Paul Hardy - spring/summer 2006

Until now, the words baroque and streamlining might have rested in opposite spectrums of fashion lingo for most of us. For spring-summer 2006, Paul Hardy gives us women’s ready-to-wear that fuses the impossible.

A mélange of spice-route silks is layered to perfection, offering separates and ensembles in creamy tones of biscuit beige, ecru and off-white. The simplest pieces are the most astounding, such as the three-quarter-length maiden dress with both a delicate waist bow and raw-cut neck. A lace-up bustier is paired with a slip disguised as a pencil skirt, showing how 19th and even 18th century sensibilities can be slick. That is, if Paul Hardy wants them to be. The mile-high hats and the octopus shrug would have been enough to give Marie Antoinette an aneurysm.

The gathered hoop skirt is nothing new, and the shorts appear to be a token element thrown into an otherwise tight collection. The innovation, however, comes with the beige cloth-buttoned shirt jacket, which when paired with a swishy floor-length silk dress evokes equal measures of pride and sadness. This emotional balance extends throughout the collection. Where there is falling fabric and understated denouement, there is also a rigid counteracting element, sometimes as simple as a tank top.

This tongue-in-cheek play on classics that wafted onto the Paris runway for spring-summer 2006, with generous dollops of fanciful dreaminess, has fashion circles wondering if we might have our own Viktor and Rolf, wrapped up in one. Let’s not forget that Hardy’s dressed divas of all stripes, from Alannis Morrissete to the Divine Miss M herself, Bette Midler.

Last but not least, there was the show itself. Ahoy, matey-how many of us could get away with wearing an eye patch? The choice of models couldn’t have been better suited to this collection-the facial attitude was what made the show. Hardy has always had a keen sense of production values. Few of us can forget the silent show of a few seasons back that had us listening to the pulse of our own breathing. Though I wonder if he knows that with clothes like he creates, we hardly need to be entertained to stay tuned in.

Daniel Cox, Fashion Editor