Flats sneak in to Paris Fashion Week
At long last stylish becomes comfortable even on the catwalk
It used to be a dirty word, but on the catwalks in Paris there was one keen, laudable element, notes Victoria Moss
The front row might not be an exact replica of everyday life and dressing, but it often offers insight into the extremes women will put up with. Time was no one walked into a fashion show without a teeter and a packet of blister plasters.
On Monday, at Stella McCartney, I glanced down, past my own white trainers, to see Angelica Cheung, editor in chief of Vogue China, next to me in a pristine Hogan pair.
To which a former colleague delightfully offered that this was the woman who had once quipped to her, “What, you’re wearing flats during the day for a business meeting?” Quite the about turn.
To my left, the next three fashion editors were also in sneakers, some Puma, some Gucci, all rubber-soled — and all worn with something sharp atop. A suit here, a tailored skirt there, a sparkly pink lace dress on Alexa Chung (sporting satin plimsolls from her Superga collaboration).
But this isn’t just about what’s on your feet. Because the thing is, while our feet have got used to being raised up by springy rubber, cosseted by padded leather and nylon, our wardrobes have evolved too: and now that we’ve been sold on this idea of dressing down to look good, there’s one thing we’re not giving up — being comfy.
That may seem basic. But look back not even 10 years and see all those constricting bodycon pieces, the inhibiting “statement” platforms. That was no reclining picnic in the park.
Apart from anything, who really wants to wear cycling shorts with an easy–access gusset as underwear?
The word comfort at one point seemed dirty; something that came with thick flexible soles, dodgy waterfall cardigans and those slightly questionably coloured dhoti trousers you picked up on the beach in Alicante and feel pass muster for lounging on the sofa when full of flu (polite notice: they don’t).
Yet, this assimilation of sportswear elements into everyday clothing has meant that women have become accustomed to something which had hitherto been fairly hit and miss in the fashion world: feeling relaxed.
See, for example, Stella McCartney’s Julia tracksuit trousers, which come in a suit-like viscose mix as well as velvet and lace embellished versions, ideal for pairing with a loose silk blouse and blazer for work.
You can’t persuade women that trainers work for every occasion and then assume they’ll snap back into a stiletto. Our feet like a squishy sole.
With so much choice and a pleasing receptiveness to the concept of diversity in clothing, the days of one style must fit all or you’re out of touch are long gone.
It’s also a sign of the subtle shift of power — forget stringent edicts sent from designers, it’s a buyer’s world now, the customer is in control.
This is a concept that was demonstrated acutely by the queue of women lining up outside the Celine concession in Printemps on Monday morning, desperate to snap up the last pieces from Phoebe Philo’s legacy of – yes, cool comfort – at the house (transformed on Friday night into Hedi Slimane’s narrow and constricting – literally – vision).
Happily, this idea of relaxed dressing has seeped through into every possible sartorial occasion.
At Dior, chunky trainers peeked out from underneath the hem of blissful draped red-carpet-ready gowns.
For Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli played with extravagant volumes – some thigh skirting, others trailing the chunky, feather-dusted sandals they were worn with.
There was also a serious amount of all-black looks. After all that pattern and jolting print, a palette cleanse is coming – for those who want it.
Women are once again reaching for the reassurance of a head-to-toe black look, albeit with something a little off-kilter – add a giant gold sculpted earring (see Valentino, or Givenchy’s cascading crystals) or directional (but walkable) shoe.
Meanwhile, Stella McCartney offered her laid-back vision of fluid tailoring with block-toe ballet flats, billowing pleated maxis, as well as cosy knit loose slung trousers balanced against pretty lace camisoles.
Her slip dresses came with zip up or down adjustable sections – so you can add length or volume at will.
For something more covered, envelop yourself in one of Johanna Ortiz’s exotic, deluxe kimonos — the perfect lounging anywhere mood.
There was a marked ease across the board. At Loewe, Jonathan Anderson’s collection felt grown up and assured, from the loose-knit bubble-sleeve cardigans to the longline blazers worn over layered shirt dresses, held together by a cross-body crochet bag, balanced with a flat, rubber-soled boot.
For Andreas Kronthaler’s models at Vivienne Westwood, the ultimate comfort was offered – half of them didn’t even have to walk around the catwalk, given that they dashed in on skateboards and scooters.
While at Balmain, erstwhile home of a Kardashian-friendly bottom-skirting flash of crystals, there were boiler suits (the utility all-in-one, which is gaining serious traction).
Balenciaga brought considered draping to the fore – see this tempting cobalt flowing ribbed maxi – it’s all in the hang, plus just imagine wrapping yourself up in that on a fresh spring day. The label also provided a novel proposition – tights.
As did Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy. That high maintenance idea of shivering with a tanned, bare leg on display in intemperate climes is fast on the wane.
Designers have tapped into a heady dose of reality. But this embracing of comfort is driven by a nuanced understanding of the requirements of women’s lives.
Outfits need to take us from breakfast to boardroom to gym, to dinner and beyond.
Who has time to change? Who has time to faff about in shoes you can’t walk in? The winds of fashion change are blowing in our favour, which is a very good thing indeed. – The Daily Telegraph