After New York, London, and Milan, fashion month ended on a high. From Hedi Slimane’s debut at Celine, Balenciaga’s LED-panelled tunnel courtesy of artist Jon Rafman, to Saint Laurent’s closing of the 2nd night by the Eiffel Tower – Paris really was a grand finale.
Balenciaga’s runway show was a stunning, immersive experience that awed guests with its acknowledgment of how technology has taken over the world. The project came together when Demna Gvasalia met digital artist Jon Rafman at Art Basel. Rafman’s specially commissioned video, “The Ride Never Ends,” encapsulated Gvasalia’s audience in a four-sided tunnel arranged around the perimeter of a vast space outside the city limits. The backdrop for this collection included all of the noise and distraction of the world, so the audience was forced to focus on the present in that tunnel. “I always had this idea of a video tunnel, like being inside someone’s digital mind,” said Gvasalia. “Fashion shows are for transporting people, otherwise there’s no point.”
With this collection, the emphasis was far more on creating new silhouettes—squared shoulders, a different iteration of the “C-line,” creating a pulled-back cocoon cut with collars covering the face. Gvasalia challenged himself to make tailoring for today’s generation that rarely wears suits. His solution called “neo-tailoring” featured fluid shirt-jackets with matching trousers, for men and women alike.
The slouchy suits were accompanied by draping track gear, straight-leg jeans and a variety of leather wearables, which ranged from leather trousers to a short-length leather trench coat. Exaggerated shoulders have been one of the house’s signature looks since Gvasalia took over Balenciaga’s creative direction, and they returned in full force. Corset-laced leather jackets, single-breasted wool coats and blazers all sported the recognizable silhouette, with some offering a shoulder-mounted Balenciaga tag for extra brand identity. Other key motifs included a bejeweled Eiffel Tower pattern, washed denim and billowing overshirts, completed with jet pockets and a unique buttoned closure at the neck. Though much of the clothing was executed in muted neutrals, pops of red and blue appeared frequently. A selection of branded belts, chain accessories and handbags surfaced.
“It’s Paris meets Egypt,” said Olivier Rousteing before his Balmian show. Rousteing wanted his audience to remember that so much of the beauty of Paris is in its history, and Egypt is a significant part of postcolonial Parisian architecture.
Rousteing returns every season to Paris as the prime inspiration for his collections, where he has defined his profession during the last eight years. Being surrounded by the city’s supreme art, sculpture and architecture, Rousteing is also exploring his own identity. So while this collection was full of Egyptian elements, it retained certain key foundations of Rousteing including marinière stripes, bourgeois bouclé jackets, assertive tailoring with hard shoulders, and of course, the intricate handwork of the Balmain atelier.
Cara Delevingne opened the show in a gleaming beaten-metal bodice—a nod to Cleopatra’s attire. Pyramids were reimagined in plexiglass panels of different colors that went into the construction of fierce, creatively rich, and invariably high-hemmed dresses. The silhouettes looked cut from stone with angular shoulders that jutted out from jackets that ranged from long ones in flowing silk robes to hip-length styles in metallic tweeds. Black woolen tops and skirts were inscribed with white hieroglyphs.
The level of imagination, craft and construction was undeniable. Like the Egyptians, Rousteing wants to make history. “I don’t care about being cool,” he said. “What I care about is, do you think in 100 years people will remember what I did, what I said, what I do?” To that end, the show certainly left an impression with a Balmain collection from a young man whose journey of self-discovery is being played out in real time. It is written with clarity in his garments.
All eyes were on Hedi Slimane as he sent his first collection for Celine down the runway. After debuting a new logo and his first Celine bag on the arm of Lady Gaga, many wondered what the creative director had up his sleeve for the brand previously helmed by Phoebe Philo. According to the runway show, it’s a whole new Celine.
In his much-anticipated third coming at Celine, Slimane sent a collection full of glitzy, party-ready looks for both men and women down the runway in 96 looks. Sticking to the ’80s glam he made his signature at Saint Laurent, there were sparkling mini dresses, studded leather, and exaggerated silhouettes.
This timely introduction of menswear at Celine comes when the biggest boom in fashion spending in the last few years has been in the new, brand-obsessed male teen market. If teens do stray away from hoodies and track pants, Slimane’s skinny-suited, narrow-tied tailoring could be the next trend.
