PARIS — What is the final assessment on the 321 collections shown over the last month in London, Milan, New York and Paris? There are, of course, strong trends — particularly in the powerful return of outerwear and a new focus on a more womanly and rounded figure.
But there is also a test that each designer has to pass.
Brand recognition is the vital issue, especially now that collections go global and viral before buyers have even had a chance to get to the showroom and make a choice, and way before advertising campaigns or editorials can express the look of the season.
One definition of branding in fashion is how quickly a seasoned viewer is able to identify a look. This is nothing to do with logos or overt symbols. Ultimately, the power of a designer is to be able to register a vision and to project that for the consumer.
With nil advertising and an aversion to promoting himself or his clothes, Azzedine Alaïa has achieved such clarity that every single piece in his privately shown collection — princess-line leather coats, skating-skirt dresses, shapely knits and flirty ankle boots — definitely belong to the aesthetic of this designer.
To be able to command burned-out press and buyers to your studio at 9 p.m. on the final day of a four-week fashion marathon, you have to have pulling power. And so it was that editors, buyers and eager followers like the American model Jessica Stam watched the parade of outfits, each of which had been fitted to the body by the hand of the master. Hence there were double-breasted coats in gleaming pony skin, jackets defining the waist and a few innovations such as a curvy low-front bodice, a short fur bolero or even — an unlikely innovation for Mr. Alaïa — a baggy boyfriend sweater.
All this came in “Alaïa” colors: black or jewel shades like garnet red and deep green, as well as a graphic black and white animal print. Around the walls were his accessories: zebra-patterned bowling bags and sensual shoes crowned with black cock feathers. This was another collection in the great stream and flow of Mr. Alaïa’s talent.
Miuccia Prada gave her usual spiel after the MiuMiu show, that everyone should have “fun with fashion.” She might have said “sex” with fashion. Because the defining character of this Prada satellite brand is of nymphettes who, by the curving rise of a skirt at the back, a half-moon scoop of bared-flesh below the bosoms or a strategically placed bow at the rear of the thighs, are provocative beyond their years.
Typically this season, the focus was at the back, rather than on the womanly bosoms at Prada. Tossing their ponytails, these fillies came out in short, geometric 1960s dresses, perhaps in orange felt and with all sorts of childish embellishment, especially silvered rosettes. And it really was sex with everything. Even the shoes — the company’s heartland — had an over-layer like a tongue emerging from open lips.
What is the fashion definition of Cerruti’s style? That is the question that the British designer Richard Nicoll must have asked himself before his first outing for the brand. Although he was still in diapers when the company was a by-word for sleek tailoring and fine fabrics, that is Cerruti’s heritage.
An elongated furry vest in a warm rust opened the show, playing with a strong color palette that included bright blue. A short double-breasted jacket introduced Mr. Nicoll’s vision of modern tailoring, for which he is known at his London label. But in spite of some chic-and-sharp touches, like a subtly designed cape coat and a blouse with a small collar and twin rows of buttons, there was not enough focus on the tailoring. One long coat in a season of outerwear was too timid.
By contrast, long skirts, split and worn over stretch leggings, looked like they were trying too hard to be hip. The designer needs to nurture his own taste for tidy tailoring and neat blouses — and then project that boldly at Cerruti.
Wednesday, March 17
Brand Recognition Is the Issue