Paris Fashion Week was punctuated by a series of notable events, starting with the decampment of Gucci from Milan to Paris. As the final part of its Francophile trilogy, the Gucci show took place in a nightclub in Montmartre that had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s.
Declaring the venue to be “a bit dusty, a bit abandoned, but beautiful”, Alessandro Michele sent out looks that began with lustrous beadwork and ostrich-feather fringing before really getting dressy. Lurex, fans, glitter, and lots and lots of fringing covered both men and women, as did some cheeky crystal-encrusted detailing.
Highlighting Michele’s penchant for all things geeky, dresses had oversized shoulders or sat over white lace tights, while the boys strutted in flared trousers with what can only be described as built-in underpants. Woven tabards were worn over checked “dad” shirts, while white 1970s disco suits were paired with diamante charms hanging from pitch-black sunglasses. And that was just for the boys.
Love it or hate it, the Italian fashion house has single-handedly shifted how we all view fashion. Gone is the overt sexuality, replaced instead with shiny nylon and misbuttoned shirts. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but amid all the crazy styling, there were still plenty of covetable pieces, including teal trench coats, intarsia-knitted floral cardigans and ankle-length, leopard-print dresses.
At Hermès, Nadege Vanhee- Cybulski delivered a deliciously understated show that built on all the codes that the maison is famed for. Quiet elegance, wearability and superb craftsmanship are as natural to the brand as breathing is to the rest of us, and were presented here as butter-soft leather jackets, worn loose and open over skirts, or as leather trim and panels running down the length of a ribbed dress.
Elsewhere, a simple tunic dress in pistachio was made effortless with the introduction of a drawstring waist, while a fabulous raincoat in Hermès orange was finished with rope detailing (which could have been an equestrian reference, or perhaps yachting, but either way spoke of a privileged lifestyle). Whether presenting the house colour as a messenger bag slung across the body, or making lightweight mesh into an ankle-length coat, the skill of Vanhee-Cybulski lies in taking the unquestionable finish the maison excels at and injecting it with a dose of laid-back cool.
Over at Christian Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri put away her strong political leanings and instead focused on history of a different sort. Having recently resurrected the brand’s iconic Saddle Bag to great fanfare, for spring/summer 2019, she looked to Dior’s link with ballet – and all the floating, ethereal fabrics so closely associated with this dance form.
Amid an onstage dance performance, models wore a series of fluid full-length dresses that were the very opposite of the tight-waisted silhouette that Dior is so famous for. In tones of black, nude and white, the goddess dresses came with leggings, sheer layered bra tops, and ankle-laced slippers that drew inspiration from pointe shoes. Dancer’s mesh made an appearance, as did breathtakingly simple jersey dresses worn with simple, austere headbands.
Even when the more familiar Bar jacket appeared, it did so in champagne dupion silk, followed by a vast skirt made of impeccably pieced panels. As the collection segued through stunningly simple suits and trousers (this is the house of Dior, after all), through wispy dresses and homely macrame, this felt like a totally new beginning for Chiuri. Elegant and beautiful, yet cut to be comfortable, this was the wardrobe we’ve all been waiting for.
When Anthony Vaccarello joined Saint Laurent, the industry knew he wouldn’t venture far from his trademark approach of showing as much skin as possible, so for spring/summer 2019, it was no surprise to see endless streams of shorts on the runway. There was, however, an optimistic 1970s mood, highlighted in a glistening gold bomber jacket here, a midnight-blue silk shirt there, and a stunning bias-cut purple velvet jacket elsewhere. Thrown in were pussy-bow blouses pulled high up under the chin, and leopard-print neck scarves that trailed behind their wearer. Glorious, too, were the beaded camo-print micro dresses, and a dazzling blue strapless minidress covered in silver stars, with a bow so large, it looked like wings.
Vaccarello’s vision is quite similar to that of his predecessor Hedi Slimane, so at times this collection felt like it was a little too Slimane and not enough Vaccarello – however, that being said, the closing looks were exquisite, channelling Yves Saint Laurent himself, but for a very modern woman. Dramatic sheer dresses, with blouson sleeves and vast bows, provided little in the way of coverage, but were astonishingly chic, while Studio 54-style swimsuits – slashed and twisted and covered in sequins – were made more for the dance floor than the pool.
