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The intensity of Paris Fashion Week—the apocalyptic rain, the unfeasibly far-flung venues—tested the endurance of everyone who took part. Very often it’s forgotten how many individuals, of so many professions and callings, are involved in making fashion shows work—not just models and designers, but sewers, interns, buyers, hairstylists and makeup artists, journalists and stylists, editors and photographers, videographers, producers and set designers, the armies of technicians, agents, assistants, and drivers. Somehow, this season, it was the behind-scenes processes that kept being spotlit—whether that meant the appreciation of how beautiful clothes are made, the way models are selected to represent designers, or the conversations about what clothes are meant to do and say for women.
Turbulent times fuel creativity—that’s the positive side of it. Underlying it is the challenge to traditional catwalk shows; with experiential sets and grand venues at one end of the spectrum and non-runway at the other. Truth is, anything can take us places, and stick in the memory, if it’s brilliantly done—whether that’s Chanel’s space rocket, Comme des Garçons’s simple set for displaying vast clothes, or the way Rodarte simply put its glittering dresses on dummies in a tiny showroom (and made us anticipate its entry into July’s Couture Week in Paris even more). Here, in chronological order, are the collections which showed direction, exceptional thought, emotional warmth, and a lot of clothes we’d like to own.
Dries Van NotenPhoto: Kim Weston Arnold / Indigital.tv
Dries Van Noten
Dries Van Noten’s 100th show brought back dozens of models who’d walked his shows from the ’90s onwards, thereby also sweeping in a stunning vista of grown-up cool. Van Noten had also been through his archive and revived many of his favorite, eclectic prints, which his customers—many of who have been loyal since the ’90s—will love. Yet more impactful was the way the styling—easy pantsuits, jeans, and white shirts with a dash of gold lamé for evening—exalted the character of each woman.
Paco RabannePhoto: Yannis Vlamos / Indigital.tv
It’s a relatively small house, but it’s roaring now that the young French designer Julien Dossena has supercharged the chain mail that is the heritage of one of the great designers of the optimistic French space-age ’60s. The choreography of his show, in which groups of girls walked together, or overtook one another, felt new and completely at the service of highlighting the brilliantly modern asymmetric dresses.
LoewePhoto: Yannis Vlamos / Indigital.tv
Jonathan Anderson’s trip into a blacked-out tent, decorated with a conservatory’s-worth of rare orchids, produced surprises. Namely, a collection that generally fell into sinuous fit-and-flared silhouettes, or longer, shift-like dresses including this extraordinary patchworked one. It evoked a hint of Americana (a background theme heard often through the week), but a great sense of sophistication, too.
Comme des GarçonsPhoto: Kim Weston Arnold / Indigital.tv
Comme des Garçons
As the subject of the upcoming Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, what Rei Kawakubo would do for Fall attracted even more eyes than usual. She called it The Future of the Silhouette, which might suggest that she was reflecting on the process of molding something new from traditional methods. The opening figures could have denoted asymmetric tailors’ dummies; her experiments with wadding, insulation material, paper, and flocking were all aimed at producing seam-free results. Along the way, her shapes allowed the imagination to wander: With those silver bubbles and the dress that looked like a small, white planet—was she thinking of a future in space?
BalenciagaPhoto: Monica Feudi / Indigital.tv
Demna Gvasalia continued his mission to make something new out of the heritage of Cristóbal Balenciaga with his swathed coats and car-mat pencil skirts; a female version of his rethinking corporate clothing for men. It snuck a reprise of the Balenciaga Bernie Sanders–lookalike flag onto shoes—surely the world’s first protest stilettoes ever. But his wow-surprise was the eveningwear: nine ball gowns of immense volumes, remade in homage to Cristóbal Balenciaga’s couture, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of his house. And in plenty of time for the Met Gala, too.
CélinePhoto: Monica Feudi / Indigital.tv
Women who work, and are nicely paid, go to Céline for the kind of wardrobe they can’t find anywhere else. Phoebe Philo clearly recognizes them, as she directly addressed her constituency with a show that had models walking from all directions, wearing exactly the kind of interesting yet not freaky trouser suits, duster coats, tuxedo coats, and midi dresses that will allow self-respecting top-level executive women to get business done.
Alexander McQueenPhoto: Kim Weston Arnold / indigital.tv
Sarah Burton’s exploration of Cornish pagan tradition, ancient monuments, and the medieval myths about Queen Guinevere and the Lady of Shalott produced some of the most beautiful clothes in Paris. The hand-embroidery of natural and witchy symbols involved hundreds of hours of painstaking teamwork; yet the real magic was the way it became tangibly of today, worn by natural-looking girls with tendrilly hair and flat boots.
ChanelPhoto: Yannis Vlamos / Indigital
A late-breaking communiqué from planet Chanel indicated that Karl Lagerfeld had been thinking about the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who is currently orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station. That may put a slightly more philosophical gloss on Karl’s command that a giant rocket be built for the staging of his Chanel collection. It was extreme fun—see the sparkly silver boots, the spacesuit funnel necklines, the silver “insulation” suits—but was clever Karl making a veiled point about the future (or otherwise) of a united Europe? As everyone knows, Earth looks tiny and beautiful from space, and divisions between its inhabitants seem mad. Today, Monsieur Pesquet @Thom_astro has sent down his own message in a tweet to womankind today: “Men should be supporting women, not stand in their way.”
Louis VuittonPhoto: Umberto Fratini / indigital.tv
Could there have been a grander way to end Paris Fashion Week than a private invitation to the Louvre itself? Nicolas Ghesquière chose this landmark of France, an institution dedicated to the multicultural confluence of art, thought, and education, to make his point about there being no borders between humanity. As he told Nicole Phelps: “I think fashion has always broken those frontiers.” This was Louis Vuitton at its most down-to-earth, in Ghesquière’s super sophisticated French way. Approachable, adaptable, it’s a wardrobe to pick and mix from: the definitive cropped flares, the neat motocross jackets, the patchworked furs. The naturalism of the models—barely any makeup, tousled Parisian hair—and the heavy walking boots, continued into evening, when the patchworks of flower-printed satins, brocades, Chantilly lace, and fused plastic became brilliantly special.