PFW Day Three: Chloé, Balmain, Carven, and Isabel Marant

Isabel Marant FW17 backstage
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After six years at Chloé, Clare Waight Keller bid adieu, with a Fall/Winter 2017 collection bereft of nostalgia and packed with escapism. When humans get overwhelmed by hard and uncertain times, they look for an escape hatch and it comes in many forms: television, shopping, and other sundry vices. Waight Keller took the vice thing seriously, and covered her pretty baby doll dresses with soporific prints resembling the kind of items Alice might have snacked on in Wonderland. She also visited some of her staples like track suits, turning them out in leisurely, longline silhouettes. Near the end, Waight Keller sent out a little love note to her audience, a flaming red mini dress that took a sweetheart neckline literally. It’s an understatement to say she will be missed, but she left her post at Chloé on a high note.

On the total opposite end of the spectrum, Balmain delivered an in-your-face collection that blended grunge elements with a generous amount of animal hides and crafty embellishment. Olivier Rousteing’s dual muses were Nirvana and Amazonian warrior queens, and the results were aggressive and raw. Yet, it was all very recognizably Balmain – any look that boasts smoldering sensuality, second-skin fit, and densely worked surfaces like the ones on offer for Fall/Winter 2017 could only belong to Balmain. While his woman always intimidates, Rousteing committed to keeping his looks wild and untamed, which gave her a frisson of savagery. Some of the looks seemed like they came fresh from the tannery, especially the last, which featured an uncut crocodile hide worked into a leather dress. PETA is going to have a field day with this one.

While maximalism surges everywhere else, Carven went against the grain for Fall/Winter 2017 with a serene, minimalist collection. Due to the fact that design is currently in the hands of an anonymous interim designer and a studio team as Carven awaits the forthcoming arrival of Serge Ruffieux, it may have seemed that such simplicity played it safe. However, nifty design elements like drawstring necklines, studded pleats and abstract monochrome prints transformed the simple into the desirable. Done in sophisticated pastels and the occasional shot of jewel-toned velvet, the looks touched on several current trends from crisp suits and outerwear with portrait necklines to fringed mini dresses. Although interim collections can be tricky and are rarely critically accepted, Carven’s was different. Ruffieux is clearly stepping into a role with a fantastic team in place who took to the challenge with all the confidence of seasoned veterans.

The demand for luxury denim is at an all-time high, with Vetements’ reworked, stepped-hem styles influencing street looks around the world (especially here at Fashion Week), and with “mom” jeans trending massively for 2017. It’s surprising that more designers aren’t competing in the market for Fall/Winter 2017, but Isabel Marant is a reliable source of fantastic denim every season. She certainly gives the ubiquitous Vetements look a run for its money with versions that were embroidered, studded, and generously cut. She also embraced the rising 80s trend with broad-shouldered jackets and one-shoulder party dresses, and provided ample printed frocks, chunky knits and cozy outerwear for her cool-girl clients.

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