At Maison Margiela, designer John Galliano did what he does best: he sent out a collection to turn the world on its head. With much being made of gender fluidity in fashion at the moment, he is still the only person bold enough to put dresses on men as standard, and if the show notes are to be believed, he actually fitted the entire collection on a male model.
This meant the clothes became a conversation on social norms, with a floor-length dress cut as if it were a dinner jacket, with elbow slashes where the sleeves should be. Galliano is all about ideas, and even in this thought-provoking show, execution was everything. Whether a trench coat enlarged into a belted dress, a hobble skirt made from suiting or a deconstructed dress still with tacking stitching in place, this was a masterclass in what fashion is meant to be all about: pushing boundaries.
In what must be a rare moment away from designing menswear for Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh delivered the women’s collection for his own label, Off-White. Soon after his recent collaboration with Nike and Serena Williams – which saw Abloh create leotards with tutus for the tennis star – this collection was also all about performance. Called Track and Field, it had bona fide athletic stars walking the runway, including sprinters English Gardner (United States) and Dina Asher-Smith (United Kingdom), and Renelle Lamote, the French middle- distance runner; they all wore technical sportswear. That theme stayed throughout the whole collection, with leggings, tracksuits and endless Nike sports bras. For the truly dedicated, there were even crinoline dresses.
Elie Saab was all about blooms, with a collection that had flowers on every surface imaginable: on thin bands around necks, over-the-knee boots, floaty chiffon headscarves, densely covered jackets and as floaty silks. Even the lace panels in the deconstructed black dresses were – you guessed it – flower-patterned. Yet, Saab is a label that knows its audience, and the plunge-neck evening gowns (covered in devore flowers with pops of white, red and yellow), were glamorous, as was a bohemian kaftan edged in studs, that wafted to perfection. Whether as a tightly belted jacket over a diaphanous skirt, or as the beaded embellishment to a simple bell-sleeved little black dress, this was feminine glamour to the core.
Dries Van Noten delivered a remarkably wearable collection and, for a house that is obsessed with surface decoration, this was surprisingly plain, with acres of simple black trousers and well-cut tops. When the patterns did appear, it was as painterly splashes, sometimes hidden under a layer of mesh, or vivid diagonal stripes carved into panels under matching coats.
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Even when it clashed with out-of-focus patterned tops, it felt sophisticated and very grown-up. When the splashes of excess came, they too were aimed at a more well-heeled crowd, with a shimmering dress of sea-green discs (worn, fabulously, with striped yellow shoes), or a sheer floral skirt that tumbled off one hip, or faded orange silk boiler suit, tied at the waist and worn under a tux. This was all about grown-up, and not teenage, glamour.
The most hotly anticipated show was, of course, Slimane’s Celine debut. In a bizarre case of fashion seeing double, the designer who was previously at Saint Laurent (but has now taken over from Phoebe Philo, whose aesthetic was for a sophisticated, thinking woman), threw everything out of the window and imposed his own brutally directional vision upon the brand. The influence that he wields is hard to over-egg. Simply put, where he goes, everyone else dutifully follows, as highlighted by the presence of none other than Karl Lagerfeld in the front row of Slimane’s show.
Gone was the Celine of old, with its intriguing pleats and off-kilter colours. These were resolutely replaced with miniskirts, leather bomber jackets and the skinniest of skinny-fit trousers (for women as well as men) in a choice of black, black or black. Saint Laurent, which is betting on Vaccarello to continue the astonishing success that Slimane spearheaded during his time at the brand, may have viewed this show with a sinking stomach. He is a groundbreaker – fearless, impossible to rein in and absolutely in tune with what twentysomethings want to buy. Having previously walked out of jobs with Dior Homme and Saint Laurent (twice), Slimane is a designer whose vision is unforgiving and without compromise. Welcome back, Hedi.