The AW/18 Paris collections bring an exhilarating – exhausting – month of fashion-relating fun to an end. If New York is known for its high-end glamour, London for its promotion of fresh talent and ideas, and Milan for its command over the craft of fashion, then Paris is surely known for its uncanny ability to bring out the best in fashion’s celebrated dark geniuses. Gaultier, Galliano, McQueen: throughout the ages, the fashion industry’s most innovative enfants terribles have been drawn to the City of Lights to show off their greatest creations, to the rapture of critics, buyers, and casual fashionistas alike.
Each year it seems impossible that Paris could take fashion in yet another new direction, yet each year the creative juices of the city’s designers continue to flow, spilling out onto the catwalk, onto the streets, and onto shop shelves in time for the coming season. There have been a few key points of interest so far at the AW/18 shows that we’d like to draw your attention to. Significantly, each of these points goes some way to answering a question that has been on the lips of almost all fashion journalists and producers lately: what is the point of fashion? In an age where we have so many clothes that we could never possibly wear them all, why do we continue to produce clothing? If true originality is impossible, where do we find new ideas? If streetwear is the death of high fashion, and counterfeiting is the death of streetwear, how can the luxury fashion industry survive? The creative and entrancing way designers have responded to these questions may in itself go some way to reasserting fashion’s sense of purpose.
Off-White put out a playful collection full of creative director Virgil Abloh’s signature referencing and reappropriating. It was pleasing to see some real artistry on display in the cuts of some of the dresses, as opposed to the bold, postmodernist slogans encased in quotation marks that the brand has become known for. Unfortunately, the most noticeable thing about the show was not the clothing on the catwalk, but the crowds outside. An excellent collection was almost completely overshadowed by the hype around the collection.
Part of Off-White’s appeal has always been its inclusivity: the streetwear brand’s ethos is that anyone can wear their clothes. A side-effect of this has been the unnerving levels of hype around the label, and this was nowhere more evident than at its Paris showing. It’s a shame that such a promising movement has taken such a predictable turn. Already the consequences of excess hype are being felt by true streetwear fans, who were disappointed by the recently cancellation of supreme x Louis Vuitton’s pop-up events due to fear of uncontrollable crowds. In future, designers will have to rethink the way products are presented and distributed to consumers.
We loved the pointy, stretched collars at Rochas, and the elongated shapes at Vera Wang. Both collections had a professional vibe about them, as if the designers were commenting on sartorial expectations women are forced to comply with. The clothes in Vera Wang’s collection seemed to pull the models’ bodies into impossibly long and thin proportions; as though the women were stretched to their limits to satisfy codes of dress.
The womenswear edition of Rick Owens’s ‘Sisyphus’ collection gave us plenty of food for thought. Were the humongous bum bags meant to symbolise the weight of the boulder that this mythic figure was supposed to have rolled up and down a hill for eternity? Should we take the illusion to Sisyphus to be a comment on the futility of fashion?And given that Owens is reportedly thinking of calling his next collection babel – is fashion doomed to failure? Considering how much more subdued this AW18 collection was than his previous work, the answer to all of these questions might be a depressing ‘yes.’
Or are we too quick to despair? The designer, who famously has his tongue in his cheek for most of his collections, told reporters “I know it’s very easy for my stuff to come off as very dour and apocalyptic and I am a pessimist but, honestly, I don’t dwell on apocalypse at all.” Bearing in mind the colourful yellow checks that were a surprising addition to the presentation, perhaps there is hope after all?
Past was certainly a buzzword for Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest Dior show – or perhaps power might be a better word, or indeed political (there’s a definite theme developing here for her work at the Parisian House). She also wove in her own personal references – embroidery was a tribute to the tradition of women’s craftsmanship in her native Puglia. From Peace symbols on pullovers to black panther-esque berets and leather, this collection was infused with the spirit of the ’60s: “a decade of protest, social revolution and female affirmation.” Part III of Kenzo’s ‘Memento’ collection also looked to the past to create clothes for the present.
At French house Maison Margiela, British designer John Galliano played with the idea of vulnerability (skeletal jackets, see-through coats, holograms revealing hidden messages felt like a metaphor for concealed emotions, layering of underwear over outerwear evoked confusion) but also with the idea of fashion as a suit of armour. We saw lots of waterproofs, as well as huge arm guards that looked like giant shock absorbers, and head gear that looked like painted egg shells. Fashion may not be adequate for concealing our insecurities, but it definitely can play a protective role – whether that means protection against something as mundane as the weather, or whether that refers to psychological protection in an age of heightened anxiety.
Chloé mocked bourgeois sensibilities with wide-open v-necks and cuts down the side of white lace virgin dresses. The collection was a fine example of 70’s-inspired bohemian insouciance. Similarly sweeping v necks were also to be found at Saint Laurent. Here, however, there was impropriety of a different sort: the bare necklines (indeed, the bare midriffs!) were hardly weather-appropriate given that Paris has been plunged into sub-zero temperatures! Certainly the show-goers would have been glad that Anthony Vaccarello did not repeat last year’s outdoor setting – beneath the Eiffel Tower – for the AW18 show.
Puss in Boots
We’re certainly still caught in the era of athleisure at the moment, but for women who could never bring themselves to love sneakers, hope is on the horizon. The Paris catwalks were trampled by models in big boots this season. Huge suede waders at Y/Project recalled the waist high boots presented by Margiela a few seasons ago. Calf boots were a common sight at Fendi and several other Milan designers last week. Boots also came in big black leather renditions at Atlein, snakeskin at Rochas, and there were wellies at Lacoste.
Article written by Desmond Huthwaite
Feature image: Vogue