The best from Paris Fashion Week
Words: DOMENICO COSTANTINI
Comme des Garçons
At Comme des Garçons, Rei Kawakubo declared “a return to source — a feeling of wanting to go back to the starting point, working with free patterns, using basic materials.” But she did it her way, crumpling, folding and molding fabrics into a supercharged genre of dressmaking, building out bulbous, square and flat shapes that were light years from classic, yet masterfully Comme des Garçons. Kawakubo has the guts and the design chops to produce these gravity defying, otherworldly and marvelously clothes.
An intricately folded square of paper lay on each attendee’s seat.. The gesture was a nod to the collection’s roots in the shape (its title was ‘The Square and Beyond’), using it as a starting point for a typically innovative exploration of form and silhouette. The collection engages with this rational shape and explores beyond to develop garments of striking, unconventional forms. As such, compositions of squares appeared as a printed motif across the collection’s asymmetric, irregular garments, while other pieces saw the square rooted in their construction, like repeating checks which were formed in a process of intentional shrinkage giving a raised, three-dimensional texture. Progress, turn and bend, meet up, break off, skip, repeat, extend, expand, and rest, an accompanying piece of text said of the season’s experiments. Forms and colours, released from the canvas, now speak of freedom with no limit.
Construction versus deconstruction. Recent collections at Loewe and JW Anderson have seen a move from surrealism to reductionism in an attempt to distill the essence of his work into its purest form. This season continued this movement with a collection that captured an idea of elementality reduced to the bluntest shape possible.
The real action was on the runway. This season it was elevated, and as the models made their slow procession around the Palais de Tokyo, fog machines blowing beneath them, they looked impossibly large, towering over us like goth goddesses. There were no half measures here.
Rick Owens: a fierce vision.
Who in the fashion world could not admire the imagination of a designer who never moves away from his vision – yet also never repeats his own thoughts.
These are not clothes that are instantly understandable. The fabrics seduce you, I’m sure. But the Olsens are the kind of designers whose work is more rewarding the more you read, the more music you listen to, the more you go to plays and see movies and visit museum exhibitions. Suddenly the lines look extremely artful, the colors extraordinarily intentional. Their eccentric styling, done by Brian Molloy, snaps into place. You realize you’re looking at a special and unusual woman, and you feel blessed to be in her proximity. Bravo to the designers for pursuing this journey, and seemingly going in deeper every year.
The debut collection by Ludovic de Saint Sernin at Ann Demeulemeester was an exploration of authorship and autobiography, a literary analogy that the young designer extended to the collection’s looks. He melded with riffs on Demeulemeester’s archive for a stripped-down take on the brand infused with sensuality, silhouette, ambiguity. It’s an intro, a preamble, and as such, to be continued.
Maria Grazia Chiuri conjured a mood of femininity for her latest Dior collection, which was backdropped by a vast kaleidoscopic artwork by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. A re-reading of the 1950s, in particular, she focussed on three women who have become archetypal of French style: Catherine Dior (house founder Christian Dior’s sister, and purported inspiration behind the enduring ‘Miss Dior’ fragrance), Édith Piaf and Juliette Gréco. Each, she noted, subverted feminine dress in their own way. The flower also recurred throughout, inspired by Catherine Dior – who sold and traded flowers after her time as a resistance fighter in France during World War II – here reimagined in hazy floral prints and delicate embroidery. ‘At once strong and fragile,’ described the house. This Dior collection is the very signature of a femininity that goes against the grain.
A wardrobe, yes. But a Schiaparelli wardrobe.
This season marks the first ready-to-wear runway show, an entire wardrobe, complete with everything from crisp white poplin shirts to short velvet cocktail dress, and to infuse these classics with Schiaparelli’s trademark wit, irreverence, and drama.
Dries Van Noten
Dries Van Noten works with an artist’s eye for colour, form and adornment in a series of evocative juxtapositions: large-scale gestures mixed with a focus on the small details… the precious and rarefied with the raw and unrefined. As such, there was a faded grandeur in layers of washed silks, patchwork brocade, or the raw and undone seams, a contrast to the languid simplicity of the silhouette.
This season, in lieu of a specific inspiration point, Vaccarello instead looked to continue to hone what he called ‘the essence of classic Saint Laurent style… a potent mix of precision, emotion and reticence’. It was a nice touch for Vaccarello’s tenure at the house, which is defined by drawing elements from the Yves Saint Laurent archive and reimagining them in his own sharply contemporary style. Dissolution of gendered exclusivity, with archetypically masculine garments. A feeling of sensuality infused the collection, the Saint Laurent woman exposes her body when she desires and conceals it if she feels like it.
Balenciaga sought a feeling of reset – a return to his own lifelong love affair with making clothes. In opposition to the usual theatrics that have previously surrounded his shows, the collection riffed on elements which first brought Demna to prominence at both Vetements and Balenciaga: off-kilter tailoring, warped silhouettes, and elements of subversion. ‘In the last couple of months, I needed to seek shelter for my love affair with fashion and I instinctively found it in the process of making clothes,’ Demna said. ‘It reminded me once again of [its] amazing power to make me feel happy and truly express myself. This is why fashion to me can no longer be seen as entertainment, but rather as the art of making clothes.’
For Fall/Winter 2023, Pierpaolo Piccioli takes black tie at face value, a figure of speech for a collection that builds around pieces drawn from every day. Conjecture and cultural capital are inverted – a symbol of masculine power, an emblem of orthodoxy and restriction, our preconceptions of the tie become theoretical architecture for a collection that toys with rules, emancipating meaning. Its ideological conceit is challenged, ultimately contradicted and redefined entirely.
‘What is French style?’ From honking car horns and clacking heels to the sounds of aeroplanes overhead, it was meant to evoke the feeling of being on a Parisian street – an apt setting for Ghesquière’s exploration of the ineffable magnetism of French dress code, paradoxical… sophistication with a dilettante’s air. Indeed, in Ghesquière’s typically expansive style, the collection captured the insouciance and elegance of French style – thrown-on tailoring, cocooning overcoats, ladylike handbags and gloves – opposing a feeling of effortlessness with extraordinary feats of craft.
Sensuality infused Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski’s latest collection for Hermès, which she noted was about attempting to capture a feeling of warmth ,a mood echoed by the show space in deep orange, which had a cocooning effect. The collection began with the designer thinking about hair.
Enveloping and warm, monochrome silhouettes unfold in their winter tones,all the way down to the accessories. A rich coalescence of texture defined the collection.
Black, white, shades of pink, the palette is as precise as it is profound. The portrait of a woman artist takes shape. The masculine codes of peak lapels, floral coats like a dandy’s dressing gown, and men’s jackets, the kind you might take out in the early hours of the morning, all contribute to the bohemian spirit that drives her. Sentiments that also understand how to be gentle and romantic.
The faded colours, the dusky pink, the crafted pieces, the touches of 1960s and 70s, a certain English vibe, the comfortable, enveloping coats, the authentic materials, make the collections more real, and more charming too.
A point of view as an act of intervention and invention. The Fall/Winter 2023 Miu Miu Collection by Miuccia Prada is focused on the instinctive process of looking, ways of seeing, and how an act of observation can, in turn, transform the object of its focus. Looking is a window to thinking. Technique and materialization can actively change how outfits are visually read, and how we understand them. Through examination and study, clothes are shifted both in structure and their placement on the body.