Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

An Olympian Task

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

An Olympian Task

Article excerpt

The designer, who will be doing the British Olympics uniforms, understands dressing for what life throws at you.

"I feel excited, honored -- British," said Stella McCartney, referring to her participation in dressing the country's teams for the London Olympics this summer.

"I've always had a sporty language in my collections, but working with the Olympics is more about my physical emotions," she said.

All that feeling came together in a strong show on Monday for the Paris autumn/winter 2012 collections.

There was British-ness in the meld of town and country, as long egg-shaped winter coats with single collar flaps faced off with their city equivalent: a tweed suit with the jacket fitted close to the body.

A deep, bright blue filled the runway, especially for plain sporty tops, made special by textures of embossed pattern or a furry mish-mash. Ms. McCartney, an anti-fur activist, said backstage that she had created a woolly handbag from sheep on her own country estate -- even though this treasure did not make it to the runway.

As a modern woman and mother, with her children backstage, Ms. McCartney understands the Olympian task of dressing for what life throws at you.

The models, with hair scraped into a bun, looked more formal and, dare we say, mature than in earlier collections. But the strength of the show was in its breadth of ideas, from tailoring through cable knits. They served as a dress-and-cardigan comfort blanket in tandem with short, easy-to-wear stretch dresses. After several seasons of drop-dead evening gowns for the Stella/Hollywood connections, they were not in the mix.

Shocking pink was (perhaps unwisely) allowed to slip in amongst the blue. But Ms. McCartney just gets the modern woman and her life. And that is her strength.

At Chloe, there was yet another of these 30-something women, flipping between male/female, work/home. She was purposeful as she sped down the runway, hair flying, feet in Plain Jane strap shoes with a low or higher heel.

"Flirting with innocence from a place of strength," was the designer Clare Waight Keller's take on what she saw as a hybrid of French sophistication and a carefree Brit -- although it is doubtful either would love baggy Bermuda shorts gathered below the knees or trousers with sweatpant elastic at the ankle.

The mannish side was well done, as outerwear like parkas and military looks were prettified with feminine colors, including boudoir pink and dusty blue. Padded or quilted areas also gave surface interest and softness.

Full-on femininity first peeked through as a lacy shirt under a sweater. Then it moved to full-on lace, appliqued with flowers and more like a summer offering than a sophisticated winter party dress.

Some of the free spirit of Chloe is being captured by the designer. But with the minimal and sleek a general trend, an alternate offering is welcome only just so far. …

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