Paris Fashion Has Designs on the Modern Woman


Style guru Susan Tabak has been a regular in the front row of the Paris fashion shows for the past seven years. Tabak, author of the book CHIC IN PARIS: Style Secrets and Best Addresses and a popular style blog, gives her take to Reuters on last week’s shows, edited by Rebecca Prusinowski:

The Pret-a-Porter Fall 2009 shows here in Paris have signaled a return to chic design for the modern woman, and, of course, I couldn’t be happier!  Though the collections thus far have displayed a range of influences, nearly all have captured an elegance that is quintessentially Parisian.

Lanvin was perfection.  Designer Alber Elbaz says he appreciates the strong woman and that sentiment was reflected in this chic collection with an edge.  Held at the Halle Freyssinet in the 13th arrondissment, the runway looked like an asphalt street, implying these were not just precious clothes for models on the catwalk but for the contemporary woman with places to be. There were forties-inspired suits gathered into soft peplums in the front, gorgeous fur stoles, cascading ruffles tempered with tailored silhouettes. I hugged Alber backstage and told him I wanted one of everything!

Showcased in a giant tent in the Jardin des Tuileries, Dior was a correct collection of tailored suiting with a twist. Designer John Galliano infused the clothing with Orientalism and a Mongolian look. The array of beautiful coats was the highlight for me, and though I also admired the decorated airy chiffon evening wear, the collection as a whole lacked the signature Galliano flair that I look forward to.

Olivier Theyskens collection for Nina Ricci, on the other hand, took my breath away. His last show with the label due to internal strife, Theyskens will walk away triumphant. Some of the looks reminded me of work he had done at Rochas. Others were totally fresh and unlike anything I’ve seen before. It was sexy, modern, romantic and Victorian. I loved the transparent pants, the structured jackets with big shoulders, the dresses with broad billowing ruffles and those with short fronts and trains in the back.  I’d be remiss not to mention the outlandish stilt-like embellished platform shoes at the show. They were fascinating but distracting, too.

Amid the shows, there have been many fabulous parties! Thierry Mugler hosted a presentation at their atelier to celebrate the revival of their form-fitting and futuristic fashion line. Prada held the last of their Fashion Week Iconoclasts events on Avenue Montaigne, where Vogue Paris editor Carine Roitfeld decked their boutique in snakeskin, live pythons included. I had a wild night with Diane von Furstenberg and Giambattista Valli at the new nightclub Le Montana, and it was a lavish star-studded affair at the opening of Roberto Cavalli’s new five-story flagship store on Rue Saint Honore.

The energy here in Paris is crackling.  I am not only inspired by the designers’ collections but by the city itself. Watching people while waiting for the shows to start is pure theater! The crowd is dressed to impress like no where else in the world. I love the fur, the hats and the coats – though I could do without the clunky shoes, which look to be here through fall.