Catwalk shows in French capital rounded out a month of shows in fashion capitals around the world says MIMOSA SPENCER
Celebrities and international crowds descended on the French capital over recent days, marking the fashion industry’s sweeping return as it rides a post-pandemic spending frenzy.
The final stretch of Paris Fashion Week ran until Tuesday featuring big names including Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent, rounding out a month of shows that also took place in New York, London and Milan.
As the city of lights filled up with designers and executives from the United States and Asia – except China – “the mood is very optimistic,” said Nathalie Lucas Verdier, buying director for women’s apparel at French department store Printemps. “I feel like we’re not yet really sensing the danger of inflation or recession, or the geopolitical context.”
The glamorous catwalk shows and splashy after-parties took place against a backdrop of belt-tightening.
But wealthy clientele of fashion houses have largely been shielded from the cost of living crisis. But Exane BNP Paribas analysts added a recessionary scenario to their forecasts for the luxury industry starting in the fourth quarter, and lasting three quarters.
This puts fashion labels in a tricky position. They aim to generate buzz around their collections and recruit new consumers while bracing for a downturn – without appearing tone deaf or foregoing the drama and glamour expected from such events.
“We are living in very difficult times,” said Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri. The Dior catwalk featured a towering cave-like structure of cardboard by artist Eva Jospin.
“It’s three years that are really intense. … It’s impossible not to think that has not influenced my work,” said Chiuri, whose shows emphasize the skill and creativity used to transform ordinary, as well as high-end materials into art.
Of the key, global fashion capitals, Paris has emerged from the pandemic strongest, bulked up with new venues to serve the industry, as well as hefty investments in flagship stores and high-end hotels from luxury groups based there. Labels from other markets — including the UK’s Victoria Beckham — also flocked to the city to gain wider exposure and fashion credibility.
For her debut in Paris, she emphasised her label’s elevated side, with sleek dresses and suits, mixing light pastels with all black ensembles, and adding silk fringes, with leading models Bella and Gigi Hadid walking in the show.
American design duo Vaquera sent models stomping down the runway to throbbing punk music in ripped jeans and faded American flags, evoking a sense of angst. “I guess it is kind of worldwide right now. It just seems no one is really content, people from both political sides are unhappy,” said Vaquera designer Bryn Taubensee, referring to tensions in the United States ahead of midterm elections in November.
On the final day, Chanel creative director Virginie Viard added a streak of Old Hollywood glamour to a slinky collection for spring and summer, sent down a catwalk lined with enormous screens projecting dreamy, black-and-white images of formal gardens and plush interiors.
Models marched around the room on a carpet of black sand that felt squishy underfoot, wearing sparkly, low-heeled boots and shoes, paired with matching socks pulled up over the calves.
Hermes artistic director Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski seized on the vibes of the Burning Man Festival, adding swirls of colour and utilitarian touches to a sleek spring and summer collection sent down the runway to techno beats.
The audience was seated on risers facing a hulking set in the shape of a mound of desert sand – a white form that came alive with moving colours when the show started.
The first look was classic Hermes: a pale, tan leather shirt and trouser ensemble, the top with a collar and wide sleeves, while pant legs were gently cinched at the bottom.
Some industry observers noticed more diversity in styles and what Verdier of Printemps described as “more audacious mixes.” Posh McKoy, stylist for TikTok star Jessica Wang, saw a mix of elevated and simpler styles, as well as more vintage pieces.
“Now we want you to take the dress, but add in your mom’s shoes, add in your grandma’s favourite set of diamonds, add those things to make that look really feel like yours,” he said.