Best moments from Paris Fashion Week: Balmain, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and more
It's the last stop of Fashion Month. Against all odds, Paris Fashion Week is go. Most of the brands opted for digital-only experiences (while there are 19 fashion houses who will be showing physically). Here are the best moments, so far.
To stage or not to stage? Olivier Rousteing hesitated a lot before organising a physical event in Jardin des Plantes in Paris's Left Bank. His idea was to bring everybody together, even those international editors and star-friends, who can't travel and are missing the fashion month because of the pandemic. "For me, without the physical experience, without having you to talk to, it's really hard. It's hard for a designer to create without an audience," said Rousteing, who decided to make three digital front rows with self-made videos from the industry's elite, including Anna Wintour, Derek Blasberg, J Lo, Cindy Crawford and many others. Watching attentively the Balmain army march by in glamorous looks inspired by the 1970s (think power jackets, vivid fluro hues and a Pierre Balmain archival monogram).
Felipe Oliveira Baptista staged an intimate show in the rose garden, where his guests were sitting under XXL black umbrellas. He decided to focus his sophomore collection for Kenzo on floral prints from the house's archives (Baptista made them look blurry on purpose, as if flowers "were crying"), colourful raincoats and veiled hats, reminiscent of the main beekeepers' accessory (every attendee received a small honey pot). Why bees? "Beekeeping is one of the ancient collaborations between humans and nature," explained Felipe Oliveira Baptista after the show. "Bees are the regulators of the world. I find this idea very reassuring; both poetic and positive,"
The Dior show venue usually accommodates about 1500. This time, however, there were only 300 (socially distanced) attendees. And it has been the biggest Paris show so far (others had a more limited seating, a maximum 150 guests). Maria Grazia Chiuri often works with female artists, and this season is no exception. She asked Lucia Marcucci to create gigantic stained-glass windows from retro magazines and classical art images for the show set, transforming it into a Gothic cathedral. The models walked the catwalk in belted jackets, laced men's shirts, and bohemian maxi dresses to the sounds of the female choir singing the Voceri — Corsican funeral repertoires from the mid-19th century, expressing the pain of women mourning their loss. Why this choice? In her show notes, Maria Grazia Chiuri said that these songs reflect "the possible choices of the future" and are "a source of sound, an echo chamber for other women".
Jonny Johansson, creative director of Acne Studios, presented his collection in the Grand Palais, where he staged a series of art performances, reflecting four times of day he cherishes the most: "spiritual moonrise, the energy of twilight, the darkness before the dawn and the impossible light of a full moon rising". Guests were divided into small groups and walked from one room to another, while the models breezed by in crochet knits, sheer skirts in metallic organza, leather sleeveless dresses and slouchy tailored jackets. "I am excited by transitional moments, in-between times that are alive with possibility," said Jonny Johansson in the show notes. "This collection is about the elevation of an elemental life, about positivity, optimism and light."
Natacha Ramsay-Levi was lucky. It stopped raining when she staged her show in the courtyard of the Palais de Tokyo, where the real-life footage of models arriving at the venue, and dressed in the looks from her new collection "A Season in Hope", was projected on three giant screens. Then, the Chloé girls walked down the marble footsteps in delicate dresses lined with lace-work, feminine blouses and T-shirts with joyful pop art slogans by the late artist Corita Kent (Natacha Ramsay-Levi chose the most optimistic ones that sounded like a call to action: "I can handle it", "For emergency, use soft shoulder", "Get with action"). This time, there were stars walking down the catwalk, as well, — the artist and DJ Phoebe Collings-James, the actress Sigrid Bouaziz, and the Parisian singer and songwriter Flora Fischbach.
This season, Isabel Marant had a rebellious stand of mind. She got sick of not being able to hug and kiss her friends because of the pandemic and wanted to celebrate freedom and love. The energetic dancers from the (LA)HORDE collective accompanied models, who rocked the show in metallic jumpers, mini sequined dresses, and tops with puffy sleeves, to the sounds of the groovy remix of Donna Summer's I Feel Love. But did Isabel organise her famous after-show party in the brand's headquarters? "No, not this time. I miss it, but we're trying to do as we're supposed to — I wanted to take advantage of this moment to bring some joy and happiness," said Marant after the show.
