Comptoir des Cotonniers: Marching to its Own Beat

While most fashion companies are fine to show on the designated Fashion Week calendars, there are those ateliers—Azzedine Alaïa for one—that prefer to present on their own schedule. Comptoir des Cotonniers, which made its U.S. retail debut with a boutique on Spring Street in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood last summer, staged its bi-annual fashion show in Paris over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Known for its simple but stylish women's wear in understated colors (the brand is owned by the same company as Uniqlo), the Comptoir des Cotonniers show was staged at the historic Parisian venue Salle Wagram near the Arc de Triomphe.

Under the direction of design director Brigitte Comazzi, the extensive collection (which hits stores in July) offered three major trends: 80's new wave spirit with rock 'n roll vibes, military meets uniform dress code and folk/gypsy-themed baroque opulence. "Fabric was very important," said Comazzi, dressed coolly in a flirty blouse and masculine wide-leg trousers and suspenders. "The collection is feminine, but not romantic."

A focus on the shoulder, a mainstay of the fall/winter runway shows and popularized by Balmain, were undeniably present, as were slim silhouettes and a bevy of cocktail-ready LBDs. A masculine-feminine tuxedo look with vest and suspendered trousers, similar to one Comazzi herself wore while scurrying about backstage, was a chic look, as was this pairing of feminine grunge—seen in dainty silk dresses accessorized with Doc Martens (the $190 boot hits stores in July and boasts an exclusive Palatino mousey grey leather).

Seeking inspiration from such androgynous rock icons as Patti Smith, Annie Lennox and Price, Comazzi integrated the strong silhouettes of English schools and military shapes with moderndetails in volumes and fabrics. The color palette was once again subtle and unassuming, in varying shades of grey, black, purple, "officer blue", dark brown and burgundy. Denim was also fashioned to create a leather effect.

As an added highlight to the hundreds gathered for the occasion, Charlie Winston, the acclaimed British export whose first CD "Hobo" met with audience acclaim in Paris, performed at the show. "I'm not much of a fashion guy," the heartthrob admitted in between signing autographs during takes. "I'm a hat wearer; I have a collection of trilby's."

A highlight of the show came when four selected mother-daughter couples walked the runway, subsequently shooting the fall campaign outside Paris. Three French and one Japanese duo were selected from more than 5,000 candidates at castings held in Comptoir des Cotonniers stores worldwide.

Photos courtesy of Comptoir des Cotonniers

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