Still Paris? You Bet!
Paris Fashion Week Fall 2019 – Part 3
The massively influential Valentino couture show Pierpaolo Piccioli staged in January, with its diverse cast, has been reverberating throughout the wide world of fashion ever since—visibly shifting the needle of the industry towards volume and glamour, and cementing the normalization of inclusive casting. Piccioli is a magnetic, down-to-earth guy who cares about celebrating the skilled people who work for him, a man on an intuitive mission to place fashion on a positive plane. “I feel that people are looking for emotion and dreams—but not distant dreams,” he said today before his ready-to-wear show was about to take to the runway. “I want to create a community for Valentino. I mean something different from ‘lifestyle,’ which is about owing objects. It’s about people who share values.”
In prepping this show, he’d reached out laterally in two directions to connect with co-creators from beyond the exclusive realms of the Roman house. One was the continuation of the creative brainstorming with Jun Takahashi of Undercover which the pair started with Valentino’s meanswear This time they morphed together a print of a 19th-century neoclassical sculpture of kissing lovers with a pop-punkish image of roses. The prints proliferated over coats and dresses, settling most beautifully as a cut-out pink bloom appliqued on white lace in the breast of a slim, cream midi dress.
Piccioli had also been hit by the resonances of the direct-action Movement For The Emancipation of Poetry, who anonymously paste lyrical lines on walls in cities around the world. The idea of publicly accessible poetry about love and tenderness led him to commission the Scottish poet and artist Robert Montgomery, and the three young writers Greta Bellamacina, Mustafa The Poet and Ysra Daley-Ward to contribute to a slim volume, Valentino on Love,which was left on seats for the audience to pick up. An illuminated billboard with lines by Montgomery stood at the end of the runway, reading, “The people you love become ghosts inside you and like this you keep them alive.” Piccioli showed how he’d picked lines from the anthology to be printed or embroidered inside coats, on mid-layers of tulle dresses, inside bags and boots—so that only the wearer would know they are there.
In between all these gestures consciously intended to include a much younger customer—there was a series of leggy tunics and short coats—came the timeless, drop-dead simple side of Valentino. The beauty of the cut and balance of a red A-line silk dress with an integral scarf flung diagonally across it, or a deep purple floor length gown with fluted panels visible only in movement—these are the fashion poetics which Piccioli and his team make near-impossible to translate into words, but whose appeal will speak beyond seasons and down generations.
Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh were a surprise appointment at Nina Ricci. The couple, in work and in life, have a young menswear label, Botter, whose oversize tailoring and energetic humor caught the attention of the fashion world last year. They were LVMH Prize finalists and picked up the top design award at the Festival d’Hyères. They’ve never designed womenswear. Nina Ricci is a historic house with the most feminine of aesthetics. As a couturier, Ricci didn’t have the distinctive design signature of contemporaries like Cristóbal Balenciaga, Coco Chanel, or Madame Grès, but her perfume, L’Air du Temps, is one of the most famous going.
“They gave us a blank page,” said Herrebrugh at a preview. Not unpredictably, their debut leaned heavily toward tailoring. With an eye to couture shapes, they planted a big bow at one shoulder of a double-breasted boxy jacket and swaddled others with demonstrative wraps. The designers proved they have a contrarian streak: The maillot shapes that they superimposed on the bodies of coats and blazers were, they said, a riff on the traditional corsets found in Nina Ricci tailleurs of old. The results weren’t quite as elegant as they probably hoped, but one exercise that worked well was the patternmaking they did using a parasol. Opened and laid flat, it provided the template for the twisting shape of the show-opening blouse, which was as light and airy as what is expected at Nina Ricci. The hats, sort of like oversize cloches perched high on the head, were modeled on the cap at the tip of the parasol.
After his last Paris show, Joseph Altuzarra and his husband went on vacation to Marrakech. Altuzarra said the sense of freedom and independence he experienced there was the feeling he wanted to conjure with his new collection. That’s not that far off from the spirit of his Spring outing, but where that collection felt like it was stuck on holiday, this one was designed to address multiple needs and scenarios, without losing its wanderlust-ing vibes.
Since his first collection exactly 10 years ago, Altuzarra has displayed a maturity that belies his years. In his best collections, practicality has gone hand in hand with the sensuality he’s better known for. These clothes reminded this longtime Altuzarra watcher of one of his early breakthroughs, Fall 2012, which was characterized by a similar blend of assertive tailoring and outerwear, Morocco-by-way-of-India prints and decorative motifs. In fact, a couple of the pieces looked further back than that. Altuzarra resurrected a cashmere wool wrap coat with mink fringe from his Fall 2009 debut as both a leather Perfecto and a trench with removable leather sleeves. “I thought it still looked relevant,” he said.
