Paris Fashion Week: the Lanvin AW14 re-see

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One of my highlights of Paris Fashion Week was the Lanvin AW14 re-see. On a huge scale, this is where you get to see the commercial workings of Fashion Week at play, where buyers view the pieces they’re really going to stock, and write their orders on the spot. The vast space (a 1920s former railway depot) was a hive of activity, it even had a pop-up café to keep the buyers and clerks fed and watered while crunching those numbers.

I was guided through both the catwalk collections and the commercial collections so I could see the pieces close up and learn what sells and what doesn’t. The theme for AW14 was extremism, experimentation and extravagance, shown on the runway with Edwardian-esque styling of romantic picture hats and elbow-hugging gloves. With a dark palette, it was useful to see the myriad fabrics and textures at close quarters; fake and real furs, loose salt-n-pepper tweeds and sheer gauzes designed to suggest movement and lightness.

A shaggy wool fringed coat from the runway collection had shaved sides while a ‘leather’ trench turned out to be fake leather “for better movement”. Fabric experimentation here is the key – think a sheer gauze shell top with wool and tinsel woven into it and feather and knitted wool transformed into a tactile mini shift dress. The colour-block fringing was one of my standouts, expertly placed on dresses in varying lengths to keep the eye travelling.

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After being walked through the catwalk collection on one side of the room, we switched over to the commercial collection where I was surprised to discover that a pair of posh jersey track pants are a perennial best seller. This is the interesting part of re-sees, you get to look at a collection with commercial eyes and appreciate how a designer balances dreams and desires against what people really wear. In that sense, it’s kind of true what they say about ready-to-wear being more like couture while the commercial and pre-collections do the job of ready-to-wear. The experimental pieces may not surface much further than the rails in this showroom but they do the job of delivering the brand statement loud and clear. That said, Lanvin has the freedom to be risk-taking in its commercial offer too. “As an independent, we can produce things like fur without worrying if it will sell,” I was told. Less polarising were the twisted ribbed knits, especially one in deep magenta, a welcome splash of colour.

As with many RTW brands, bags and shoes are a big old deal for Lanvin so naturally there was a huge area dedicated to them (alongside those dreamy feathered hats and some impossibly elegant gloves). I made a beeline for the cutaway pumps and flat ankle boots, while the multi-way bag was flagged up as popular with the buyers. I suspect the theatrical hats will wend their way into a few order books too, we all had a go at trying them on. Extremism, experimentation and extravagance may well be the look for Lanvin AW14 but underscoring that is a cache of pragmatic, crowd-pleasing product that promises to move swiftly on the shop floor.

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