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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Autumn/Winter 2015-16 Alexander McQueen

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That moment when a rose is on the verge of decay, when the petals turn floppy, soft and crinkled, is, says Sarah Burton a beautiful thing.

This show, staged at the Conciergerie in Paris, the vaulted chambers where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before being beheaded, and, for those who can remember, the venue for Lee McQueen’s first show in Paris thirteen years ago, where models walked with wolves on leashes, examined the beauty of those roses.
A wilting bouquet was the image featured on the shows invitation, photographed by David Sims in 2003. But the way Burton captured a fading rose, in its last days of existence was best executed in a three-dimensional skirt made from layered petals of whisper-weight organza, they formed pillow-y blooms that seemed to wilt even more in motion.

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Piled up, 18th Century hair, powdered faces and Miss Havisham tiered lace fishtail gowns that buttoned all the way up to Victorian collars added to the dark romance. This was McQueen at its most feminine, and in many ways, at its very best. Since Burton took the helm, the house has benefitted from a gentler hand, yes, it was still provocative, but without a hint of aggression.There were no hard edges, everything looked frayed, as though it had lived a life – which brings us back to that dying rose again.

Any leanings towards bondage – a regular occurrence here – were replaced with lingerie in the shape of lacy leather bras that extended up to chokers. Her tonal leather looks in head to toe putty pink were devastatingly pretty and informed by the idea of a rose’s layers; how each petal peels away.

It was a triumph.

 If you haven’t yet visited Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition at the V&A I suggest you make a date in your diary. It isn’t a show you are going to want to miss.

Click here to read my review of the exhibition.

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