Slimane was appointed as the new artistic, creative, and image director for Celine back in February, succeeding Philo’s 10-year run as creative director. And while his signature ’80s glam-meets-grunge aesthetic seemed to work well at Saint Laurent, it will be interesting to see whether that remains true for the Celine woman.
Life really is a beach at Chanel’s spring 2019 show. On Tuesday morning in Paris, showgoers entered the French house’s traditional venue of the Grand Palais and were greeted by an epic backdrop of a coastline with mountains in the background. Crystal-clear waves rippled against plush white sand, into which models and showgoers could sink their feet if they were inclined. Male models clothed in preppy, umbrella-printed uniforms sat on lifeguard chairs.
Karl Lagerfeld’s invitation to a tropical beach gave Chanel’s global audience an uplifting mini vacation. It was a show of real and relatable fashion—a blissfully easy trip bringing us back to the heart of Parisian chic. The show observed Chanel through the enthusiastic lens of a girl who loves stealing her mother’s oversize ’80s tweed jackets, suits, cropped cashmere sweaters, and quilted chain bags. The clothes fit the setting, each look a lavish interpretation of Lagerfeld’s envisioned beach uniform.
Certain looks were closer to resortwear than anything else, like a gauzy, bikini-strapped bodysuit worn with a silk sarong or a white tweed midi skirt embellished with crystalized palm trees. There were plenty of tweeds— some coming in candy-colored magentas, hazy seafoams and creamy peaches — and adorning structured jackets and billowing culottes. The same goes for the accessories: low-slung, silver hip belts spelling out Chanel; new, seemingly vintage-inspired varieties of quilted backpacks and belt bags; drop earrings that read “CHA” down the left ear and “NEL” down the right. The runway concluded with Chanel’s more formal evening wear, entirely in a black-and-white color palette and coming in various fabrics of tulle, silk and sequins.
Clare Waight Keller gave us glamour and European Chic when she stepped in as Givenchy’s Artistic Director in 2017. One of the first things she did was meet with the house’s founder, the then-90-year-old Hubert de Givenchy. Waight Keller stunned the world when she designed Meghan Markle’s wedding dress on her special day to Prince Harry. For her spring Givenchy show, she was inspired by the life of Annemarie Schwarzenbach, a Swiss writer in the thirties who resisted gender norms from an early age.
In her Chloé days, Waight Keller did extensive research and regularly came up with compelling, little-known characters off of whom she built collections. At Givenchy this season, Schwarzenbach provided her with a reason to “collide the codes” of women’s and menswear. Making a gender-neutral collection wasn’t of interest to Waight Keller, but rather how a woman drawn to her masculine side defines her femininity. “I felt there was something fascinating about the fact that [gender] is a topical thing right now, but there was something about [Schwarzenbach’s story] for me that talked about a different kind of femininity because there was a modesty to it,” Waight Keller said before the show.
For her womenswear looks, she sent out models with cropped boyish haircuts in tuxedo jackets or leather Perfectos tucked into army pants—a direct lift from a vintage Schwarzenbach photo. Tailoring was robust but designed to emphasize the body with ultra high-waisted trousers and cargo pants that curved at the hips. Jackets were neat and minimally cut with the shoulder pulled slightly forward and a crisp sleeve with a sharp pleat down the front. Her accessories were thoughtful, designed to function without sacrificing whimsy. All of the dresses in the collection reflected womanly sophistication, fluid but with a steely allure, and revealing but restrained.
The guys wore military-inflected tailoring with pants cinched at the waist and sleeveless shirts. There were cross-body bags and metallic tailoring for evening, all of which was suited to modern men who are in touch with their feminine energy.
Waight Keller also took cues from Schwarzenbach for her evening pieces, which were draped asymmetrically or with athletic cut-outs, yet retained the elegant bias lines of the 1930s. The news in the evening category was the prismatic flower-print dresses with engineered prints designed on the computer to be smaller at the waist than at the shoulders or hem, thereby enhancing their hourglass shape. Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried and Rooney Mara, who all like their femininity straight up, were part of the Hollywood crowd at the Givenchy show.
