As pink-haired model Fernanda Ly circled the Louis Vuitton catwalk, flanked by a tower of digital screens, wearing a chiffon kilt with tribal-like silver embroideries and a candyfloss-pink biker jacket, one knew there was something very different happening in the language of luxury. In recent years, luxurious, beautifully crafted designer fashion has expressed itself through good taste and discretion, via elegant handbags with gold hardware and tailoring that purported to be timeless. This season, designers in Paris got creative, presenting us with sensational items destined to become cult buys. At Louis Vuitton, this took the form of mesh T-shirts, graffiti-sprayed biker jackets, exotic-skin Lockit bags adorned with grommets and tassels, over-dyed silk jumpsuits, and waistcoats covered not only with the house logo but also a healthy scattering of studs.
Nicolas Ghesquière channelled the energy and attitude of the modern metropolis into this collection, adding a touch of fantasy to these influences. ‘It is about stylistic role-playing where the heroine passes through several sartorial levels. In passing through these aesthetic levels, the entire evolution of the classic urban wardrobe is gradually remastered, rooted in materials that are, in fact, very real. Silk, leather, python and shagreen are “reloaded” by the maison’s celebrated savoir faire,’ says Ghesquière of the collection.
Brave new spirit
That energetic thrust into gritty reality was felt at a whole variety of the biggest brands. It seems the very notion of Parisian style – that nonchalant ‘je ne sais quoi’ and penchant for subtlety – has been turned on its head to unveil a brave new spirit. At Chanel, for instance, Karl Lagerfeld transformed the Grand Palais into an airport lounge complete with check-in staff and a giant flickering departure board. The red, white and blue colours of Air France were translated into splashy geometric print all-in-ones, while the current penchant for sportswear was satisfied by denim blue sweatshirts, padded blouson jackets, tube skirts and flat silver sandals.
A sense of now
When we invest in luxury fashion, what we pay for is a thrilling sense of now. Chitose Abe, the influential designer at Japanese brand Sacai, triggered that sense of desire with her bandana-print kilts, chiffon dresses with hems cut askew, and navy and gold lace bomber jackets. She had been thinking about memories from her travels, of the street gangs in Mexico, of postcard prints in Italy, and merged these multiple influences to create undeniable trophy pieces.
One of the biggest decisions one needs to make this season rests not on hemlines, nor on tangerine orange or cobalt blue, but on swearing your allegiance to a designer ‘gang’ and wearing those colours and badges with pride. At Dries Van Noten, that might be a shirt emblazoned with golden wings; at Chloé, it’s a cool tracksuit top with side stripes; and at Saint Laurent, it’s a battered silk satin 1930s-style slip dress, worn with tapestry-sided rain boots and a grungy tiara.
The cool kids of Paris
One of the most revolutionary brands in Paris now is Vetements, designed by a collective led by brothers Demna and Guram Gvasalia. It revealed its collection in a kitsch Chinese restaurant, and the artfully reconstructed hooded dresses that shimmied down the hips, languid prairie dresses and outsize jackets with sleeves cut to appear rolled up made it one of the most exciting collections of Paris Fashion Week. ‘Real-life, relatable clothes are the base of our design process,’ says Demna of the brand’s manifesto. ‘We observe, react, put it through our design filter and try to translate what we absorb from around us into a Vetements aesthetic.’
When it was announced last October that Demna Gvasalia had been hired as the new creative director at Balenciaga, it seemed Paris fashion had completed its shift in consciousness. Safe is boring: it’s time to take a walk on the wild side and thrill at this new chapter in luxury subversion.