How to turn highbrow inspiration into no-brainer, instantly desirable clothes? Put it in the hands of Stella McCartney. The British designer, who showed her spring/summer 2016 collection in Paris on Monday morning, , described her collection as being influenced by the idea of an artist and their muse. But forget interpretations of Picasso’s portraits of Dora Maar, or Rossetti’s of Lizzie Siddal, McCartney is a designer that lives very much in the real world and her clothes were about modern life – appealing with or without the art references.
The first outfit, a long, red gingham dress with a polo shirt top, was followed by other, equally uncomplicated designs: tightly pleated skirts and tops in a sunny palette of pinks and oranges, and McCartney’s signature tailoring in slouchy trousers and sleeveless jackets. Shoes were either low sandals with a chunky heel or the latest incarnation of a hiking shoe with cork and rubber uppers. Most models wore oversized aviator sunglasses in bright colours.
The collection finished with a selection of summer barbecue-to-evening-at-a-garden-party dresses in net-like fabric, with flouncy skirts, some appliquéd with spiral and squiggle patterns. While these revealed quite a lot of model flesh, there is no doubt McCartney will produce more modest versions in her ready-to-wear collection. To put it in the parlance of social media, IRL – in real life – is where she excels.
Backstage, McCartney, dressed in black sweater and matching wide trousers, elaborated on her artist/muse inspiration. “It’s about how important that role is and celebrating that,” she said. Her own muse? “Women, all women,” she said and hugged her sister, Mary, waiting to congratulate her.
In McCartney’s world, ideas are just the start of something, eventually leading to clothes that women want to wear. Her label, a highly valued part of the Kering stable, the luxury goods conglomerate that also owns Gucci, Christopher Kane and Alexander McQueen, posted profits of £4.36m in 2014, a rise of 22.7%.
That is only part of the story. There are 30 standalone Stella McCartney stores, and the label sells in more than 70 countries worldwide, with other markets proving stronger than the UK. China was described by the chief executive, Frederick Lukoff, as an area of “tremendous growth”.
Monday at Paris fashion week also featured Sacai, the Japanese label designed by Chitose Abe, tipped as a potential replacement for Alexander Wang at Balenciaga. Launched in 1999 by the former Comme Des Garçons designer, it has grown to become a cult label for fashion insiders who like the way Abe deconstructs tailoring in new ways.
This strong collection continued her themes: there were floaty chiffon dresses with bright scarf prints in stripes, some with knitted dresses worn on top, and blanket stripes on jackets and wraps. Classic navy blue jumpers came with unexpectedly luxe gold embroidery on the back.
Paradise Garage, an inspiration for menswear in June, was evident here too, with the logo for the 1980s New York nightclub embroidered on to lace tops. It was a great advertisement for the combination of innovation, invention and cult references she might bring to one of Paris’s most storied heritage houses.