I’ve always had a complicated relationship with Paris. Even back in those now seemingly golden-age pre social media times, the final week of fashion month consistently delivered an emotional mega-mix of highs and lows – accentuated by a geographically impossible schedule and notable lack of sleep. Today, the real exaltation still comes from the maybe four to five minutes of uninterrupted, unadulterated viewing pleasure as the runway takes place; a collision of ideas, seamless production and Shazamable music. All supported of course by what I refer to as overlay; this can include but is not limited to the observation of seating catastrophes, IRL actual bump-ins with Cher and visual confirmation that most of the industry invested in and are wearing the Prada monolith loafers.
The downside relates mainly to obscure show location addresses that confuse even the most proficient French drivers and the now often intense difficulty in entering and exiting the show space amid the crush of screaming fans. (Climbing walls seems to no longer be a barrier when the urgency of capturing their favourite celebrity through their iPhones is at stake.) I would go on, but can’t consciously do so in full awareness of the politically charged times we are living in.
As I set off on an almost 30-hour journey thanks to a long stopover and over 40 kgs of Rimowa luggage, I was committed to gratitude and keeping my eyes open more than ever. Serendipitously, on the plane I watched I watched the documentary Hunt vs Lauda: The Next Generation; certainly not a film I would recommend unless you are wild about Formula One, but what is relevant here is the way the hedonistic James Hunt was described by a legendary manager as “a life boy”. Blame it on the Italian translation but his point was Hunt was just appreciative to be alive, and so justified his hefty embrace of all those fun things in life (drinking, dining, loving) as a pure reflection of this.
‘Happy to be alive’. It was something that struck me and stayed all the way with me to Charles de Gaulle and beyond, so much so I vowed I would try, even just for a week, to be a ‘life boy/ girl/ person’ myself.
I must admit, the sentiment had absolutely no trouble catching on with my friends in Paris. By mid-week, when an of the moment model swished past us in gold Miu Miu sequinned briefs, decorating the renowned leopard print carpet of Laurent in vodka while simultaneously running her fingers through the hair of her extremely famous boyfriend, we all simultaneously winked at each other and mouthed, “Life boy.”
As it turned out, this same carefree attitude was playing out on the runways during the week, with many of the creative directors choosing to celebrate ‘dans la vie’. Miuccia Prada communicated in her Miu Miu show notes that the collection was aimed at the “embracing of unique characters, the joy of life.” A nod to realness and the pleasure in our routine. The styling tweak of the overstuffed bag (a nod to the mental load of our day-today, because who doesn’t walk around with a pair of shoes), utilitarian trenches, leather boat shoes and board shorts hinted at a more in routine and on-grid existence of life and leisure.
The sentiment was rife at large throughout many of the collections where ‘normal’ clothes and everyday featured over more elaborate sartorial directions. At Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe, he concentrated on the detail of ‘everyday’ clothes, a cardigan, a trouser, the perfect jean. A much more proportionally toned-down collection than his often architectural and conceptual offerings we’ve come to expect. Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino was in tune, celebrating the natural state of the body, devoid of any kind of provocation with a collection of light, easy looks that resemble his most carefree Spring Summer offering to date. Likewise, Virginie Viard presented her most everyday collection for Chanel, highlights being barely-there thongs, swimsuits, shorts and pool throw-overs: an entire wardrobe around an easy summer of living. I especially loved the practicality of the eyewear on chains for a busy (and forgetful) Chanel girl and was mentally adding these to my personal shopping cart after first glimpse.
At Balenciaga, even Demna, the master of darkness himself, sent his real life women – from his Mum Ella to his Paris-based Communications Director – down the runway as homage to how he lives and works. A tribute to a full life coming through in overfilled bags laden with talisman trinkets, bathrobes and grocery store canvas bags printed with fennel and strawberries.
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The Row, never a place for anything superfluous, saw the twins style work-out towels around the necks of their trench coats, hinting at an off duty everyday sensibility. Dior’s practicality of white shirts and Bermuda shorts – those in denim being her most modern – gave nod to a more practical muse and even Anthony Vaccarello did cotton for Saint Laurent… although his ‘gone-on-safari’ girls didn’t forget their giant gold earrings.
With realness arriving in places we’d least expect it, naturally had some fashion commenters screaming ‘commercialisation’ and lamenting at the lack of fantasy and experimentation.
