles — in the best case, trailing chiffon topped by one of the designer’s wonderful jackets, but all too often so covered up in burnoose dresses they seem unable have any real fun.
We interrupt this column to bring you a report on the single most repulsive item seen in Paris this season! It’s not on a runway, it’s in a window on Rue Saint-Honoré — a black patent handbag at Cartier with a dangling charm of interlocking C’s encrusted with diamonds, and it is €70,000, or $93,681. (I know this because in France you must by law display the prices in the window, a fact that leads to some highly revelatory information.)
This horrible purse would be of absolutely no interest to the type of woman who will wear the delightful frocks offered, by the score, at Junya Watanabe. They are enhanced with sheer army jackets — another incongruity — and there is even a winsome cropped biker jacket with huge ruffles on the sleeves, for which I may be the only customer.
I am sorry to report that a brand that I have been besotted with for decades sadly disappoints. At Comme des Garçons, the deeply conceptual show involves a lugubrious caravan of ladies swathed in white satiny stuff, further decorated with dead-looking white flowers. Some people in the crowd think that the fact that the models' hands are bound, or made useless by ridiculously long sleeves, is meant to symbolize that marriage is a cage. Well, um, sure, maybe — maybe we are all birds in gilded cages. But at Comme, where the models look like walking coffins, swathed in headgear that at times entirely covers their faces (a fashion choice that can get you arrested in Paris) these birds couldn’t sing if they wanted to.
See the Complete Balenciaga Spring 2012 Collection
See the Complete Dries Van Noten Spring 2012 Collection
See the Complete Nina Ricci Spring 2012 Collection
See the Complete Rochas Spring 2012 Collection
See the Complete Ann Demeulemeester Spring 2012 Collection
See the Complete Comme des Garçons Spring 2012 Collection