If the first half of Paris Fashion Week is remembered for Rick Owens's unexpected dance-off, its final two days were punctuated by an art party and a spectacular adieu.
The former, staged by Chanel, marked an ebullient collection from Karl Lagerfeld. The latter signalled the end of Marc Jacobs's tenure as creative director at Louis Vuitton.
Jacobs's 16 years with the luxury brand ranks among the longest and most successful relationships in the industry. According to all parties involved, the decision was largely driven by his commitment to preparing his namesake line for an IPO.
Jacobs's LV show was as glamorous as goodbyes get. In the courtyard of the Louvre, a tent contained a blacked-out mix of runway sets from previous collections, including an enchanted fountain, a carousel, escalators, hotel corridors and a train-station clock.
Wearing a massive ostrich headdress and sequined body art that evoked Jacobs's Stephen Sprouse collection from 2000, model Edie Campbell set the stage for a collection devoted to showgirls, which Jacobs defined more broadly as women who appreciate the art of performance. The level of embellishment and ornamentation on mesh bodysuits, leather jackets and jeans was his way of evoking the extraordinary decorative detail of Paris itself.
"I take pleasure from taking things for exactly what they are, revelling in the pure adornment of beauty for beauty's sake," he wrote in a personal letter that preceded the show notes. "Connecting with something on a superficial level is as honest as connecting with it on an intellectual level."
Superficial and intellectual were in colourful harmony at Chanel, where Lagerfeld satirized the art world in a way only an artist can – by creating more art. The Grand Palais, which has long been the Chanel show venue but also hosts the FIAC and Paris Photo art fairs, became a giant white-walled gallery filled with 75 pieces conceived by Lagerfeld. On the whole, they constituted smart-alecky visual puns incorporating Chanel signatures in the traditions of Warhol or Duchamp. The gallery preview is as much a part of the fabric of Parisian life as Chanel tweed and, with international art fairs blooming worldwide, Lagerfeld clearly felt it was time to weigh in.
"The idea came from people who overreact to art today," he told Women's Wear Daily. "It has all become a little much." And yet the paint swatches, portfolio cases and canvases that took shape in trompe l'oeil bags and collaged tweeds played out with wit rather than pretension.
No collection stimulated the sartorial sweet tooth quite like Miu Miu, where Miuccia Prada sent out clothes in a palette that recalled Wayne Thiebaud, painter of cakes and ice cream sundaes. Like the artist, Prada presented sweetness with fetishized flavour; the vaguely vintage wool coats in South Beach pastels, vinyl skirts and girlish cable-knit stockings sent mixed messages in true Miuccia style.
At Céline, Phoebe Philo stuck to the same high-impact primary hues that are often attributed to Ellsworth Kelly or Roy Lichtenstein. She, too, stayed away from the referential and reverential, however. Brush-stroke-patterned jacquards and heels in the shapes of trapezoids, spheres and open rectangular cubes zigged while sporty net layers and sweaters tied around the waist zagged. To the 1980s street energy, she added the futuristic finesse of metallic tulle and metalframed cutouts. It was the season's coolest collection.
But Sacai's Chitose Abe wasn't far off.
Like Philo and Stella McCartney, she loosely interpreted sportswear – a very un-Parisian notion – in a way that will be felt beyond next spring, rethinking the tired trope of masculine-feminine by adding trapeze backs to men's shirts, cutting perforated suiting fabrics like T-shirts and accenting knitwear with Victorian collars.
McCartney ended her collection with a grouping of dresses layered and panelled in lace and organza that stood out for their body-skimming ease and athletic racer backs. And Peter Copping, who looked back to 18th-century men's wear for his Nina Ricci women, used men's tailoring to counter his typically romantic side on sheer knits and wispy skirts with alternative lace and opaque panels.
The 23 looks Rei Kawakubo showed at Commes des Garçons were forms more than fashion – a leather inner-tube structure circled the hips and hung from chains for one, a teddy bear tucked into the tiers of a floral pouf dress for another – and confirmed that she does not let convention constrain creation.
In the showroom, these looks were translated into a commercial collection that featured the same papery material or circular cutout pattern in more wearable applications.
This year, the week ended with Hermès. Christophe Lemaire showed a succession of top-to-boot printed floral outfits and covetable leather and crocodile pieces in deep mossy greens, sunset blues and violet. He closed the show with three crisp, flawless white looks that, unknowingly, provided the ultimate commentary on Jacobs's fade to black at Vuitton earlier that day and on the ephemeral nature of fashion in general: They were a fresh canvas on which to paint anew.