C’est Chic, C’est Tres Paris
Fall 2019 Ready-To-Wear
As we race toward the end of the Fall 2019 Fashion Week, our last stop is Paris and it’s not a surprise that the City of Lights does not disappoint. We are a little more than halfway through this magnificent fashion week and we already have our favorites at Edition KLFW. We bring you the main highlights from Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Maison Margiela, Dries Van Noten and Rochas.
Since his arrival to the house of Saint Laurent nearly three years ago, Anthony Vaccarello has seemed comfortable to explore the parts of Yves Saint Laurent’s legacy that most closely align with his own—briefly: anything short, short, short. But spanning 40 years as it does, YSL’s oeuvre is vast. Vaccarello’s latest explored several eras or moments of that legacy, but the aspect that had everyone in the audience so jazzed tonight was the tailoring, which was strong, almost man-size, and focused on the shoulders. In a preview, Vaccarello said he spent six months getting the proportions right and that they were built up with padding to extend two centimeters beyond the shoulder seams. “The show pieces are all done by hand,” he explained. “We’ll have to figure out how to perfect it [in the factory].”
Vaccarello is loath to psychoanalyze his motivations, but many in the audience were fully prepared to do so. There’s an old-fashioned rivalry brewing in Paris (something that YSL and Lagerfeld knew plenty about, as it happens; read The Beautiful Fall for all the fabulous details), and competition, as they say, is good for business. As for why Instagram lit up afterward with photos of those boss coats, Vaccarello does have a theory. “She’s not making war; she’s not a combatant. But she is really strong; she’s fearless.” Many of us respond to that silhouette, especially in our current dark times.
For her Fall 2019 show for Christian Dior, shown today in a box behind the Musée Rodin, creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri first turned the mic over, literally, to the Italian conceptual artist Tomaso Binga, a woman who, in the 1970s, signed her work pseudonymously as a man to slyly protest male privilege in the art world. Binga read a poem (in Italian) about the promise of a feminist victory over the patriarchy, while those in attendance gazed at images of a much younger, naked Binga fetchingly and discreetly conjuring the alphabet that lined the walls of the Dior box.
Turning to the clothes, we also turn the clock back another 20 years. Chiuri sought inspiration for this collection from Britain’s postwar Teddy Girls, those working-class, rock ’n’ roll–loving beehived vixens who hit the clubs in a mix of men’s Edwardian jackets, full skirts, blue jeans, leather, velvet, and eyeliner galore. She was struck by the similarity in silhouette and the optimistic excess that characterized Christian Dior’s designs of the same period. She was also moved by Yves Saint Laurent’s addition to the Dior pantheon of a men’s black leather jacket for women in the late 1950s. So, heritage, hipsters, and herstory: What better place to start?
Another reason for women to rejoice? Chiuri’s wise hand with accessories. The shoes are often jeweled, sometimes spectator, occasionally brogued. They are walkable and oh so pretty and a palate cleanser after the armies of stomping boots of Milan and New York. Who doesn’t love a pretty shoe? We can storm the barricades in kitten heels. Or march to the polls. Or open all borders. Yes, we can.
Which way to navigate through these stormy times on the good ship fashion: go madly, colorfully into the roiling overload and political non sequiturs of daily experience or cut through it all with focus and sobriety? It’s as if we’re witnessing fashion charting the desperate global landscape before our eyes this season as we spectate on shows that choose between those either-or routes. At Maison Margiela, however, John Galliano’s compass is set to gyrate between the two. What can come after decadence? Austerity, of course. To the strains of Swan Lake.
That was the impact of his fall intro: the sudden shock of calm, coherence, and beautifully constructed coats. After his summer haute couture show, Artisanal, in which jolting, eye-confusing, giant blue poodle-d excess practically tossed the idea of recognizable garments over the side, he took a 180-degree ready-to-wear turn in the direction of sober tailoring.
That sounds basic, but thumbs up, it was amazing. He can also cut in the upside down and the inside out, leave the shadows of one garment on another and fillet skirts (or trenchcoats, or whatever they may have been) so that only the framework of former hems swings free below the knee.
The eyes of the millennials and Gen Z-ers who hero-worship Galliano today might recognize themselves in the way he has lifted aspirations, erasing the commonplaces of streetwear and gender categorizations they grew up with. With his crew of student interns on work placement from his alma mater, Central Saint Martins, Galliano’s inclusive gang-sourced intel is sparking that new energy.
Non-binary is a watchword within gender politics today. If only it could be embraced beyond the example set by youth, beyond the fashion community which celebrates it, and into politics, we might get somewhere. Thanks, John Galliano, you’ll sell even better next season, but you also made us think of this.
Everything was roses at Dries Van Noten - but with a twist. That the designer has a lush garden is almost as well-known as his affinity for statement prints, which have drawn from countless inspirations over the years. For fall, he stayed close to home in conjuring his seasonal motif. On a Saturday afternoon in October, he and members of his team strolled his garden with a photographer, taking pictures of the various blooms against a solid background board. They sought out not the most perfect of nature’s bounty, but flowers that would best represent the human condition, those with obvious flaws.
The goal, Van Noten said post show, was to create a floral motif that was “strange and interesting” but also alluring to customers. “To make it strange and interesting is really easy, but [it must] also have the desirability,” because in the end, women must want to wear the clothes.
There was a deliciously agonized aesthetic derangement in this Rochas collection that sometimes played on the eye as costume for some fantasy Fellini-shot remake of Belle de Jour. The Italian auteurship was provided by Alessandro Dell’Acqua, who said he had wanted to mine the house’s couture roots—like, of course—and whose clothes spoke in deeply bourgeois codes while simultaneously signaling a climax of volumized apostasy against them. The heaped embellishment in jet beads that rustled against oversize bouclé coats whispered of this rebellion.
The warped, vinyl millinery of Stephen Jones—“They said they want it to be very couture but modern, and then left it up to me,” spoketh the maestro—screamed of it. The Valentino-pushed mega-volume of recent seasons was here given a new articulation in coats of slickly coated, puckered duchesse silk and shimmeringly fluffy shifts that looked like marabou but were viscose. One model wore a skirt in that fabric south of a raw, V-neck mohair sweater over a shirt in white silk so light that its collar leapt toward the roof in a sun salutation every runway step. The interplay of Prussian blue silks and faux furs, shaggy in their caramel-ness, was twistedly yum. With no ill will in the world toward either party, this collection felt like concept-less Prada from another time: just very good, and aggressive in its womanliness—clothes for a feminine identity that rejects masculine colonization, and whose apparent lack of control is, in fact, an act of it. Clever, clever clothes, which were maybe slightly wasted on this label.