I didn't really mind - the walk was going to cover some territory I was already familiar with - I had seen the movie, knew a little about Chanel already and was prepared to read more by myself. Also, as I'm still recovering from asthma - not a great condition to battle in Paris summer - I decided I could walk around at my own pace and possibly do some air-conditioned building hopping.
So, I went to a fashion-related exhibition first up. This was the 'Little Black Dress' at the Mona Bismark American Centre for Art and Culture. On display were 51 LBDs - a sensible number for a brief visit and the space they occupied. I'm including in this number the cheeky black Comme des Garçons sheer lace man’s dress, worn and owned by Marc Jacobs. I can’t see The Accountant shrugging off his English reserved shambolic for long enough to embrace the man-dress, even if it featured tartan!
Most wearable dress I thought was a beautiful Diane von Furstanberg, knee length wrap-dress with heavy embellishment at the cuffs and around the line of the wrap. Dated 2007, it’s a classic.
Sharing the same nod to Spain was the dramatic ‘Infanta’ gown by American designer, Ralph Rucci in his Chado Ralph Rucci luxury line. It’ll come as no surprise when I tell you he trained, at one stage, under a Balenciaga patternmaker. ‘Chado’ comes from the Japanese tea ceremony and refers to austere elegance, detail and exactitude. The back of the ‘Infanta’ was breathtaking, even on the static mannequin.
Going back nearly a century, Fortuny’s iconic pleated column, ‘Delphos’ was another example of timeless chic. Fortuny was born in Spain, but lived most of his life in Venice where he established his own studio. The ‘Delphos’ gown was designed to be worn with the Knossos veil, and each gown consists of 4 – 5 widths of pleated silk, weighted by the Murano glass beads sewn along the sides and hem of the garments.
On the black ‘Delphos’ on display, these beads were gold-coffee – the perfect foil for the black silk. Although costume historians have learnt a lot about Fortuny’s pleating methods – and you can see his influence in pret-a-porter all over the place today – he patented the ‘mushroom pleasting’ technique and no one to my knowledge has quite cracked the secret. If you bought a Fortuny, you had to send it back periodically to be re-pleated. Isadora Duncan owned one, naturally.
The final highlight for me was Vera Wang’s dark confectionary of black and nude tulle. Sophisticated meringue.
After this, I walked across the Seine and disappeared into the Musee de quai Branly where I saw more textiles and body decorations, walked in a river of words, admired some voodoo fetish objects and had a late lunch at the Cafe Branly. Blog on that coming soon. Watch this space!