Today happened to be Sophie Mechaly’s birthday, and by the time her Spring lineup for Paul & Joe arrives in stores, the brand will be celebrating its 20th year. This collection, she said, drew largely from family vacations in Saint-Tropez and her mother’s free-spirited ’70s style. Altogether, the potential for sentimentality was high, but Mechaly didn’t go that route.
She did, however, go bold on prints and pep, putting Lindsey Wixson in a printed micro-paisley suit and floral foulard to set the tone. Peter Pan collars, laced hot pants, fringed bags, suede flares, and floppy hats strongly signaled a hippie throwback, even if the maxi dresses (including one assembled from 14 feet of mousseline) somehow transcended the archetype. A secondary theme motivated by Mexico accounted for the fringed jackets and blanket stripes. The aesthetic was specific, but it bodes well that one Parisian It girl was overheard gushing, “Magnifique!” to another postshow. In any case, Mechaly guaranteed broader interest with airy white pieces covered in openwork scales (the designer herself was sporting a shirt version) and organza blouses alternating bands of embroidery with guipure lace. The long and snug snap-front jean skirt was an instant Paul & Joe classic. As with all seasons, Mechaly crowned an animal muse, and her stylized barn owl appeared on short overalls and stacked sandal heels alike. In French, this species is known as a chouette (versus the long-eared owl, a hibou). “Chouette” also gets used to describe something that’s great. Self-fulfilling? Perhaps. Or maybe just a birthday wish.

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