From Near Nudity to Near Perfection, Recent #PFW Collections Quicken the Heart

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Phoebe Philo’s latest Céline collection is the kind that makes fashion editors swoon. Her experiments in proportion are unorthodox, and her show on Sunday included coat and dress styles designed with a knit inset that resulted in an exaggerated hourglass shape, with big muscular shoulders and a cinched waist (pictured, top). And it started with a lace slip dress that was almost startling in how much it revealed, but only almost startling because sheer looks have been such a big trend elsewhere this season, with bosoms galore on display at Nina Ricci and Alexander McQueen.

It has taken this far in the fashion season to see designers at their best, which is to say, their most experimental, and finally we are beginning to see something newish, even if it may not be practical in everyone’s wardrobes. Philo’s Céline collection was so successful, largely because it was so intimate, a reflection, she said, of her own desire to spend more and more time away from the hyperactivity of fashion. Of course, you’ve probably read those rumors that Philo is thinking of leaving Céline, but I’d like to think she instead made good use of her ennui by channeling that emotion into creativity, which there was surely a lot of in this show.

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There were so many challenging concepts here that it will take some time for the industry (and other designers) to unpack them all. The sinuous lines of her tailoring on a less obvious piece, a simple black blazer, for instance, were remarkable, creating a curved shape that spiraled from shoulder to hip to waist. A balloon-shaped shoulder was repeated in blouses, peasant dresses, and a dropped-shoulder coat as well, and then came country checks in oversize graphic trousers and coats paired with tough boots like Dr. Martens, or pointy-toe booties (pictured, below). A soon-to-be-hit bag style was made of what looked like overstuffed padded leather that could serve as an excellent pillow on a long flight.

At Nina Ricci, the designer Guillaume Henry, in his second season, refined his vision of sleek elegance with sharp necklines on neatly draped, kittenish dresses. His models were painted with a glossy red lip, and many of them wore sheer-to-the-point-of-invisible blouses with nothing underneath. That’s one way to suggest intimacy, and quite directly.

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McQueen’s Sarah Burton dove deep into the romantic, poetic nature of the house, returning with an incredible array of fabrics that looked antique, like white lace, floral embroidered silks, and lace embedded with slivers of mirrors. These were used in a fantastic series of dresses with tiers of ruffles, and combined with streetwear, including embroidered denim, to keep them close to reality. While this was Burton’s most approachable collection at this house, this being McQueen, there were still some fantasy creations in the form of two black-and-white lace dresses rendered with birds in flight, whose wingspan reached from shoulder to ankle (pictured, below).

Stella McCartney always considers practicality in her collections, and for spring, a good touch of sport in tank dresses that featured distorted picnic table checks and great springy overlays of iridescent pleats (pictured, below left). The polo shirt and the athletic top made key appearances here, as did a sandal hybrid of Teva-like treads with Birkenstock-like cork soles, but this was before the more traditional suiting offerings and a finale of hypnotic dresses with insets of what looked like technical mesh.

Dresses that combine multiple prints and blocks of mismatched fabrics have been a big trend of this extra-visual season, and Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Kenzo offered some that were especially eye-catching, with strips of stripes, marbleized textures, a rope motif, and pixilated checks (pictured, above middle). At the opposite extreme was Mugler, where designer David Koma held to a minimalist take on sveltely cut dresses and a jumpsuit or two, trimmed with military buttons (pictured, above right).

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Eric Wilson is Salefashionscarf’s fashion news director. For more real-time insights from #PFW, follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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