There are two kinds of people who create fashions. Some borrow established ideas, rescale them with an artist's eye for color, fabric, shape and detail and serve them up at precisely the time customers want them most. They are more editors than designers, and yves Saint Laurent is the best of them here. Calvin Klein tops the list in New York.
But then there are the real innovators, who inject fresh ideas into fashion, even finding totally new ways of, say, making a sleeve or putting a sleeve in a coat. These are the real designers and Karl Lagerfeld and Kenzo are the best of them in Paris. Geoffrey Beene and Stephen Burrows are New York's top scorers in this department.
Yesterday in Paris, while it snowed, the two top creative designers, Lagerfeld and Kenzo, showed their influential designs.
It was Lagerfeld who first took the shaping and the linings out of clothes, and let each part of the garmentsstand on its own. The slip that lines a see-through blouse also works alone as a dress. And the blouse in effect works as a lining for a jacket. He also removed hemlines entirely to make clothes lighter and more easily layered.
It's that concept of convertible dressing that continues to intrigue him. Now Lagerfeld has put a belt under some dresses and tucked away buttons so that, as the mood strikes, dresses can be worn hiked up on one side, or the hem buttoned in such a way that it seems to ripple over one's boot tops.
"I'm easily bored by repeating myself," Lagerfeld said before the show, and he has forced himself to invest new ways to deal with clothing.
He's given up layering - "it makes a lot of sense, but everyone does it," he says, so no one needs his help in this area. "An you cannot go back to lined clothing, because then it becomes a gimmick and besides, clothes today must be light and loose." His innovations are now being copied by the cheapest firms. "But that is good and that inspired me to go on to new things," he says.
So he has put hand embroidery and even fur trims on daytime clothes, for a more costumed look, without dropping out of step with lightweight, convertible and free flowing designs that look contemporary.
He also has invented, really invented, a cape that is open at the sides with a sleeve attached to the collar.
Fellini's "Casanova" intrigued Lagerfeld not for the women's costumes but the men's ("the women's clothes weren't very beautiful") so he has done variations with beautiful, full, lace-trimmed blouses worn with black satin or velvet tapered britches. "Not a look for men but for women," Lagerfeld said, though he plans to wear such a shirt himself. (In fact, he was looking quite like Casanova with a little Franz Liszt mixed in. he had his hair tied back in a pony tail, was wearing a purple smock over a white shirt and a chiffon scarf bow-tied at the neck and had his black jeans tucked into blacks boots with heels.)
And he has created three new boot styles to be made in Italy ("they can't be made well enough in france," he says). There are black satin high heel boots that are thigh-high, a boot for sportswear that looks as if you are wearing pants, and puss 'n boots boots, very soft and draped; that give a new proportion with the very full skirt. Both the satin and the sportswear boot are meant to be worn under the skirt so the top is never concealed.
He knows that his costume designs are expensive, Lagerfeld says, but what can he do about it? The hand embroiderers are paid less than housemaid, by law, but at least he gives them work. And many of his fabrics are from Switzerland or Italy because that's where they are made the best.
He's tried manufacturing in the United States but the fabric still had to be imported and by the time he got through paying for the kind of workmanship he demands, the clothes were more expensive than those made here and shipped abroad. But one day he hopes to design a cheapter line.
"They will say that others, even Cardin, have made this look before, but no one has done it with the spirit and the fresh style of Kenzo," said Karl lagerfeld yesterday as he joined Sonia Rykiel, Issey Miyake and others on stage to greet Kenzo after his successful winter collection for JAP.
Store buyers and others count on Kenzo for many fresh ideas that will effect what their customers wear. He started mixed prints, mini-tunics and skinny pants and they credit Kenzo for first using cotton for winter and for injecting bright colors into clothes year round.
Those who were waiting for innovative ideas for fall, weren't disappointed. Kay Kerr of Neiman-Marcus, quickly cited scarf blouses, round shaped dresses, draped skirts, "endless ideas that are very wearable." Koko Hashim of Blommingdale's listed draping, ruffles, vests over big shirts, the oversized blazer and the loose shirt collar. And you can add to those lists, drape coats, oversized drawstring pants and jackets in a menswear check, pioneer women's costumes and huge handknit sweaters. Most hemlines cut off above the knee but there are others that inch down to mid-calf and even to the ankle.
Kenzo has rounded out clothes this season, giving them a balloon shape through a puffed-up hem that is turned under and apparently caught on an elastic, or catching his tunic length and longer knits with a cuff at the hem that gives these dresses the shape of a full sleeve.
Though the shape at first glance is like the hobble skirts of Poiret and others, the effect is decidedly different. The knits are pliable, usually short and always loose fitting and the models in tights and flat shoes can prance around, unlike the earlier versions which bound women so they could only toddle forth with tiny steps.
"I really wouldn't expect any woman in Washington to wear all things Kenzo from head to toe," says Mimi Liebeskind of Ann Taylor. "But just by taking the vest or the balzer or a carf blouse and adding it to what they already have in their closet, they can get a whole new look for fall. That's part of Kenzo's genius."