With Crocs on the catwalk, a tribute to Pierre Bergé lighting up the Eiffel Tower and stick-thin models celebrating a 'curvy' female artist for Dior, Paris Fashion Week was full of surprises
5 key moments from Paris Fashion Week
From Morocco to Paris with Saint Laurent
Fashion is said to be a reflection of life. But while the overall global mood may be a little glum, for the Saint Laurent spring/summer 2018 show, designer Anthony Vaccarello opted for a celebration. With a stage built in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, Vaccarello made this a very French affair. Taking his inspiration from not only from the Saint Laurent archives, but also the life of founder Yves Saint Laurent, Vaccarello wheeled out a collection that started in Marrakech, Saint Laurent’s adopted home, and then travelled to the streets of Paris. Cutting across both time (the 1970s, 80s and 90s) and topography, it was a liberated display.
The first looks were an undeniably French mix of blouson shirts half-tucked into shorts, and skinny scarves wrapped casually around throats. This transformed into shimmering asymmetric dresses, and sheer bell-sleeve tops set over gleaming patterned shorts. Feathers, which have previously clung to ankles, were used in over-the-knee fringed boots. As the show continued to morph its way into exaggerated bubble dresses (and huge feather pom-poms), Vaccarello infused a very Saint Laurent collection with his own high-octane swagger. In tribute to the recent passing of Pierre Bergé – the co-founder of the label – Vaccarello lit up the Eiffel Tower in his honour, and as the models sashayed down the runway, this felt like the start of an astonishing new chapter.
Emirates glides onto the Koché runway
While keeping an eye on catwalk images surfacing from Paris Fashion Week, we hardly expected to see anything UAE-related, let alone the words “Fly Emirates” in all-too-familiar white lettering. The garments that featured Emirates Airlines’ tagline were created for the Parisian runways by Christelle Kocher, for her ready-to-wear label Koché. Sporty silhouettes coupled with utilitarian tailoring and asymmetry featured in the label’s latest collection, alongside deconstructed football jerseys with the Fly Emirates text.
Emirates is a sponsor of the Paris Saint-Germain football club, and Kocher’s collaboration with the team reinvented the jersey in various ways. In one look, it was styled with an oversized flower brooch and layered over an embellished nude-toned top. In another, it formed part of a bias-cut patchwork-style dress. One model wore a long-sleeved orange jersey under a strapless bustier dress with shoulder-length earrings, while another was in a jersey tucked into an embellished white and black skirt with a retro belt, worn over striped leggings and purple heels. Though the designer’s background is in couture, she is know for giving streetwear an eclectic twist.
Balenciaga unveils unexpected footwear
There’s a certain item from Balenciaga’s spring/summer 2018 collection that has gone viral. But the platform Croc shoes that appear on Instagram feeds are not being touted as covetable, but as designs that miss the mark. The outlandish shoes were styled with a few looks during Demna Gvasalia’s runway procession for Balenciaga, but the show’s more tasteful (though at times oddball) designs shouldn’t be completely overshadowed by the monstrous footwear.
Bumbags, for instance, stamped with the brand’s logo and slung across torsos, are accessories that consumers will likely continue to buy into, as are the wispy scarves with tails held at the neck with choker-style brass plates engraved with “Balenciaga”. Utilitarian cargo-jeans, oversized shirts and quilted coats are other normcore fashion staples that will appeal to fans of Gvasalia’s other label, Vetements. Enormous knits featured lace yokes and sweaters tied across shoulders, over pinstriped shirts, mimicking a straitjacket. Coats and vests were tacked onto the models, and fastened around the neck, with empty sleeves. New styling trend or just runway theatrics? It remains to be seen how “influencers” interpret these next spring.
Another feminist manifesto from Dior?
Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Christian Dior collection started, like her first show a year ago, with a slogan-emblazoned top. “Why have there been no great women artists?” demanded the opening look, taken from the title of a 1971 essay by American art historian Linda Nochlin.
Chiuri also celebrated the work of artist Niki de Saint Phalle – creating a mirrored show space in her honour. However, referencing an artist who was famous for bright colours and curvy women posed a bit of a dilemma. Because while de Saint Phalle favoured well-rounded women, Chiuri sent out stick-thin models.
Just last month, fashion houses LVMH (Dior’s parent company) and Kering declared a ban on size-zero models. As we reported from New York Fashion Week, the American runways were, for the first time, filled with models of every size and shape – and the arrival of every plus-size model on the catwalk was greeted with whoops of approval. Such inclusion has yet to reach Chiuri or Paris, however, so, it raises an uncomfortable question: can Chiuri claim to be a feminist while sticking to old standards of female beauty? When questioned about the ban, Chiuri responded: “I think it’s a great idea ... because I’m a woman, I have a daughter. At the same time, we have to explain that not all people can be a model. It’s a job.
“If you want to be a singer, you have to have a voice. If you want to be a climber, you have to be athletic. There is something that is specific,” Chiuri added.
While the debate rages about fashion promoting eating disorders, some may argue that Chiuri hit the nail on the head. Just as an athlete is paid to be naturally sporty, so a model is paid to be naturally slim. Why? Because the clothes are made in a particular size, and models have to be able to fit into them.
So why don’t designers like Chiuri make larger clothes? “We work on a Stockman dummy. It is a size 37,” she said. “We don’t work on 40 because it is too difficult afterwards to make the other sizes. There are some sizes that are good for making the first prototype.”
In saying this, is Chiuri letting the sisterhood down, or is she saying what every designer thinks, but is too scared to openly admit? After all, the argument about model sizes has raged for decades, and there has hardly been a rush of designers falling over themselves to use plus-size models. Let’s see what next season brings.
Céline artfully deconstructs gender barriers
A man’s blazer is half-tucked into a pleated midi-skirt, without looking overly boxy. A purple fishnet top pokes out from underneath salmon pink lapels, without seeming out of place. And a plain white zip-up rain mac, drawstring hood and all, is made sophisticated when paired with a sleek black skirt and clutch. This is the magic that Céline’s creative director Phoebe Philo brings time and again – styles that are, at first glance, off-kilter, but on second look, extraordinarily enticing.
Though the collection started as an awe-inspiring display of off-duty tailoring, it quickly turned into a show of bohemia, before finishing off with celebratory gusto. Loose linen suits were topped with jackets that curiously curled under at the helms, at times attached to additional layers of jacket underneath. Dramatic fringes, earthy feathered adornments and unfitted poncho dresses appeared, followed by futuristic halter-neck dresses with attached peplums, creating the semblance of an exaggerated hourglass figure.