Fashion week in Paris is always a race against time.
Paris — the last city after New York, London and Milan to host shows — is offering up 95 frenetic catwalk spectacles back-to-back over eight days at opposite ends of the French capital.
So it's perhaps fitting that the spring-summer 2013 season got going behind a giant clock: The iconic timekeeper of Paris' grand Gare de l'Est train station. The setting may have been grand but the shows on the first day in Paris are often low-key, a showcase for emerging talent.
Young knitwear designer and Rick Owens alumnus Alice Lemoine emerged from the shadows of her former mentor to produce an unassuming but highly accomplished show in rich spring colors.
Belgian-born designer Anthony Vaccarello — whose star has been on a rise since Gwyneth Paltrow graced the cover of Harper's Bazaar in one of his dresses — delivered a slick and revealing show Tuesday, channeling black and white in an unusual summer collection.
South Korean designer Moon Young Hee also threw away the color wheel to produce a sophisticated, demure show, while Impasse de la Defense mixed bold colors with retro and street styles.
Wednesday's shows will include London's enfant terrible Gareth Pugh, Guy Laroche and Dries Van Noten.
IMPASSE DE LA DEFENSE
Post-punk design house Impasse de la Defense, tucked away behind the clock of the Gare de l'Est, got extra street cred as loud train announcements punctuated their colorful show.
Their eclectic and contemporary mix included vibrant patchwork dresses, outre tulle bridal skirts and large shawls printed with images of clock architecture. Their soundtrack — a single harmonica played by a man who looked like a busker — added a dash of boho insouciance to the many the casual, loose-fitting, splash-dyed dresses.
Designer Karim Bonnet said he was channeling German street style after a holiday there last summer — but at times, the clock seemed to turn to '70s flower power. The imaginative prints of cameras and the spines of novels on large shawls were a notable success.
At times, though, the sheer size of the shawls — which models had wrapped around them — made them look clumsy.
LE MOINE TRICOTE
No longer just for grannies, knitwear has finally been made cool — a youthful facelift courtesy of Le Moine Tricote.
Armed with two 12mm (half-inch) needles, a ball of wool and no rules, designer Alice Lemoine set about this collection with no idea what clothes she would make.
"I just let the needles lead and I make all sorts of different shapes and panels," Lemoine said backstage, wearing a wooly cardigan. "I then just fuse it together; not exactly patchwork, but the same process."
The result? An architectural — and highly huggable — display of some 14 soft, open knit looks — set off with creative spirals, polygons and geometric shapes.
Lemoine gives freedom to the natural weight of wool — producing some sumptuous effects, like one plunging gray and camel column dress. Lest we forget it's summer, it's all served up with a refreshing palette of sky blue, navy, pearl beige purple and white.
Splashes of delicate, tightly knitted silk alongside breezy organza undergarments and the occasional peplum was a new addition this season.
Sticking to black and white is one sure way to stand out in spring collections, which are famed for their use of color. But at the moment, it's not as if Anthony Vaccarello needs the attention. His recent fashion headlines include a design stint at Collette as part of Vogue's Fashion Night Out.
In this uber-sexy, color-free summer offering, the models' legs did the talking: Micro skirts with a tight, sweeped draping.
There was a distinct feeling of previous seasons' Milan shows — plunging necklines, draped tops with eyelets and loose shoulder-strong jackets. At times, the draping invoked a Grecian toga look.