Reports from the front line of the Autumn Winter 08/09 collections at Paris Fashion Week. Check back for updates...


After the founder’s spectacular goodbye-tour, Alessandra Facchinetti stepped into Valentino Garavani’s shoes with her first collection, which took place in a smaller and more intimate setting than the brand typically occupies. Facchinetti’s design statement was just as understated: with a very delicate and sensitive hand she redefined the typical Valentino look for the modern woman. Less emphasis on evening gowns, color and the sexy aesthetic, and instead a more wearable collection of RTW made a clear statement that there was now a woman at the helm, and a modern one at that.


The question on most peoples lips following this show, was what exactly had Veronique Leroy been doing these past few months? Suffice to say this Fall/Winter collection showed almost no development at all, looking mostly like a host of reinterpreted pieces from the season prior, complete with the now-overused traditional-print scarves. There were only dresses, no trousers, no skirts and unfortunately no new statement of modernity. That is a pity, because Leroy proved her ingenuity in her own-name label and one had hoped she would bring that talent to the table here.


The French/Vietnamese designer has made merry with the rock chic aesthetic long before it became the trend, and while others followed her lead went to new horizons of the luxury world – with more fur, more leather, more accessories, more embellishment, more, more, more. Her style is now more adult and in some ways also more lady-like, although she’s never given up her all-cool attitude. Highlights from the show included the leather fringed dresses, and great fur scarves, trule in keeping with the look of Bui.


Croatian-born designer Ivana Omazic wanted to interpret the lightness of flowers with clothes that met the demands of the modern woman. The result was a translation of the floral structure of roses, hibiscus or orchids into beautifully architectural dresses and suits, and her most contemporary collection to date. The silhouettes were voluminous with layered fabrics, often combined out of different parts and textures, to create great looks made up of equally great seperates.


Castro delved deep into the 1980s, with apparent inspirations from the iconic Thierry Mugler evidenced in broad shoulders with wasp-waist, complete with hard-edged make-up of a white complexion and blue lips. Mainly in black with some exceptions in red and ice-blue, the collection showed an elegance that harped back to the Paris’ 80s heyday.


Saab, the red-carpet favorite and fan of elegant women’s wear showed a collection of evening gowns perfectly cut from the finest fabrics. Not a trend-setter, certainly a mainstay, Saab doesn’t change his style every season merely wishing to embellish woman for women’s sake, embracing the figure and making them shine whether be at the premier or society event.


Joop bared out some welcome variation with this collection, his youngest yet: dresses, hot pants, minis, slim-line trousers and double breasted jackets, with the usual mixture of color, fabrication and many, many textures: think tie-dye meets wool meets tweed meets chiffon meets herringbone and you’re maybe halfway there. Over the top? Yes, but that’s why we love him.


This young French designer showed at Paris Fashion Week only one and a half years ago with a basic collection of sweaters and dresses and now, the development this season was clear in Normand’s cut, style and choice of colors, in a fine collection of modern interpretations of the early 80s with a strong silhouette on the shoulders and waist. The designer’s proclivity for patterned and printed textiles was also evident, while his asymmetric-cut dresses in pastel colors were a nice interpretation of the feminine details shown last season and a highlight of the show.


Simon & Garfunkel’s music from The Graduate set the theme for the elegance of Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson, an overt inspiration for John Galliano and his ever-out-there make-up-team, who creating voluminous hair and black kohl eyes. The collection was a wearable statement of chic and perfect-fit costumes that nodded to the “optimism and opulence” of the 1960s with strong red, light lemony-green, deep purples, orange, pink, white and black but, the Dior woman was not Galliano’s usual fantasy in femininity, but more a pared down play on elegance, heavy on a-line skirts, boxy jackets, prints and bubble dresses in a refreshing pallet.


After a Summer of psychedelia and hippie leanings, the Belgian designer returned to her typically purist and tailored aesthetic for Winter. Slim-line classic-cut coats in seasonal textures of flannel or wool featured in mostly grey, black and beige, and were teamed notably with leather cigarette pants – this season’s fabric du jour, as featured above with the metallic shirt and pleat-skirt - or long dresses, while highlights were found in swinging oversized pullovers in the finest merino and long, slim dresses with high-neck.


