At Paris Fashion Week AW18, France’s leading designers shone with creativity, presenting bold and modern interpretations which retain all their classic Parisian style. We take a look at some of the best collections of the season
French women are known for their classic, elegant chic, and the genius of the nation’s designers lies in their ability to balance this concept with highly modern and creative concepts. For autumn/winter 2018/19, the leading collections at Paris Fashion Week experimented with textures and layering, proportion and silhouettes, as well as references to past, present and future, all while maintaining a sense of effortless wearability.
This season, French superbrand Louis Vuitton staged its catwalk presentation in the Cour Lefuel of the world-famous Louvre museum. The courtyard, originally created for Napoleon III in the 1850s, became the stage for one of the brand’s most forward-thinking collections to date. In many ways, this juxtaposition of old and new is the very essence of Louis Vuitton. Under creative director Nicolas Ghesquière, the rich heritage and design signatures of this 164-year-old maison are preserved, made modern as they intertwine with the inspirations of his highly contemporary eye.
The coming together of motifs and references from different eras is a common theme in Ghesquière’s work. This season he brings together elements of traditional ladylike dressing – skirt suits, nipped-in waists and even formal gloves – with elements inspired by outer space – or at least Hollywood’s concept of it. Wool pencil skirts featuring gorgeous metallic embellishments or gold chain belts were paired with structured, strong-shouldered blouses that look out of place in a sci-fi film. Handbags were embellished with prints of circuit boards, and models clutched them with hands wearing above-the-elbow gloves in supple black leather. The other hand, glove-free, created a striking contrast.
Skirt suits featured chains and beading in gold and silver at the edges, encapsulating a deliberately undone effect – a difficult balance that French women are known for perfecting. Relaxed tailoring was finished with wide, corseted belts. Strappy dresses were worn over metallic knits. Fluid dresses featured structured sections across the shoulders that invoked the uniforms of spaceships – some emblazoned with LV logos that made the reference undeniable. This is a collection that mixes and layers concepts seamlessly, bringing past and present together to create something that seems simply and effortlessly current.
Chloé is another label whose autumn/winter collection draws on the past. In her second collection for the brand, Natacha Ramsay-Levi looks to the 1970s, and references to the fashions of that decade can be found throughout – in the warm autumnal colour palette, the vivid prints, the wide collars and high-waisted flares. But Chloé is not about the past, it’s about the present: the label has long been associated with chic and modern clothes that women really want to wear, and this collection is no different.
Dresses are a particular highlight this season, from long funnel-necked knitted dresses with cut-outs at the hip to silky pleated numbers updated with lace inserts or contrasting panels to define the waist. On the catwalk, these were styled with chunky gold jewellery and laced ankle boots that added an edge to their femininity. Plunging necklines and cut-outs feature heavily in the collection, but while this might seem daring, Ramsay-Levi mixed up her styling to show the versatility of her pieces. Some bared skin, yes, but elsewhere they were layered to create interest – a deep v-neck over a polo neck is chic as well as practical.
Look out also for trousers at Chloé this season. High-waisted flared trousers were seen in a number of looks on the catwalk, in colours from navy to cherry red to stone. The other standout style was a beige jodhpur – the item Ramsay-Levi chose to wear when she took her final bow. Both styles are hero pieces to add to your wardrobe: they do all the work for you.
At Givenchy, Clare Waight Keller took inspiration from Berlin in the late 1970s and 80s, specifically from the city’s club scene at the time. As with Ghesquière and Ramsay-Levi, Waight Keller wove these influences seamlessly into pieces that are perfect for the modern woman. Take, for example, the three opening looks of her catwalk show: huge, ankle-length faux fur coats belted sharply at the waist were statement pieces that manage to capture ideas of old-world glamour, the aesthetic of Berlin club kids, and the current mood of the fashion world (in particular the move away from real fur) all at once.
Leather features heavily in the collection, but this club kid mainstay takes on an altogether ladylike manner: look out for below-the-knee pencil skirts, tailored trench coats and even a bottle green skirt suit. On the catwalk, the codes of formal dressing were all but thrown aside. The classic white-shirt-black-trouser combination was transformed; it became a floor-length white sleeveless blouse, half-belted at the waist, offering a glimpse of the pants beneath. A shimmering, beaded gown was paired with slouchy leather ankle boots that would certainly challenge traditional dress codes.
Pervading this season’s offerings from all three brands is an effortlessness and a wearability that makes these high-concept, high-fashion collections instantly desirable. If you’re looking to refresh your wardrobe this season, there could be no better place than Paris in which to do so.