The words “masculine and feminine” have increasingly less meaning when it comes to fashion presentations for the next decade. It is not because genders are non-specific on the runways, but rather that the old fashioned concepts of ‘you can’t tell the boys from the girls’ – meaning males with long hair or women in trousers – are dated as visions that belong to the 20th century. Here is how two designers of today interrupted neutral fashion.

Chloe: Strong But Thoughtful

Standing casually in a pair of tailored, thickly woven mannish shorts, Natacha Ramsay-Levi was the essence of her Chloé collection. And for this spring/summer season for the Paris house, she was weighing the situation in a changing world.

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“The first half of the show is a balance between masculinity and femininity,” she explained. “It’s a silk blouse, beautiful long dresses with pintucks, but there is a tailoring that is important to balance that.”

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“I wanted the show to be a quiet one,” she explained. “It’s not about fantasy, it’s about defining the brand and my signature at Chloé. Two things have always driven my mind – to show that we can build up a wardrobe that is perennial and not disposable, and how to present it in a simple way, not with a fashion twist.”The idea was to stay simple: a blouse is a blouse! There are no loud prints. The dresses when they are feminine, they are very feminine, It’s sincere about what Chloé is.”

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The designer said proudly that the same trousers were already there in her first collection and the jacket also, repeating silhouettes but showing it differently.

“I think it’s our responsibility to be sincere when we do a statement,” she explained. “It’s not something you will be throwing away in six months, but things that you can re-use and re-show.”

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And there lies the entire situation of fashion today in a world where the intelligent person thinks before the investment and keeps planet earth in mind.

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The designer used the word ‘grace’ sparingly as a printed word, suggesting a quiet attitude to the collection that was, indeed, graceful in this feminine/masculine spirit. According to the designer, it became 100 per cent feminine towards the end, with small prints, just a touch of embroidery and “nothing which shouted”.

But there is the problem with quiet and thoughtful fashion. What is the take-away – the moment when concept or colour or decoration tell the story? The conclusion has to be that the Chloé collection was thoughtful and desirable – but it missed that rush of desire that makes a fashion collection sing.

Paco Rabanne: A Daring Spirit

The flooring at Paco Rabanne was enough to make you happy – circles of colour like blown up sweeties in vivid shades of scarlet, turquoise, sky blue and purple. Walking this wildly coloured line were male and female models telling the story of designer Julien Dossena.

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The way he has brought together the silver, metallic effects from the original designer in the 1960s with colourful flower patterns in a world of dresses and skirts would have been success enough. But the designer introduced a male version that gave more freshness to this striking show.

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Dossena described the male contribution as a capsule, which will be extended for the Paris menswear shows in January. It was a good moment for the designer to think through and define the ‘Wacko Paco’ story for the 21st century.

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“For me, men’s fashion is the same values I have been searching for, I wanted it to be really fun, not aggressive when we know we are living in a horrible world,” Dossena said.

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“Maybe we can just value something in a humanist way, to be nice to each other and believe in the value of kindness. I see naivety as a nice way to express yourself to the world, especially when the world in the state it is.”

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©Paco Rabanne spring/summer 2020.

Sounds a bit kooky for a fashion designer?

Dossena is very smart and his exuberance constrained by his clean cutting. The opening dress in multi-coloured spots with a giant heart appliquéd to the bust told the story in one colourful swoop. Throughout, was the same concept: a simple blouse and skirt with contrasting flower patterns or vivid trousers set against a plain white jacket. menswear clothes, by contrast, were daring in their body-conscious cuts and their clashing stripe-and-check patterns. Or there might be an all-in-one black outfit, lined with patterns, that was fun, sexy, but never over the top. The women, too, had a similar geometric effect with horizontal striped sweater and plain trousers.

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But it is the way the designer brings in the silvered effects in a 21st century way that speaks for current fashion. The apparent simplicity of these slithering, shining metallics was of the moment – yet at the same time relating to the brand’s origins.

It was a faultless display with a strong spirit.