Nobody was expecting a revolution from Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld did not surprise, as usual redefining and reinterpreting the time-honored style of Chanel in a delicate and modernist manner. Where his collection for this Summer showed a reverence to the casual transformation of Chanel, twisting and updating jeans and the symbolic Chanel jacket, he returned this season to a more classical woman who favors a well-cut suit and well-to-do dress, some with interesting bondage detailing. From afar, the collection did not seem to explore new areas, but with Lagerfeld as a connoisseur in fabrications, the delight was in the detail.


The French label known for his liberty prints started this season with a new design team. The successors of Clemens Ribeiro are Eley and Kishimoto, and as the fashion-duo joined just last November 2007, the design house’s new collection was modestly presented in the brands flagship in Rue Bonaparte. The British designers continued in the tradition of the Cacharel with a lot of prints, nice girly dresses and 60s style tailoring. Marc Eley told Sportswear International at the event that the brand’s former proposal to become a luxury brand will be not pursued, the brand instead will be accesable for a wide range of costumers. Wakako Kishimoto will be particularly responsible for creatives, while Eley will look after organization, strategy and development.


Jeans specialists and inventors of the stone washed denim, Marithé and Francois Girbaud turned back to the original blue denim qualities, showing a variety of different styles: the traditional five-pocket, jodhpurs, flares and sarouels. Bottoms were combined with parkas, long cardigans and coats to result in the design-duos best collection in years, even despite the repetitive silhouette of skirts and frills.


German Lutz Hueller is a cut-specialist and until now his collection has convinced show-goers with intelligent cuts and creativity. This time around Hueller added new dimensions in styling and attitudes, moving the collection forwards, and further into fashion. Pleat-front trousers and skirts, trench coats, knitwear with bat-sleves and well-proportioned dresses with gathered sleeves made this last collection a great statement of modernity for ready-to-wear.


The Swiss luxury brand is always on a half-way to haute couture, not only in the pricing. With the precious materials and perfect finishing the brand hasn’t the aim to revolutionize fashion but, in the way Albert Kriemler develops his brand, Akris is a serious label with a modern twist on classical design. In the mainly grey, beige and black collection with pops of copper red, a slim silhouette dominated the runway with pants and dresses kept close to the body. Long scarves kept up appearances for this austere showing.


After the departure of Peter Dundas and one season sans design chief, Esteban Cortazar took over the artistic direction of the inopportune French label, this season turning back the style of the brand: the resulting romantic air or fine and flowing chiffon-dresses with flower- brooches, short wrap-dresses made from great length of fabric and decent pant-blouse combos in pastels, a definite removal from the rock attitude of Dundas, and perhaps emblematic of the house’s owner, Pakistan-born internet tycoon and investment banker Asim Abdullah.


London-based designer Manish Arora hit the Paris runways for the second time this season in a firework-display of color and embellishments. Models walked apace to the high-speed bang of a drum against a backdrop of stainless steel and kitchen utensils that formed the artwork of Subodh Gupta, all setting the scene for Arora’s warrior theme. The designer himself drew inspiration from the materials and silhouettes of knights, Samurais and other military types to create a stunning collection of combatant and armor-ish looks. The hard edge was filtered to witty effect with manga and Disney prints and embroideries that were a result of a collaboration with Japanese artist Keiichi Tanaami.


The German-French designer-duo that make up Bless remained true to form with another off-kilter show. In a old factory in the some-say-seedy La Chapelle area, the audience took their on chairs that were distributed randomly in the space between two cars as the dilettante models - all street-found – paraded amongst them. Bless, known for it’s elaborated multifunctional clothing and “intelligent” fashion this time focused on the theme of mixing materials: very heavy knitwear stood with fine cotton or pieces of a carpet with a pull-over, while trousers were split into two parts - one as a pant, the other to become the boot. Quirky, yes, but still a well-defined collection of mainly black and blue pieces the label’s fans will love.