Virgil Abloh, who after his collaboration with Nike and Serena Williams, teamed up again with the sportswear giant for his spring Off-White ready-to-wear show at the Garage Amelot in Paris. This time, he turned his attention to track and field, a theme that ran through his seasonal statement, from the racing bibs sent out as invitations to the stadium-themed set and the models themselves. The designer selected eight female athletes to walk alongside the more familiar stars of fashion, Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. Everyone’s name was flashed on an electronic leaderboard, with their nationalities beside them, and the runway was painted like a combination of running track and concrete street.
Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner opened the show in crisp white shirts and short skirts. Kaia Gerber was close behind, in a shirtdress with a tank top pieced together from Nike socks. The collection blended elements of performance wear with feminine staples like ballgowns and high heels.
“The idea of living an active lifestyle, going to and from the gym, this term ‘ath-leisure,’ it’s culturally relevant. I see it when I’m at Whole Foods. So I was always intrigued by it and I wanted to twist it and bend it more toward ‘fashion’ fashion. Workout apparel is function. Fashion is fashion,” Abloh said.
Hence the hybrid creations, like a black stiletto spliced with a vintage running shoe, or another pair of heels with a stretchy upper inspired by the Nike Studio Wrap. The running tops and cycling shorts, made from ribbed socks that were unpicked and woven back together. There were similarly collaged running leggings and cycling shorts, mixed up among white, exaggerated dresses and tailoring.
Abloh carefully considered his logo, placing the word “Off” across the front of a sleeveless black tailored pantsuit. He also buried the signature Off-White cross in tone-on-tone embroidery on a white cotton openwork jumpsuit. The idea of a pale blue stretch dress with a diagonally sliced tulle skirt looked in direct continuity from the Williams inspiration.
Leave it to Stella McCartney to find the unexpected in the most seemingly mundane of things, throw it together and make it cool again. After 17 years, McCartney’s label is freshly, fabulously independent. Her spring 2019 show at the Opera Garnier was the moment to set her future.
She took it in stride. There were no big fashion news flashes for next spring; instead, McCartney took the opportunity to reassert her signature sense of unruffled cool. This goes for her newly released menswear, which combines utility and athleisure, and it naturally goes for her women’s collection as well.
McCartney’s appeal lies in her ability to infuse even her more formal pieces with that carefree spirit. Can a pantsuit be laid-back? In McCartney’s hands, yes it can. This season’s were cut in boxy “boyfriend” silhouettes in linen or sustainable viscose. Her real emphasis here seemed to be on elevating what we think of as comfort clothes. Think: tie-dye tees, tie-dye jeans, denim boilersuits, and a recycled nylon shell suit with zips on the legs to adjust the volume.
As always, McCartney worked oppositional forces with casual charm, her program notes a fusion of “strength and softness…the bold and the feminine.” While the collection wasn’t gender-neutral, some themes went both ways, namely, pale-toned suits, a gentle tie-dye motif and some flower sightings. A timely utilitarian thread got a nifty touch — vertical zippers on cargo pants that opened up for an interesting ripple effect.
There was a series of sleeveless onesies done in printed florals and with a biker short silhouette, a translucent tiered-chiffon dress in a mint green floral print, menswear trousers paired with a floral bodysuit, and even tie-dyed and bleached-denim pieces that added to the breeziness of the collection.
Yves Saint Laurent
Saint Laurent‘s Spring 2019 show took place after sunset, with white electric palm trees reflecting in the vast, serene pool constructed as a shimmering runway against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. The show was timed perfectly for the first model to appear just after the tower’s twinkling light show went dark.
Stiletto heels and all, models walked across the water-submerged runway in the brand’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection, which included 95 looks. There were plenty of glitzy mini dresses and sheer looks for the Saint Laurent party girl to choose. This collection was about giving women the freedom to dress exactly as they wish.
There was plenty of black in the Western-influenced Le Smoking tuxedos, rich velvet band-boy jackets, cutaway asymmetric bodysuits, sheer black chiffon dresses, corset-waisted pants, tiny dresses, and shorts in black or gold leather or shorts in the form of sequined playsuits with exaggerated glam shoulders. Yet for all its heat, this was a straight-forward collection, mostly about jackets. Anthony Vaccarello showed great-looking options — smoking, blazer, baseball— some basic, others embellished and sparkly. Apart from the finale’s alternating parade of floaty goddess gowns and photo-op swimwear, this collection was created for customers to feel confident and powerful.