Paris Fashion Week

Maybe this season's designers have something to teach Wall Street. Unlike economists and politicians, far from gloom mongering, designers are thinking less about the world catching America's financial cold, and more about making women feel inspired and strong enough to withstand the pressures.

The mood in Paris, while more sombre than usual for spring summer, is confidant and focused on longevity. These are clothes that fortify, cheer up, and are not going anywhere without a fight.

Givenchy's Gothic glamazons look ready to take on the world in latticed bodices and leather patched denim. Balenciaga's armour-like foil jackets and rubber trousers look ready for lunar landing. McQueen's sculpted leather corsets, carved silhouettes and crystal embroidered all-in-ones look invincible. Positive thinking comes in the form of power and protection.

Maybe it is not a coincidence that elements of Eighties and Nineties power dressing have surfaced. And while we have seen references to Alaia-esque cinched silhouettes in previous seasons, far from cheery florals, summer looks to be a season of rigorous tailoring, exposed zips, leather bodices and broad, padded shoulders.

At Christian Lacroix, there was no wading around in uncertainty or worry. Bright prints looked cheerful and little dizzy rather than sweet. Ruffles were moved to the back of the dresses and jackets and shoes. Matador-like trousers and cropped jackets embellished with pieces of mirror like embroidery look fierce and regal. Giambattista Valli offered pure escape in the form of Fifties hoop skirts in natural white and pale yellow prints, and his signature finale of voluminous ball gowns.

Layers of transparency, cut-outs, mesh and fringing are all big trends for spring/summer 2009. The parallels here seems obvious; aside from the need for lighter-weight clothes in summer, the work with layers of transparency reflects the feeling of precariousness and the need for more market transparency. Far from delicate, sheer layers are architectural and show the structure of the body.

The multifunctional all-in-one has been seen everywhere and in some interesting applications, including a sequin-covered evening dress/trouser hybrid at YSL, Stella McCartney's blush coloured silky all-in-ones and short shorts at Vanessa Bruno.

Instead of waiting for the penny to drop, quite literally, designers are being proactive and hopeful, and at the very least offering inspiration and protection.

Maybe this is a more constructive approach for those in finance. Clearly, there is much work to be done to right the markets, but when consumer confidence and the collective mood has immediate implications, maybe Wall Street should also focus on inspiration and protection.


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