SPRING/SUMMER 2018 Paris Fashion Week Highlights
Paris is known as a capital of creative fashion, and for a very long time, young designers risked everything to come and try to build fame and perhaps fortune by crafting shows abound with emotions and imbued with a personal point of view that captures our collective imagination. But in this past week spring summer 2018 show season, there were very few shows that can jolt the creative button while most espoused a more commercial route despite the abundant spectacular locale and stage sets.
It was an American designer, Thom Browne, who delivered an extraordinary show resplendent with creative sparks that for so many years designers from all over the world have come to Paris to stage their work. Inside the sumptuous and ornate grand reception ballroom of the Hôtel de Ville, Browne ended his debut women show with a model wearing a Chesterfield dress in white tulle stain stitched with gold buttons and a tulle shirt with beaded fringes and she is trailed by two male models holding up a head and body of a unicorn like dragon dancers during Chinese new year festivities. It was a triumphant moment for creative fashion to see a representation of a unicorn imparting some much-needed magic onto a current fashion circus grown increasingly dull with mere commercial imperatives on the runway.
Browne transformed the simple and relatively cheap fabric of tulle into extraordinary garments built on a node to the French traditions of haute couture such as classic sack coat and jacket in pink tulle embroidered to have the effect of a seersucker fabric with grey tulle seersucker pants or a classic swing jacket and skirt in tulle trumpunto embroidery that resembled cotton or wool tweed from afar. A cricket tulle cable sweater looked almost like the real thing worn with a ‘distressed’ brown tulle chino short pants with embroidered anchors or the red white and blue tulle madras ribbon work coat that Browne has made part of his signature vocabulary but made with new materials and techniques. As a master narrator, Browne show told the story of twin girls with severe imperfect bodies. The girls fall asleep and in their dreams awake on a different planet where every individual is beautiful just like each of the characters that walked on the wooden floor of the Paris’ city hall – the cricket player, the preppie girl, the mermaid and the business woman. Where would fashion be without the dream, the emotion and the fantasy?
In the open air massive courtyard of the Palais de Tokyo, Rick Owens gave each guest a black rain hooded poncho because he knew that when the fountain was turned up to maximum capacity, water droplets would rain on the audience there to witness his latest incarnation into experimental fashion. It wasn’t just a splash of water we were getting, but a majestic show of a world with its own specific fashion vocabulary. A world where every season we come to expect innovations and above all surprises. Looking closely at the clothes shown, it is clear from the draping, cutting, pulling and tugging of the white dresses that opened the show that Owens has incorporated many difficult elements of complex couture techniques to craft these fabrics into irregular silhouettes that we don’t often associate with clothes. To top it off at the end of the show were a series of elegant sculpture dresses made of odd shapes of blocks wrapped by a stretch material that nearly enveloped and consumed the models walking to the soundtrack of loud laughter, a track by Michèle Lamy.
“If life is a game of cards. We are born without knowing the rules. Yet we must play our hands.” These words of wisdom from the artist Niki de Saint Phalle were engraved onto a gray cement-like stone sculpture with wires on top of its curvy shapes dome that served as the entrance to the Dior show at the Musée Rodin and her dragon motif knitted onto a yellow short sleeve mini-dress on the runway. Since her arrival at Dior last year Maria Grazia Chiuiri has tasked herself with the mission of reinventing the Dior brand and make the kind of clothes and perhaps more important an ethos and the thinking that will jive in the courtship of new audience and customer or more precisely for today’s women. In her third RTW show, Chiuiri continued her splash of feminist activism, this time asking why there have there been no great women artist written on a cotton stripe marine tee worn with loose jeans that opened the show. cement like stone sculpture with wires on top of its curvy shapes dome that served as the entrance to the Dior show at the Musée Rodin and her dragon motif knitted onto a yellow short sleeve mini-dress on the runway. Since her arrival at Dior last year Maria Grazia Chuiri has tasked herself with the mission of reinventing the Dior brand and make the kind of clothes and perhaps more important an ethos and the thinking that will jive in the courtship of new audience and customer or more precisely for today’s women. In her third RTW show, Chuiri continued her splash of feminist activism, this time asking why there have there been no great women artist written on a cotton stripe marine tee worn with loose jeans that opened the show.