The designer has been a go-to resource for easy-to-wear statement dresses since his earliest days. This season’s entrant in that category was a one-shoulder, ruffled, plissé paisley.
Sometimes, it’s possible to feel a great big thought bubble rising up over an audience as a show is taking place—a palpable women’s consensus hovering right there, without a word being spoken. A huge, happy one, with cartoon rays of pleasure shooting out of it, bobbed up at Loewe, unmistakably carrying the words, Ah! It’s going to be okay!
Whether or not Jonathan Anderson has deliberately set out to fill the Phoebe Philo void in fashion, his Fall collection for Loewe stepped in and did that in its own way—without the kind of “Old Céline” mimicry that has sophisticated women rolling their eyes. The proof: his knack for smoothing away the contradictions between simple, clean silhouettes and craft and texture, between a sense of now and an honoring of history. “It’s quite strict and crafted,” he said. “Craft under a microscope. It became about reducing things. How do we see silhouette?”
In his own JW Anderson show in London, he had talked about “stripping away noise” to concentrate on fashion. The same applied at Loewe: There was no complex set to wander around, no special furniture or literature to try to appreciate—just a black-tiled floor in a white box.
This is the thing about the creative plane on which Anderson has arrived: What he’s now doing is modern clothing, not costume or “concept.” The reason the center holds when there’s so much variety going on is that Loewe is grounded in great product—see the coat with the simple chic of the “dripping” collar—with a brilliant frisson of eccentricity tossed in.
Unforced and easy to understand, it was one of the most highly smash-and-grab-able collections of the season so far.
At Balenciaga, it felt like a clearing away of background distractions so you could see silhouettes—the minimal cool tailoring with an upstanding, rounded shoulder-head, the button-less wrap-over cocoon coats and jackets, and the run of solemn, minimalistic chic pant suits (with no joke trousers, how rare!) calculated to please both men and women. Gvasalia knows he is dealing with the kind of fussy people who care about integrity and drop-dead fit—potential swing voters in the suddenly rapid competition between houses.
Gvasalia said he’s continued to apply and refine the molded, computer-manipulated techniques he’s brought into the house for the past year, “but now they’re more subtle, I would say. They are the tailoring tricks we apply to making a shoulder structure.”
The fact that he’d cut away the background spectacle—the digital art tunnel of last season, the ski mountain of the one before—meant that all the attention was focused on the clothes. Up to a point. You can still deliberately grate on an audience’s senses through the smell of the street, through the brutally repetitive march of techno music, and exposure to flashing lights for an extended period. Gvasalia is far from alone in wanting to stage a metaphorical reflection of the state of the world in his show—it’s almost a responsibility, and a badge of belonging to the intellectually-attuned set of designers which includes Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada and Rick Owens.
The erasure of trainers, Dad-like or otherwise, in favor of square-toed black leather shoes and new high boots for men. The young men carrying fistfuls of B-branded shopping bags. “It’s real,” said Gvasalia. “When I’m on the streets of Paris, that’s what I see.”
A sharp-eyed observer walked into the sports hall where the Off-White show was being held, blinked at the checkerboard pattern on the floor and exclaimed, “Oh! Is this Virgil’s own take on the Louis Vuitton check?” The famous Vuitton Damier pattern wasn’t on Virgil Abloh’s mind at all, at least as far as he told it during a preview at the Off-White studio in Paris. The checked pattern was “crash derby race car culture. One of the things I grew up with in suburban America that’s been on the periphery of my vision. It’s a play on the checkered flag—the goal,” he said.
Racing and goals, you can see how they’re completely apt metaphors for the speedy ascent of Abloh himself, without even factoring in any deliberate or subconscious reference to his hailed tenure at Louis Vuitton menswear. This Off-White collection, he said, was “shining a mirror on my friends,” while stepping on the gas as far as moving things on for them design-wise. “The streetcar I rolled in was streetwear. But now it’s commonplace. I’m intrigued by the empowered woman who wants to dress in a feminine but chic way.”
In fact, if you scroll back through Off-White womenswear collections, it’s noticeable that one of Abloh’s signatures—besides his labeling of everything in quotation marks—is glamour and sexiness. While those qualities might not have been accepted by the mainstream before, they are very much front and center in everyone’s minds this season, what with all the sweeping volumes and strong-shouldered tailoring that’s surfacing everywhere.
All photos and re-edited writeups originally appeared on Vogue Runway . Head on over for the most up to date Paris Fashion Week coverage!