Margiela’s Intellectual Dominatrixes and Other Favorite Looks from Paris…

Fall 2011 may have been the most action-packed Fashion Week in the history of action-packed Fashion Weeks. But if one could tear away from Twitter speculation (we know it’s hard) and get down to the nitty gritty, it shaped up to be a very directional season on the Paris runways. Our favorite looks…

Dominatrix Effect
Apparently designers think we’re in need of discipline, so for fall they dove headfirst into the dungeon, sending out a seemingly endless parade of fashion dominatrixes outfitted for every taste imaginable. These ranged from Maison Martin Margiela‘s intellectual doms, who’ll read Heidegger in German while whipping you into submission, to the army of Lady Gaga clones at Mugler. Junya Watanabe made a break from his usual brainy antics to delve into the dark side with molded corsetry and suggestive leather. Sarah Burton’s sublime collection for Alexander McQueen punctuated the light with poetic darkness in the form of maiden-attendants rigged in harnesses. But the award for perviest collection goes to Louis Vuitton, where Marc Jacobs pulled out all the stops for his The Night Porter fantasy, sending out naughty housekeepers and sultry vixens, topped off by bad girl Kate Moss, with a cigarette and no pants.

The End Is Near
Maybe it was spring’s upbeat mood and vibrant hues, but several designers turned altogether gloomy for fall, to the point of doomsday morose. At least they provided some options for our imminent demise. These ranged from medieval alien invaders at Gareth Pugh, with their dramatic proportions and stiff armor for wiping out the human race and still making it in time for cocktails, to Ann Demeulemeester’s post-apocalyptic she-warriors—or Thunderdome gone glam. Treading on familiar ground but with newfound sophistication, Rick Owens sent out a series of stoned-faced nuns in habits and angel-winged shoulders, perfect for chilly days or awaiting final judgment. But the best end-of-the-world scenario goes to Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, who scorched an entire forest for his lyrical ode to our last hurrah, kind of like The Road, but with better separates. After all, if you were to cling to a last remnant of civilization, wouldn’t it be your Chanel jacket?

Drag Race
Blame James Franco or Lea T., but everyone seemed to have gender bending on their mind for fall, borrowing codes and proportions from the other sex. Just look at Comme des Garçons‘ strangely alluring half-man, half-woman combos—very Victor Victoria—or Stefano Pilati’s knock-out ode to sixties Yves Saint Laurent, with its tidy tweeds, car coats, and just a touch of Sapphic chic. Céline‘s love affair with car design produced some strict tailoring that borrowed from the lines of a luxury auto interior, while Stella McCartney manned up her suiting with slouchy proportions and perhaps a nod to Donna Karan with those shoulder pads. But our vote for best gender transformation goes to Hakaan, who transitioned seamlessly from body-con slut dresses to pleated pants, oversized blazers, and sheer tees that would look equally great on Lea or James.

Fine Print
Finally, there were a few bright spots in an otherwise dark season. These flashes of vibrant prints caught our eyes amid a sea of muted tones, among them Chloé’s snakeskin prints and Lanvin’s somber florals that had a slight funerary air—all the more poetic. Then there were Stella McCartney’s refracted jewel prints, which were as fun as Miu Miu’s forties florals that made us want to do the Swing. Always one for curveballs, Nicolas Ghesquière sent out abstract floral prints at Balenciaga that were somehow both retro and futuristic. But the most unique prints came from the man of the hour, Riccardo Tisci, whose tour de force at Givenchy revolved around pansies and panthers. It was an odd juxtaposition that managed to be street without being kitsch, directional without trying to hard, and, well, downright cool. 

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