A month of uncertain circumstances, innovative show formats, and imaginative collections comes to a close in Paris just as the city experiences a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. On October 14, just a week after the last collection was presented, President Emmanuel Macron announced the start of nightly curfews in Paris and eight other densely populated areas as the country recently recorded its highest number of new infections since the start of the pandemic. Despite the central role that COVID-19 has played in the daily lives of Parisians, the pandemic seemed to take a backseat in the minds of designers during fashion week. If anything, the lockdown brought upon by the pandemic gave designers the space they needed to seek out new sources of inspiration and imbue their collections with deeper meaning–something that has proven scarce over the past year.
A pandemic is no excuse for a tired closet, and designers in Paris made a case for getting dressed up as we caught a glimpse into their seemingly endless imaginations. In his debut collection for Givenchy, Matthew Williams added his signature edge to structured suiting and sexy draping. Virginie Viard of Chanel built her own version of the Hollywood sign inside the Grand Palais, where she presented an ode to classic cinema that would convince us all to leave our sweatsuits at home. Classic tweed suits, rounded shoulders, and a neon sign-inspired print brought Hollywood glamour to the socially distanced front row. Head-to-toe sequins at Louis Vuitton and Paco Rabanne further instilled the idea that a pandemic is no time to stop dressing up.
Known for his ability to experiment, John Galliano used the lockdown time to design a collection for Maison Margiela unlike any other. Created with photographer Nick Knight, he presented the collection in a 45-minute “double narrative” video that took the viewer inside the Margiela studio during the making of the house’s spring collection, cutting to scenes of a fantasy wedding in Argentina throughout. The clothing itself struck a fascinating balance between wearability and artistry. Galliano commercialized some of his couture themes, integrating pieces that were recreated from vintage finds, as well as actual reworked vintage pieces for a one-of-a-kind collection.
Stella McCartney took sustainability a step further, as she so often does, producing an A-to-Z “manifesto” on the topic. Created during quarantine, the alphabetized manifesto defines a set of rules that the designer wants her brand to adhere to and to work toward. “It [articulates] a wonderful reason for us to exist, something for us to design and work toward,” she said during a preview. This sense of purpose and practicality appeared in quite a few collections this season. Wardrobe-building pieces at Issey Miyake and Y/Project touted a level of practicality that is not typically seen on the runway. Titled “Unpack the Compact,” Issey Miyake’s collection addressed the process of packing and unpacking with garments that can be unzipped or untied to become flat, while Glenn Martens of Y/Project created a collection of deconstructed garments and corresponding “how-to” videos to help wearers convert outfits with the snap of a button. With a collection that is equal parts sustainable and wearable, Heron Preston focused on simplifying this season–and for good reason. “I started realizing that it’s not about introducing something new, but it’s about building on what’s already done and these icons. [This collection] was about keeping it simple. Life was already stressful as it was, with people losing their lives, companies, brands and homes,” he said.
The stress of the pandemic became a key consideration for brands like Kenzo and Coperni, who presented collections focused on the idea of protection. At Coperni, some garments were cut from a new jersey fabric called C-plus, that features built-in anti-UV, moisturizing properties, and an antibacterial primer. Kenzo took the idea of protection a bit less literally in a show that featured functional, beekeeper-inspired looks. Just a few weeks later, the label’s founder Kenzo Takada died of COVID-19 related complications, a sobering reminder that fashion, although a beautiful escape, is not what we need in this moment.
Patchwork, +9% to LY
Mix and match prints were a standout this season at Heron Preston, Louis Vuitton, Chloe, and Dior. Heron Preston featured casual DIY-inspired patchwork denim, while Dior highlighted the fashion house’s craftsmanship with patchwork peasant dresses.
Collared & Classy
Collared Dress, -18% to LY
Statement collars appeared on the runway in Paris as well as each of the other major cities. An effortless way to elevate any look, designers incorporated the collar into a range of different dress styles. Andrew Gn added an oversized point collar to a button up mini dress, while Chanel featured a traditional polo collar on a printed midi dress.
Bermuda Shorts, +30% to LY
Long silhouettes dominated the runway this season with midi and maxi length skirts and dresses emerging as designer favorites. This preference extended to short styles as Lutz Huelle, Balmain, and Dries Van Noten featured bermuda shorts.
Less Is More
This season, designers focused on versatility and wearability with collections that featured transformable garments and functional fabrics. Titled “Unpack the Compact,” Issey Miyake’s collection addressed the process of packing and unpacking with garments that can be unzipped or untied to become flat. Also mindful of garment construction, Glenn Martens of Y/Project created a collection of deconstructed garments and corresponding “how-to” videos to help wearers convert outfits with the snap of a button.
Several collections struck a fascinating balance between wearability and artistry and told stories that extended far beyond the garments themselves. Maison Margiela presented the collection in a 45-minute “double narrative” video that took the viewer inside the Margiela studio during the making of the house’s spring collection, cutting to scenes of a fantasy wedding in Argentina throughout. Marine Serre presented her collection in a dystopian short film titled “Amor Fati.” A reflection of the real-life horrors we’re faced with today, the film features a cast of characters moving around three otherworld landscapes, painting a terrifying picture of political, social, and environmental collapse.
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