What do you see at a fashion show? Clothes that are in the shops six months later, of course. Trunk footage for Instagram, of course. Some designers at Paris Fashion Week, which runs from February 28 to March 8, are taking it further. Conceptual reflections, humanist and pacifist statements, ecological ambitions… For them, clothing is not an end in itself, rather a vector of messages.
Since arriving at Loewe in 2013, Jonathan Anderson has been known for providing a prolific reflection on the form and meaning of clothing at every show. This season is no exception with a collection that borders on the conceptual, where the clothes do not follow the curves of the body. The fashion show starts with a leather dress in which the wind seems to be blowing, creating undulations around the legs and shoulders… but this dress is perfectly stiff, because it is a molding.
“I wanted to develop insensitive, irrational silhouettes, details of the designer. Mix what doesn’t match. † For example, he proposes a bustier dress in the shape of a car, another in which shoes between two thicknesses of latex are placed around the waist, a flesh-colored sheath in trompe-l’oeil that gives an impression of nudity… There are also fun details, such as these pumps in the shape of a balloon filled with air that is compressed by a rubber band, ready to explode. Or this irregularly shaped fur skirt worn like a prehistoric animal skin with a transparent latex top. “I like that this substance is controversial, that it can be used in different contexts like cleaning or having sex”laughs the designer.
Gray Glaciers and Polar Bears
Arriving at the head of Chloé in December 2020, Gabriela Hearst made sure that the Parisian brand took an ecological turn, both in content and form. “The climate crisis scares me, explains the Uruguayan designer from New York a few minutes before her show. I tried to think of ways to get out and decided that any collection would provide a solution. † This season Gabriela Hearst is betting on the “wild again”which refers to the recovery of extinct animal species or the absence of human intervention in a region.
It unfolds, among other things, on double-sided garments: on the front a representation of greyish melting glaciers; on the back an ice floe that has turned steel blue again, populated by polar bears. These images may seem naive if not done with the delicacy that characterizes Gabriela Hearst: intarsia knitted on recycled cashmere for the sweaters, hand-painted for the accessories. In addition to these exceptional pieces, the wardrobe exudes a luxurious sobriety, such as a black leather trench coat, decorated with delicate ruffles on the shoulders, inspired by La Victoire de Samothrace, in the Louvre. It aims to support women in their social development: “I want them to seize power, do politics, govern and organize countries. we need it”she sighs.
Marine Serre invites her world to Lafayette Anticipations. In front of the door the crowd is so big that some guests can’t get in. The sign that the 30-year-old Frenchwoman has become a signature that counts. Whoever has built a cohesive and recognizable label, has this time envisioned an exhibition (open to the public on March 5 and 6) explaining her creative process. “I’ve asked myself a lot: how do we engage with the industry and the public today? How to give fashion a new context in its human dimension? † The vernissage opens with a fashion show where the models indulge themselves with their tattoo-print jumpsuits, jackets made up of checkered scarves, devoré velvet dresses and shamanistic jewellery.
A cocktail follows, where everyone can visit the hanging, spread over three floors. One level brings together real fake Flemish paintings, another is dedicated to the materials the brand uses. On the ground floor, we meet the workshop staff around sewing machines to understand the development of the pieces “upcycled” (representing 50% of the collection): sorting recycled clothing, cutting, sewing, finishing. “I wanted people to see that the craftsman who sorts the materials has real know-how. It is he who must take the light, more than I or even the garmentsays Marine Serre. Essentially what interests me is less fashion than lifestyle. †
An uncontrollable restlessness
Balenciaga is one of the most anticipated fashion shows for its bold fashion and spectacular staging; but also, this season, because artistic director, Demna Gvasalia (who now simply calls herself Demna), is a Georgian who fled his country in 1993, during the Kremlin-backed civil war, and who is one of the rare designers at the head of a great house to have responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the preamble to his show, the designer sent a message to the guests and on Instagram expressing “his past trauma” when he became “forever a refugee”† In a few words he explains to what extent this new war arouses his pain, his hesitation to cancel this parade that seemed to him “absurd”† And his decision to maintain it so as not to… “to give in to the evil that” [l’]hurt so much almost thirty years ago »†
In a hangar at Le Bourget airport, he had a huge pile of snow installed under a transparent round bell that separates the guests from the models. Simultaneously with the show, an artificial storm begins, snow falls from the ceiling, scattered by a strong wind. The models, whether dressed in evening dresses or simple bath towels slung over their shoulders, are not equipped to face such hostile elements and move forward with difficulty. Most carry at arm’s length a large bundle that looks like a garbage bag in which objects have been hastily piled up.
“I imagined this scenography six months ago, and my goal was rather a reflection on the disappearance of natural snow in the future. [à la suite du réchauffement climatique] †explains Demna after her parade. “I imagined an infinite and open white space, a place of hope. But in such a context, the result is very different. † Indeed, it is impossible not to see a symbol in the glass that separates the spectators who are comfortably installed and the models who struggle with an uncontrollable torment. It is also impossible not to salute the talent of Demna, who manages to express herself accurately on a subject as sensitive as war.
What meaning can the garment still retain when the turbulence comes? Rick Owens replies, in his fashion show’s statement of intent, that in “This period of threat and conflict, [la mode] can express what we approve, what we strive for”† In the Palais de Tokyo, the American develops survivors on the Fifth Symphony by Mahler. They walk around with their heads held high in staggering thigh-high boots, portable machines in their hands spewing white smoke.
In three movements, the space is filled with a thick fog, to the point that the photographers, indignant to see their lenses blocked, scream out. Guests are struck by the beauty of silhouettes spinning like ghosts, in black but also in yellow, light pink or bright orange. As explorers, you’ll have to squeeze your eyes shut to admire the sequined dresses, wrap-around jackets, cashmere knits and pre-strung velvet dresses, all crowned with thunderous applause. How can we better say that fashion and the world move on without a compass, in the fog?