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03.04.14

Valentino, Chanel, and Alexander McQueen at Paris Fashion Week

The runways of three of the top fashion houses were all fun—while maintaining their traditions of quality high fashion—during the first day of Paris Fashion Week’s grand finale.

From the golden lapels on Alexandre Vauthier’s dynasty jackets to the neon, club-kid inspired designs of Manish Arora, the range of styles seen on the Paris Fashion Week runways is inevitably as varied as the women who buy them. One thing that has connected the collections this season, however, is the sheer beauty and craftsmanship of the clothing. The Fall/Winter 2014 catwalks have been magical, visual candy for lovers of fine clothing and fabulous design, ranging from young designer Damir Doma’s richly autumnal collection to Elie Saab’s lavish ballgowns with ultra-wide hips from yesteryear.

This theme was continued during the first day of Paris’s grand finale, the last two days fashion week when most of fashion’s largest houses present their highly anticipated collections. Valentino, Chanel, and Alexander McQueen delivered runway shows that were playful and fun—think art as inspiration, supermarket chic, and furry, creature-like models—that also maintained their traditions of luxury high fashion.

For Valentino’s Fall/Winter 2014-15 collection on Tuesday, designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and  Pierpaolo Piccioli showed pieces inspired by and dedicated to a group of Italian artists and their, “innocence, spontaneity, energy, and sentiment, their pleasure of having fun in order to express themselves on society’s stage,” the duo explained.

These artists—Giosetta Fioroni, Carol Rama, and Carla Accardi—were unconventional women “whose works were deeply rooted in a moment of great change and revolution in Italy in the late 1960s and early 1970s.” They were women who “expressed their need to exist not just to appear, and they bared the nerve center of their sensitivity. They were artists who recounted profound and intimately feminine themes, describing fantastical emotions while preserving bonds with their childhood and inner selves.”

Art as a form of inspiration—which has been widely present in the fashion realm recently—was evident in the clothing’s textured surfaces, which were printed, decorated, and embellished for what Chiuri and Piccioli described as a collection filled with a kaleidoscopic character and unpredictability. There were elegant trenches with some flair around the legs, covered in a beautiful mix of bright stripes and elegant dots; a pretty pink-and-red polka-dotted skirt peeped out from underneath an oversized black coat.

The dots became more luxurious and somehow urban when paired with a beautiful, hooded poncho covered in large green, brown, and red circles layered atop leather panels. But, by the end of the presentation, the looks had morphed entirely into elegant butterfly-like dresses crafted from delicate lace, which looked as though leaves had fallen to the ground and merged into a beautiful work of art. The pieces created a slight camouflage, utilizing lace, geometric patterns, and flowers to create an ultra light fabric. Colors were vivid and autumnal, including fuchsia and olive green with metallic shimmers. Chiuri and Piccoli were clearly drawing on the past in a new and refined way.

The Grand Palais, meanwhile, was transformed into a supermarket on Tuesday for the Chanel ready-to-wear show, where guests perused cans of food adorned with the brand’s logo. A spin on its couture show earlier this year, the collection featured—the shock, the horror—metallic sneakers for the modern Chanel woman on the move.

The supermarket theme indeed worked, especially alongside glitzy, sweat-pants-inspired outfits worn underneath striped coats, and tweed suits with a street-feel worn over bold leggings. The models seemed as though they had been driven down Mulholland Drive to pick up some lunch while wearing yoga gear and a deluxe coat.

Chanel’s silhouettes—which included short jackets, slim waists, and flared skirts—were mannish, with exaggerated baggy suits, ballooning trousers that drew in at the ankles, and sporty trousers in a cozy-looking tweed. There were also Juicy Couture-style tracksuits in a spectrum of pinks, as well as in-your-face silver leggings. The collection also included an array of tweed suits, sophisticated black coats, and sexy black dresses adorned with fine craftsmanship around the waist and zipper.

Later Tuesday evening, in the magical kingdom of Alexander McQueen, creature-like models pranced down the runway decked in yeti-like fur and bawdy lace and feathered dresses; they resembled zombies bought back to life in Victorian-era ensembles made modern with worker-style heavy boots.

There were boyish suits from yesteryear with puffy white sleeves and fur collars worn by androgynous creatures with white faces. Collared dresses resembled prep school outfits from centuries past, while velvet dresses screamed royal offspring. The fur was fun, fantastic, and fluffy, with rich design elements and juxtaposing patterns and textures. Some of the fur pieces even looked like little animals with big eyes, staring out from beyond the fluff.