Paris fashion week: Return to normality after John Galliano storm

Stella McCartney's latest collection light on theatrics as fashion slams door on diva designers

At Paris fashion week, "normal" is the new fabulous. The moment Christian Dior suspended John Galliano was the moment the door slammed shut on the era of flamboyant designer-as-superstar.

Featuring flat shoes, knee-length pencil skirts and chunky sweaters, with DIY-look hair and makeup, Stella McCartney's collection was light on theatrics and heavy on clothes that women wear. Where many designers are in denial about life before cocktail hour, McCartney's readiness to put a black coat and a long sweater dress on the catwalk is refreshing. For evening, there were elegant sheaths in panels of black, navy and slivers of sheer mesh, as well as daringly sheer, polka-dot dresses for the red-carpet-dwelling customer.

Even before this week, catwalk histrionics had outstayed their welcome. The chief executives of luxury companies in thrall to divas are catching up with what consumers have known for years – that dialled-down, believable clothes are where the smart money goes.

Normality is relative, and outside fashion the high-achieving daughter of a Beatle might not be an obvious example of it, but McCartney has built a label on a business model where the clothes on the catwalk are the clothes in the stores, rather than exaggerated trailers.

McCartney took her brief bow at the Paris Opera in rolled-up jeans and a blazer. The atmosphere backstage was informal, with the designer holding her youngest child in her arms. The contrast with recent Dior shows – where Galliano took a five-minute stroll along the catwalk in full costume before retreating to a private room within the VIP section backstage – could not be starker.

In the autumn, the Stella McCartney label, which is owned by Gucci Group, announced a rise in profits of 17.8% for 2009, compared to the previous year. The chief executive, Frederick Lukoff, said of the brand: "It's very grounded, there's a strong sense of reality in the brand ... the style is applicable to the reality of [customers'] lives ... and that's meant that even in a very difficult year for the industry as a whole, we've actually had a great year."

Despite Galliano's departure, British designers remain a strong presence at Paris fashion week. Giles Deacon's second collection for Emanuel Ungaro was provocative, with high ponytails bound into horsewhip shapes, and skirt suits cut to reveal a slither of corset. A departure for a label once associated with lovehearts and the colour pink, it was inspired by Ungaro's pronouncement that he dressed mistresses rather than wives. Deacon said: "There is an awareness and an acceptance of artistic decadence in Paris." It may be that there is a little less acceptance than there was a week ago.


Jess Cartner-Morley in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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