Stella McCartney has a lock on stylish-but-not-slavishly-fashionable clothes that work for busy women. A quick glance around the audience at the Opéra Garnier and you saw countless pieces from recent collections. Over here, the washed-out plaids and pinstripes from Fall, over there a dark cape with the scrolling white embroideries of a year before that. Today's show put an emphasis on understatement; it was right there in her program notes—"an accent on understated seduction," it read—which made the front-row hits of the future harder to pick out than usual. With the installment of Raf Simons at Dior, there was talk of a new minimalism in fashion, but the Belgian has somewhat confounded expectations since his appointment. McCartney, on the other hand, is still feeling its pull for Spring, which made this quiet collection feel somewhat out of step with other things that are happening in Paris at the moment.
Even so, McCartney did have some worthwhile things to say about suiting and slipdress-ing, two areas where she's been strong since the beginning. Alongside the slouchy, almost unconstructed silk men's jackets and trousers that have become a signature, she proposed a popover top and high-waisted, full-through-the-thigh pants in a dense knit that keyed into her sporty Adidas affiliations. In monochrome black or rosy nude, they'll do the pulled-together work of a suit. On billowy dresses, meanwhile, she played sheer against opaque, slicing them horizontally below the hips and threading them back together with basting stitches. See-through skirts have become a thing this season, but McCartney's interpretation looked fresh and new. She wrapped things up with delicate summer dresses; their patchworks of lace will grab eyeballs in stores. Still, this show felt like a bit of a letdown. McCartney's loyal customers expect more.