Autumn/Winter 2015-16 Balmain

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Those transfixed by Kim Kardashian’s new platinum blonde hairdo, which she debuted on the front row at Balmain, were shocked from their trance when Alessandra Ambrosio opened the show in full, in-your-face, wham-bam, glamazon glory.

She entered in a cut-to-the navel, floor-length, mustard pleated gown, belted with glossy leather. Glamour is to be expected at Balmain, but the fab-factor was dialled way up.

Vintage undertones ran deep here – if it was J.W. Anderson‘s job in London to banish the Seventies revival in favour of the Eighties, then Olivier Rousteing has picked up the baton in Paris. Although Rousteing’s show notes claimed a Seventies reference, most of these proportions – and that fierce femme attitude – felt more at home in an Eighties context.

When the collection did riff on the Seventies, then that was visible in the billowing chiffon jumpsuits, printed with popping florals and finished with a ruffled décolletage.

A focus on proportion asserted itself in wide-leg ballooning flares in fine, high-shimmer fabric, pin-tucked to accentuate the pertest of derrières, which were divine; think Pleats Please meets Kim Kardashian and you’re part way there.

In fact, Rousteing may have a #BalmainArmy but Kim was clearly the muse inspiring this collection. The newly blonde bombshell looked particularly taken with a pair of sheer lace kick flares, worn with a sheer lace top tucked into a high waist, and cinched with a wide, pearl-embellished belt.

And below the waist? Perhaps the biggest surprise came in the cover up. These clothes were designed to be less fleshy than what we have come to expect from 28-year-old Rousteing. He chooses long-legged, glowing, robust-looking girls to walk in his show (the kind of gloriously sexy goddesses you’d find walking the Victoria’s Secret runway) and there’s always oodles of skin on display. Legs when visible were in tights – a low, possibly eight-denier by the looks of things.

This was of course an autumn/winter collection, so perhaps that explains the long-sleeves and the heavier handwriting, but it must have been about more than seasonality. Perhaps this woman wants to trade less on her sexuality and more on her talents; let’s face it…

The Balmain woman is so fierce she doesn’t feel the cold.

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Spring/Summer 2015 Karen Walker

One of the great pleasures of writing about fashion is that designers introduce you to such a wide variety of references—cultural, historical, anthropological. And one of the pleasures of being on the Karen Walker beat is that her seasonal references are pretty much always something you’re glad to know about, if you didn’t before. This time out, for instance, she was channeling the work of photographer Valerie Finnis, who captured midcentury English gardening culture. Posh biddies, at work on their lilac and rose bushes. The photos are terrific. And so was this collection. The graphic floral prints hit that exact Karen Walker sweet spot where chic meets eccentric. The dresses, tops, and jumpsuits with their whipstitched wrap belts were instantly relatable must-haves—the kind of seasonless clothes that endure in a woman’s closet. The patchwork suede pieces, with their swirling, Pucci-esque patterns, were a harder sell, but ultimately convincing. They seemed like the kind of items a girl yearns to find vintage, but never does, really.

Best of all, there were the pants. Valerie Finnis’ photographs weren’t the only thing that Walker dug out of the archive this season; as she explained after the show, her to-die-for, high-waisted, slightly flared trousers had a silhouette only marginally revamped from a collection she turned out ages and ages ago. In dark denim or weathered gray cotton, they looked like the right shape to go under pretty much anything come springtime. As one of those gardening ladies might have it, they were a perennial.

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