Balmain and Manish Arora : Paris Fashion Week 2015

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Christmas came early in Paris when Olivier Rousteing, head designer at Balmain, sent a collection down the catwalk that resembled nothing more than a box of Quality Street, the very British chocolates inextricably linked with the festive season.

The first indication was the colour palette: green, gold and purple, mostly metallic, some of which beaded to a high-shine, almost foiled finish. There were also interesting experimentations with crisp pleats, a sunray version of which worked to best effect. They resembled cellophane wrappers tightly twisted around confectionery.

Balmain's autumn/winter 2015

That act of unwrapping is all about the anticipation, the knowledge that what’s about to be revealed is a treat. It works in the context of Rousteing’s Balmain too, where surface flashiness competes (to no avail) with the perfection of the bodies that usually lie beneath; these clothes are as much about the act of undressing as they are about getting frocked-up in the first place.

Among the showgirl glamour were a few more down-to-earth touches, including a block-coloured mohair knit, wide-legged leather trousers in demure claret and even cocooning black wool coats, confident inclusions rather than the desperate scrabble of a designer who doesn’t know his customer.

Balmain's autumn/winter 2015 show during Paris Fashion Week

While much of the collection was skimpy, shrunken or sheer there were also plenty of elements which, when stripped back from the va-va-voom show styling, could work for the glamorous customer in her twilight years. More wide-legged trousers, sharp shouldered blazers or pencil skirts would all look fitting on the grand dames who, like Rousteing’s much-photographed good-time girls, still just want to have fun.

Rousteing’s approach is defiantly “more is more” but it looks positively constrained in comparison to Manish Arora’s exercise in high camp. That designer heaped his autumn/winter collection with the iconography and ceremonial dress of Native American tribes. Evidently inspired by the natural world, too, flowers unfurled and birds perched atop shoulders, all liberally sprinkled with sequins and beads. Despite Arora’s best efforts to dazzle, they felt distinctly flat.

Happily, Rick Owens’ use of glitz was far more restrained. Heavy materials – wools, washed leather and velvet – in his signature subdued but beautiful shades were imbued with a lightness, thanks to his ability to fold and drape around the body to craft a veritable chrysalis.

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