Kenzo, Isabel Marant, Carven — Fashion Review

March 5th, 2013

Left and center, Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times; right, Richard Bord, via Getty Images

From left: ISABEL MARANT Layered knit undershirts and a metal-studded wrap skirt; KENZO A wool wrap coat in an eye motif, with leather sandal boots; CHRISTIAN WIJNANTS A shibori-dyed wool knit minidress.

The cool-kid crowd on a Sunday morning outside La Samaritaine, the long defunct department store that LVMH is turning into a luxury hotel on the Seine, gave proof to the refreshing impact that the designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim have had on the Kenzo label. That, and the fact that you actually see people here wearing Kenzo everywhere, on tiger-embroidered sweatshirts and colorful ball caps.

“Kenzo!” shouted an Air France flight attendant to a young man in a hat who was debarking a flight from Kennedy Airport last week.

The point is that young people are identifying with Kenzo as a fashion label again because Ms. Lim and Mr. Leon, as the owners of Opening Ceremony, relate so well to them. They are cultural sponges, and for fall they soaked up lots of influences from their tours of ancient temples in Nepal, India and China, puréed them through their digital machinery set to a filter of “street style” and squeezed out more fabulous clothes.

In their show, held in the store’s now dilapidated atrium, there were round-shouldered jackets made of glittering gold jacquards, shiny Lurex coats and an eye motif repeated on a black coat, and some grown-up suits — all relatable designs that screamed out for a click of the “like” button. Less likable were the armor-stiff leather jackets that looked like puffy crocodiles after an all-night bender, but maybe the designers were thinking of Hannah Horvath and all these young girls today.

Most designers would kill to capture the essence of the contemporary youthquake, and if Isabel Marant was the one who served as the barometer for French street style in recent years, her fall collection suggests that we are headed toward a darker place. Ms. Marant showed black minidresses and black knit tops that hugged the body like thermal underwear, some cut with open vents across the chest. There were white versions as well. At least some of the black wrap skirts were coated with metal studs, a touch of the punk trend.

Guillaume Henry of Carven also was in a dangerous mood, with a woman in mind, as the press notes said ominously, who finds herself “in an unusual and violent environment.” The set, with a backdrop of car taillights in a darkened garage, was spooky, but given the fluffy blue and pink wrap coats on his runway, perhaps the danger was that this woman fell into a cotton candy machine. But the more you looked, the more you liked the upbeat zebra stripes on skirts and form-fitting dresses, and the handbags shaped like tropical fish, with handles that look like bike locks. Mr. Henry can’t stay in a bad mood for very long.

Lastly, a couple of shout-outs for Paris Fashion Week up-and-comers, knitwear division. Christian Wijnants, fresh from winning the International Woolmark Prize, demonstrated his innovative treatment of yarns with shibori-dyed sweaters, some seamless and made from a single continuous strand of yarn. And Rabih Kayrouz, a Lebanese designer whose label is Maison Rabih Kayrouz, had a high-class show with bold silk dresses and separates made of intricately ridged knits, like a creamy white sweater and skirt set that revealed strips of shocking orange beneath.

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