For SS21 Chanel's creative director Virginie Viard showcased a runway spectacle inside the Grand Palais (it is the last presentation before the palace closes for restoration works). Her youthful and vibrant collection was dedicated to her favourite cinema icons, the giant CHANEL letters, reminiscent of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. "This collection is a tribute to the muses of the House. Some of them are far away, it's been a long time since we saw them," said Viard in her show notes. "Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld dressed so many actresses in films and in real life. I was thinking about them who make us dream so much. But without falling into a vintage citation. I wanted it to be very joyful, colourful, and very vibrant too." The models showcased beautifully cut tweed jackets and asymmetric tops, dresses printed with neon logos and high-waisted jeans in classic light blue and pale pink. The show also debuted the nano 2.55 handbag, that could be worn in various ways, as a necklace or a belt charm, or a mini crossbody bag, it is sure to become the new It-accessory.
For Matthew Williams' debut Givenchy collection, he decided to create a new item of desire; lock jewellery, inspired by the love locks on the Parisian bridges (he even placed one himself with his wife Jennifer). "It's no secret that I'm really into hardware, and that's what I lay the foundation with when I start a new project," explained Williams during the preview. "It comes into shoes, bags, clothing." His collection featured elegant tailoring, crystal encrusted denim and sheer evening dresses.
This season, Christian Louboutin did not do a physical presentation. He decided to opt for a digital experience, instead. The French shoemaker joined forces with Korean gaming app, Zepeto, where everybody could create fictional digital avatars (the app has a face recognition feature for better resemblance), and try on boots, pumps and sneakers from the SS21 collection. Guests could then take a stroll in Paris-inspired Loubi world, take a picture with the Eiffel tower, dine at a classical Parisian bistro, or dance with other digital characters and Christian himself at Loubi Disco.
Roger Vivier creative director, Gherardo Felloni has long held a fascination with living legend of French cinema, Isabelle Huppert. So, instead of a classical presentation, he decided to create an interactive film about the new collection, Hotel Vivier Cinémathèque, of which Huppert would star. The users can play with Huppert and choose the best answers to win in the interactive game, divided into five chapters; with references to cinema classics, from Tim Burton, David Lynch and Dario Argento, to Disney princess' stories. You can check the interactive film here.
This season, Louis Vuitton's creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière presented the SS21 collection on the top floor of La Samaritaine, the LVMH-owned department store just across the street from the brand's HQ (It has been under reconstruction for more than 15 years, and is now set to open next year). Models walked under a beautiful glass ceiling in 1980s silhouettes, T-shirt dresses, loose-fitting trousers and XL coats; the show streamed online for 5 million fans watching from all over the world. In the digital version, the walls of La Samaritaine turned into giant projections of Wim Wenders' classics The Wings of Desire (thanks to green-screen technology), about two angels watching life happen in Berlin.
Set to the musical backdrop of Corey Hart's 1980s hit, Sunglasses at Night, Balenciaga's new collection was presented in a form of a music video, where models marched the streets of Paris in unisex fluffy bathrobe coats, asymmetric dresses and washed denim. "I loved the idea of wearing sunglasses at night," explained Balenciaga's creative director, Demna Gvasalia. "It is such an absurd thing to do, but so undeniably 'fashion.'" This was just a pre-collection, but Gvasalia promises to show more looks closer to the SS21 season. It was also a very conscious collection — in the press notes Demna stated that 93.5% of "plain materials" were either upcycled, or certified sustainable, and 100% of the prints certified sustainable.
"This Miu Miu collection is about polarity — these are polar times. Everything is opposite," said Miuccia Prada in her press notes. "Sportswear and evening wear, a moment of reality, a moment of fantasy. In life, you need both." Welcome to one of the most fashionable sports days ever, with models adorning chic sport tracksuits, polo shirts, turtle necks in vivid colours, bow-bedded skirts and slip dresses, while her star guests watched virtually (including the likes of Chloé Sevigny, Elle Fanning, and more). Another runway debut surprise: Kate Moss's daughter, 18-years-old Lila Moss, who opened and closed the show.