The belgian label from An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx celebrated their 10th year on the runway this season. With this collection the couple, who often take inspiration from traditional Belgian costumes, had finally found a happy medium between artful and wearable fashion. Pieces played with volume and layering, combined different shapes of one color (mostly black, grey, blue and white) in heavy knitwear and combinations of short pants and warm down jackets.


After a more feminine showing last season with the summer’s light and layered dresses and skirts, Rick Owens went back to black and played with his favorite medium, leather, as well as masculine-tailored trousers. The typically Owen-esque biker-girl models wore structured leather combos with a lot of open zippers, short cashmere pants over great knee-high boots and jackets in metallic textiles. All this set off by an opulent collection of fur pieces that will no doubt please the die-hards. Not so much PETA.


The France-based Japanese designer Atsuro Tayama is most famous for his innovative designs that combine Eastern influences with Western couture. For his winter-collection he used wonderful leaf-prints upon voluminous skirts and dresses in dark purple, mauve and pink. The second part of his collection was in monochrome black, featuring slim-line long jackets over pants and soft skirts that made an accentuating play on the waist.


Yurkievich’s collection “The beautiful Fall” drew inspiration from Alicia Drake’s book of the same title, a homage to 1970s Paris. The clothes focused on the era’s slim-line silhouette with trousers and jackets in black and beige decorated with zippers teamed with colorful skirts and dresses and transparent blouses for a feminine presentation reined in with clean cut styling. Pops of vibrant color made a show on graphic-laden lurex and leggings, as is the norm for Yurkievich.


The French label Impasse de la defense opened Paris Fashion Week in the historic and opulent baroque Le train bleu restaurant at Gare de Lyon. Designer Karim Bonnet, who is known for his collaborative work (with friends creating artful textiles for him), showed floor-length skirts, long evening gowns and mixed materials, keeping up appearances by utilizing fabrics painted by hand. For all the artistic location and alliances however, the presentation was let down by the decision to employ only four models, resulting in a less-than-smooth run of show.


The Lisboan designer put forward a persuasive and well-defined collection of mostly black and white with some subtle gradations in grey and some green. Miniskirts and dresses were a focus, as was the very high waist and a play on volume, though the weight was found on the mix of different materials: lace, knits and glittering, jacquard chiffons.


In the training rooms of beauty giant L’Oreal, the young French label Dévastée was on the official fashion-week-schedule for the first time. Designers Francois Alary and Ophélie Klère showed mainly skirt and jacket combos in a palette of black, grey and red. Tweed made up the majority of the jackets, dresses and skirts were printed with verses of French poetry, and the collection was set off with the season’s prevalent goth-like make-up.


Nordic designer Paola Suhonen is something of a fashion star at home and, following her first Paris show last season had this time made it onto the official schedule. However, the show lacked any corresponding evolution, and was a repetitive – and lengthy – procession of too-similar gowns. Despite this though, Suhonen’s focus on exclusive print-textiles (from silk to very heavy cotton) in dark colors worked well on nice day-dresses with puff-ball sleeves and high waists to create a pleasant and very feminine collection.


Balmain was the week’s first must-see show, with a scramble for entrance that seemed to surpass that typically found at Dior’s doors. What did the happy few who finally made it through get to see? Designer Christophe Decarnin continued to work his way past the heritage of elegance established by Pierre Balmain to modernize the old Parisian fashion house with the same rock-chic attitude we saw emerge last season. Tops, pants and short hemlines - as pictured above - were presented in glittering metallic textiles that resulted in a sexy, youthful collection with a real party vibe – evidence that perhaps Decarnin is working with the jeunesse dorée in mind.


The Belgian designer and recently appointed creative director at Hugo Boss started the show with a masculine look: but women’s flannel-suits and pleated trousers teamed with pull-overs and ties were just the beginning. The androgynous style lost ground as more and more feminine combinations of dresses, soft, floating tops and metallic jackets over trousers made their way onto the runway. Whilst many other designers are hyping the skirt, Pieter’s collection was a fashionable statement for the pant-wearing, practical woman who still likes to dress up.

- Barbara Markert