While Chuiri’s message to her new audience is clear in both activist words and exquisitely made clothes that felt at ease – patchwork denim pantsuit, leather motor cross jumpsuit, and more - it’s not quite clear (from this show) where is the high fashion quotient, innovation and culture that is the heart of Dior DNA.
Le Pavilion de l’Horloge inside the Musée du Louvre is the heart of the medieval part of the Palais Royal since the medieval ages and where Louis Philippe constructed a fortress in the 12th century. Now the old stones originally one of the central tower protected with its own moat became the background for Nicolas Ghequière time travel hybrids of style from 18th century Versailles court dressing updated for today’s consumer like a long court vest in gold silk brocade worn with a black leather vest, all worn with heavy trainers – a nod to the current fashletics momentum. A simpler gold print coat was paired with a simple white leather slim pant to add a sense of casualness. A few of the chiffon dresses had leather straps almost like a torn corset around the front and sleeves as if the heavy strappings model of dressing of the past has been lifted out of obscurity and just left hanging. Past and present dressing merged with both the historical and the nowness subsisting gallantly beside each other.
Speaking of hybrids not of time but of fabrics and of types of garments like parts of an army coat merging with section of a cable knit cardigan, Chitose Abe went back to her roots with a stellar and joyous show combining patterns and prints on a blue front trench coat dress with cinched waist and silk pleated back or a khaki dress with parts of a sleeve hanging from one side. Abe doesn’t show many jackets in her collections and this time the jacket is wrapped around dresses like an afterthought accessory piece rather than as the main event. See the brown jacket tied around a striped cotton sleeveless shirt dress. There is a sense of lightness to the show as if Abe is so comfortable with her ideas and the clothes she made now can radiate that energy like the colorful floral print multi-layers dresses worn with plaid cigarette pants. It reminded me of Abe’s first show in Paris many seasons ago.
On top of the staircase of the Lycée Carnot models assembled in a lineup at the finale of Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino show where the designer masterfully updated the Valentino aesthetics now with a nylon anorak with a light purple dress or a transparent plastic short trench with beaded trims and khaki pants to colorful swatch short dress and more simple evening gowns. Inside a white parachute balloon with a duvet on top of benches at the Tennis Club, Phoebe Philo offered a gamut of oversize silhouettes in a stellar Céline show from large jackets to coats to caftans to sleeveless dresses in shiny fine leathers and wool cotton and plush fabrics that reflected the ease and lightness of the décor.
Against a starry night and the special lighting of the Eiffel tower – for a minute of silence for Pierre Bergé before that start of the show then at the finale, Anthony Vaccarello sent out his high glamour sex pots first in poet blouses and army fatigue shorts then in bulbous micro couture dresses in black satin or red leather worn with black short boots, fringed boots or high heels for an ultra sexy power girl silhouette at Saint Laurent. Since Hedi Slimane recomposed the traditional atelier in 2012, the house is at the epicenter of a revival of haute couture and since the launch of a sustainable couture program this July.
At another Paris landmark, the Opéra Garnier, Olivier Rousteing sent out a Balmain collection that he said was an emotional homecoming of sorts. As a young kid, Rousteing marveled at coming to the Opéra for the first time and dreamt about someday returning to the venerable venue in a letter to himself – “Your return route to the opera won’t always be easy. There will be stumbles, mistakes, and regrets. I will remember your wonderment and dreams of the past two decades.” His dream finally came true as he shows clothes that clearly has defined his aesthetics where crystal embroideries, stud beadings and sequin ornamentations and the occasional fringes on leather, vinyl or stretch fabric body-hugging dresses mainly in black and white combinations. What should be a simple farmer overall was made in black vinyl leather with metal chain straps. Several white logo tees, black logo tanks, and logo sweatshirts made a node to daytime sportswear. Surely a head to toe purple sequin pantsuit can be made in black wool. Again love it or hate it, one simply can’t dismiss Rousteing’s authentic and emotional connect to fashion that he wants to impart onto his audience.
To view the full Spring/Summer 2018 Paris Fashion Week collections click here.
Written by: Long Nguyen