"If you're going to show in Paris, be Parisian." So stated Roland Mouret after his show today, and the assertion neatly summed up what was so intimidating about his collection. It wasn't that the show referenced Catherine Deneuve in the vampire flick The Hunger, or that the silhouettes suggested the techno-gothic mood of Paris in the Mugler-ized eighties. You didn't need the dread sounds of Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead" to feel the vibe of horror. No, indeed, "Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees" could have been playing at this show, and it still would have been intimidating. For what it conjured, aggressively, was the daunting pulled-togetherness of the Parisienne woman. This was a show about style as discipline.
Everything here was edgy and angled, from the squared-off shoulders of Mouret's coats to the daggerlike V-necks on his tops and dresses. The collection's sharpness was elaborated as well by Mouret's color-blocking—the designer draped and folded fabrics over one another with an origamilike precision, building in three dimensions. You'd have been hard-pressed to find an aspect of softness here—there was a hint of it in the way Mouret's silhouettes hugged the body, but the overarching effect of that was viperish. These women were hunting. Likewise, the textures here, including a swirling knit jacquard and tiger-striped mesh lace, were less sensuous than animalistic. Mouret looked deep into the heart of Parisian urbanity, and found something cold yet feral. It was interesting.
At the most straightforward level, however, the appeal of these clothes was somewhat hard to discern. There will undoubtedly be takers for Mouret's taut, sexy, dresses—in particular the ones with color-blocked swatches of leopard-print fabric, and a high-necked number in red and black, with geometric folds of material across the bodice. He'll also have plenty of customers for his adapted motorcycle jackets, which looked crisp and modern, and for his excellent new range of bags, which debuted on the runway this morning. But his hip flaps, a little suggestive of peplums, were a bit odd, and the trousers with built-in over-the-knee boots weren't altogether convincing. More than that, though, Mouret may simply have succeeded too well in summoning the steely chic of the Parisienne. You had to admire these clothes, but they weren't wholly inviting.