In my view though, the untethered magic was still there from those we have come to rely on it from. Schiaparelli was certainly more surreal than real, despite Daniel Roseberry’s handling of the everyday from fishbones to spilt nail polish and naughty, skinny cigarettes. The lobsters, giant fish and humorous eyes took a bow to the absurdism so in step with the heritage of the house.
The ever-conceptual Rick Owens, again showing at the Palais de Tokyo, delivered otherworldly alien-goth silhouettes, sculpted goddesses and ‘duvet donuts’ in one of his most romantic moments yet. Life affirming, yes? But everyday? Absolutely, no.
Mr. Attitude himself, John Galliano, seemed to take an artful swipe at quiet luxury for Maison Margiela with a collection rich and complex in storytelling and so deeply original it is almost hard to describe. The house called it ‘illustrating the generational impulse for customisation that reflects one’s contemporary truth’ but whatever it was, it was simply just beautiful.
Inspired by the 90s Mugler Haute Couture collections, Casey Cadwallader presented exotic species of the sea, calling on everything from Perspex hardware to create glass corsetry and exoskeletal peplums. There were thousands of meters of hand-dyed fringe and multiple supermodels in bodysuits, naturally.
It was perhaps Nicholas Ghesquière’s Louis Vuitton that surprised me most with his dialled-up levels of fantasy. Shaking off the ‘travel goods’ moniker that is sometimes mentioned when Vuitton sends many bags down the runway (which it did very sparingly on this day), this collection was tiered with mystery and new wave dreaming. The softness and volume felt more than ever, all executed at a level that suggested couture – think beaded bias cut. It instantly made me think of the late French musician Lizzy Mercier Descloux on a glamourous night out on Paris, the candy-striped silk flowing just like Mum’s scarves in the 80s. It is absolutely my favourite of Ghesquière’s collections for Louis Vuitton to date.
As the week came to a close, the announcement of Seán McGirr as Creative Director of Alexander McQueen shifted the dialogue to the industries ongoing issue with diversity. Most glaring in this instance, why in an industry that is so deeply for and about women, are so many of the top jobs going to people who are simply not women. For me, it’s also inexplicably linked in the collections themselves this season. Virgine Viard at Chanel, Hermes’ Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski and Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior, and even Miuccia Prada, all to some level accused of telling stories that are too ‘normal’. Their collections alike in that they showed light and uncomplicated clothes for real living proving that despite these women being at the pinnacle of their careers, they all remain deeply rooted in reality.
Their male counterparts on the other hand, seem to have a little more freedom to dream… and liberty to connect with the abstract. As a woman leading a business in this industry, it is a familiar feeling. In Paris especially – when the best in class all come together – all is not equal.
In terms of snackable trends we can use to guide our shopping lists, Paris really delivered. For the full rundown, be sure to read our full trend report by the ever-sharp @theKimbino, but I want to share these as my footnotes as this is what is scrawled across my notebook (yes, my old school paper one).
Prepare to wear no pants. The focus on bodysuits or what could be called leotards was unending; anywhere from Stella McCartney to Miu Miu where more than half the attendees were showing butt check. Probably a trend I am only going to embrace at home alone on my Peloton, but surely a dominant statement to come at events and public appearances over the summer.
Groundbreaking florals for Spring, especially the rose, which dominated Sarah Burton’s last collection for McQueen but could be seen anywhere from Marni to Chanel. Big belts are back as Ghesquière and Miuccia Prada say so. Candy stripes in soft, flous silk as seen at Marni, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. Trench coats because they are the ultimate symbol of being a woman and vampy pointy shoes everywhere from Acne to Louis Vuitton; if only just to annoy the Tabi devotees.
And as for the moments that will stay with me? Watching Cathy Horan go about her day at Valentino like nothing had ever happened (but with exceptional hair) just after she’d walked on Demna’s runway. The freshness and earnestness of Jonathan Anderson as he spoke about his collection post show. Helena Christensen back on the runway at Mugler; also long live the wind machine, hearing Phoebe Philo was in Paris staying at a hotel and going there for a tea hoping to catch a glimpse (praying she stays true to hear ‘sweater chic, no fillers’ genre, please god).
A conversation with Amandla Stenberg sharing her love of Toni Morrison after the Chanel show. An unobstructed view of Emma Corrin’s main character energy at the last show of the week; witnessing Pamela Anderson’s emotional intelligence by not bringing on a glam team. All the Aussie’s in Paris (yes, welcome Esber) and oh, Gabriella Hearst dancing like no one was watching for her Chloé finale.
Life boy, if ever there was one.