There is something discombobulating about feeling a shudder and a tilt, the models in front of you apparently moving slowly sideways, as the stand with your show seat starts to move in circles.
At the same time, the models at the Céline show seemed to be going off in all directions. Popping in and out of the black holes of space were models – young or older – wearing a smart green masculine pantsuit, a striped shirt, a white belted raincoat, something furry and – unexpectedly – a tunic and pants printed with black wheels and checks skittering before your eyes.
All this and the bodies and arms of shadowy people behind the plastic backdrop. I rushed backstage to try to make sense of the show chaos (sorry: artistic intrigue), but designer Phoebe Philo did not want to talk when I asked her the point of her dramatic presentation of her Autumn/Winter 2017 collection.
“Just ideas coming together with lots of ideas,” said the designer. “Just lots and lots of ideas and how they impact each other.”
Around me, Phoebe’s team were hugging and sobbing and clutching each other, as if this show were their last. The overview notes told me the installation (that required more electric cables and wires than I have ever seen above a fashion runway) was by French artist Philippe Parreno.
“The Céline AW17 collection explored Phoebe Philo’s storytelling design process of how a collection is created and the notion of how changes result in impact,” read the statement. “Further, the collection relates closely to the interconnected nature of women’s lives and possibilities for women.”
Before I read this, I had thought of Phoebe as the English designer who has her children running around backstage and who made practical but classy clothes for today’s woman. She threw into the mix a few charming pieces like the fluffy flat sandals that have been picked up by other designers across the world.
With all that on offer, why did the new Céline collection have to complicate things so much?
Take away the moving seats and impossible-to-follow criss-cross of the models – and there was the Céline look that any woman would crave: the bold, floor-length tailored coat; a tuxedo with its hemline sweeping right down to the ankle. The tailoring looked bigger, oversized even, which is in tune with the Eighties-style square shoulders that we have seen elsewhere this season.
Phoebe seemed to be offering a hardened version of the serenity she once found in streamlined clothes. An example of the new severity would be a plain, long sleeved dress with a hemline at mid-calf. Its softer side was a blue shirt elongated to the ankle and worn with pants.
Ultimately, Phoebe offers 21st century elegance with the smooth lines disrupted by a tangle of fringe at the hem or what appeared to be a big blanket over one arm.