With fashion weeks in flux, thanks to runway-to-consumer discussions and missing Creative Directors in major houses, it took one empirical country to set it all straight.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
With fashion weeks in flux, thanks to runway-to-consumer discussions and missing Creative Directors in major houses, it took one empirical country to set it all straight.
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One word summed up Paris Fashion Week: Britain. Whether it was inspiration from royal aristocracy (past and present), or the terrific streetwise designers who come from this isle of eccentricity, the red, white and blue Union Jack flew high across the Eiffel Tower—sacré bleu! Starting the week was John Galliano at Maison Margiela who wiped the slate clean at the post-modern maestro’s house. He reinstated his bias-cut gowns, his extravagant detailing (anyone for a giant buckle corset belt?) and his favourite putty shades of khaki mixed with metallics and splashy prints. Die-hard Margiela fans will baulk at his designs (Sexy, really? Ladies who lunch skirtsuits, are you kidding me?) but there is a confidence about this collection that says he is ready to face his detractors and to hell with all those who disagree. Those fans can go straight to Vetements and Balenciaga. But more of that later.

The highlight of the season is always Dries Van Noten for me. This fall/winter 2016, his inspiration from the Italian eccentrics—poet Gabriele D’Annunzio and the Marchesa Casati—produced a collection of brilliantly coloured club blazers, pyjama dressing and striped pantsuits that speak of an English public school past. 

This was made highly elegant with cheetah print and faux fur, pearls swinging over cricket sweaters, evoking St Trinian’s girls gone wild in mummy’s couture wardrobe while she drinks one too many G&Ts. Jonathan Anderson did his country proud with his most stand-out show yet for the storied Spanish brand, Loewe. Sophistication reigned supreme for this celebrated young Brit and with beautiful leather dresses and coats (incredibly soft), handkerchief hem skirts and fitted jackets with gauzy drapes across waists and arms to create shape and a certain Alaïa bodycon sensuality. Looks came leather corsetted and fitted to a T, and worn with heels for women on-the-go. It was modern without looking clinical; luxurious without looking old; powerful without looking expected. It was sexy without the need for T&A. 

Part of the Brit gang, Phoebe Philo made her show space for the House of Céline small and compact at her usual venue—the Tennis Club. This contrasted with her relaxed collection of dresses over pants, reworked trench and cocoon-shaped blouses, with everything given a louche, cool ease, worn with Grecian sandals. The collection was a lesson in understanding what a woman today wants: A perfect dress for night (worn with pants for day); a great trench for wet weather (layered with loose straps and layers for colour and texture); and cool blouses that forgive every dessert sin while giving you major street cred. Can anyone fault her elegant quiet brilliance? I think not.

Sixties Brit chicks came to play at Isabel Marant with a cool Left Bank vibe—and it all came out really quite lovely. Big tweed coats and mini skirts were worn with flat boots—reminding me of pub-serving brassy Essex girls looking cool in their tarty get-ups with their boyfriend’s coats thrown over. How wonderful to feel young again!

Of course, the highlight of Paris was what Demna Gvasalia did at Balenciaga. He rolled out Hitchcockian ladies for starters, and moved onto sporty English council estate girls with oversized puffa jackets for mains, before serving up a sorbet palette cleanser of rebellious rocker chicks with leather jackets and boyfriend tartan shirts—think punk whispers from Westwood. The finale? Dessert perfection with vintage shop girls en route to Camden market with large striped market totes and ’70s’ beat-up leather coats. Their gal pals carried variations on the market totes and wore their vintage fur coat wares literally on their backs. 

Stella McCartney, on the other hand, did a runway report this fall: Dresses with pants, tick! Puffer jackets with pleated skirts, tick! Lingerie dresses, tick! Upbeat, fun and fast, McCartney delivered trend-ready pieces for her die-hard fans who shop, eat veggie meals and stomp around in their pleather heels along Sloane Street. 

Hedi Slimane turned to UK’s Robert Palmer girls—’80s gloss, glam and luxed up—with massive shoulder furs, skintight mini metallic dresses and perfect red lips. David Bowie-perfect disco looks came out to play one more time with pizazz and glamour not seen for the longest time at the House of Saint Laurent. 

And finally Miu Miu made for an English lesson in history with Regency tails, Victorian puffy sleeves, Edwardian jackets and riding gear references, all roped under a giant tapestry coat that summed up eccentric aristocracy through the ages. They came embellished and finished with diamanté aplenty, badges aplomb and long argyle sweaters worn with fluffy sparkly slippers in pastel shades. My faves were ’80s denim looks that were saved with heavy embellishment, or else, I might have been tempted to play Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” on the ghetto blaster. On second thought, I think I will do just that because Paris, by way of li’l Britain, made me feel young again. I call it my sartorial botox and filler injection. Plumped up and rejuvenated, I am happy to start shopping again.