PFW: PAUL & JOE F/W 2014

Ah, Paris Fashion Week. So many shows, so little time. Picking and choosing is always difficult and often there are shows you wish you’d seen but just couldn’t make them fit into the schedule. Such is the case with Paul & Joe. The label has been a PFW regular for quite a while, but given that it’s a smaller brand of casual wear they often get stuck right before or after a must-see brand, which means they get missed by the majority of people. Fortunately, today, they were rather out there on their own this afternoon, well after Valentino and sufficiently prior to Alexander McQueen to give us time to sneak a peek.

Oh, you’ve never heard of Paul & Joe? No, they’re not a design team. The company is named after the two sons of designer Sophie Albou, herself the daughter of a designer and apparel company CEO. She started the company in 1994, saw some initial success, then had to back off a bit around 2001-2 after some store investments didn’t go so well. She’s been growing ever since, though, and is one of those labels you see but don’t always recognize. Her clothes are consistently wearable, often a little ahead of trend, and made of good, solid fabrics that hold up to a little wear and tear.

One of the things I appreciate about Sophie’s design method is that she grabs one idea and works it, rather than trying to find a way to get seven or eight different concepts to work together. This season, she’s gone with an outdoor theme and works a very practical, very wearable angle that, on one hand, feels a bit 1990s familiar, but at the same time has enough contemporary spin on it to not look dated. Colors are very earth tone-oriented with lots of dark green and brown as the base, but also with a very pale yellow coming through, providing light to a number of pieces with some bright red and blue toward the end.

Silhouettes are, for the most part, pretty loose. There are a lot of pleated hiking shorts, and a number of pleated slacks, both of which are very roomy. Double pleats keep the look from being baggy, but they also bring a definite 90s feel to the look. Over the shorts and pants, most commonly are very large, very warm looking, knit turtle neck sweaters. These are not flimsy, cling-to-the-body sweaters, either. Sophie has created some sweaters heavy enough for high mountain wear, should one so choose. These are the most dominant pieces of the collection, though there are plenty of dresses and jumpsuits as well. In fact, the one-piece jumpsuits, or rompers if that’s the name one prefers, are the one place where she gets a little sexy, with a deep-plunging neckline that might actually show off a little cleavage should one be so blessed (none of the models were).

One of the more interesting aspects of this particular collection is the prints. We’ve seen the whole camo look come and go (mostly go), and it makes sense that Sophie would at least reference the device for an outdoor-themed collection, but what she does is absolutely brilliant. She takes the digital camo design and enlarges it to the point it becomes abstract. We were probably three or four looks into the show before I realized exactly what she had done. The look is very attractive without giving off a para-military or deep-woods hunting feel. Sophie actually found a way to make a camo design feminine!

Paul & Joe is another good wardrobe building label. Clothes one buys from this collection are going to be strong and viable for many years to come. If you can’t find the clothes near you, buy online. They have no problem shipping to the U.S. These clothes are well worth seeking out and purchasing.

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