Paris Fashion Week SS18: The Boom is Back

And so, another season is behind us. The marathon which is fashion month is complete and the time has finally come to take a well-deserved breather, prop up those blistered and sore feet and reflect on a creatively rich month. The magic of “fashion month” lies within the culture of each fashion capital each possessing its own strengths and weaknesses, where designers and houses celebrate their own local creative scene.

This season, New York made way for a new generation of talent as established designers fled to the other side of the Atlantic, London protested against the political turmoil through vibrant colour and bling, Milan too rode the wave of resilience being upbeat and joyful, and now Paris, bursting with pulsating energy and ingenuity. SS18 was a particularly strong season, offering a range of diverse viewpoints. As per usual the mise en scène of established houses continued to impress, however unlike more recent seasons the collections of big designers were not overshadowed by the grandeur and pomp of theatrics. Best examples of the “big guns” included Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, and Chanel.

It is almost a given that Karl Lagerfeld presented in an over the top location – the season, bringing the jagged cliffs and powerful waterfalls of the Gorges du Verdon inside the Grand Palais… I mean, if you can’t bring the man to the mountain… This artificial presentation of nature interacted beautifully with the parading army of models clothed in clear PVC – plastic boots, hats, capes, and gloves – all to protect the delicate tweeds underneath. While a synthetic taste lingered on your tongue, you realise how appropriate the collection was in this moment of excessive materialism. However, important to note – the sun’s rays stretched into the Grand Palais and created a real rainbow in the man made waterfall. A sign of hope from the heavens? Nature overshadows all? Make what you will, but stunning beauty was accomplished.

Speaking of beauty, Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton and Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent both presented their strongest collections for their respective houses. Ghesquière creative director of a brand synonymous with travel, played on this notion however not geographically speaking, but through time travel. Capturing the sprit of 18th century Louis Quatorze and a modern day gym bug (one who wears a Stranger Things t-shirt none the less) was a playful take on the paradoxes of “high -low” “old- new” “male-female”, and this was very exciting. Vaccarello, who has previously struggled to fill the shoes of his predecessor Hedi Slimane, finally succeeded- presenting a collection of merit through excessive silhouettes and a return of YSL sensual “left bank chic” doing the runway underneath the twinkling lights of the Eiffel tower justice.

(However, leaning on heritage and brand value is not enough, which was sadly the case for Dior who is shamelessly capitalising on a feminist “trend” without backing it up with substance.)

Personally, best in show was, master of tailoring, Thom Browne. Not only had Browne claimed the strongest show of the season, but presented a collection which will be remembered in years to come. The American in Paris focused on fairy-tales where The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and unicorns all played important parts. Elongated silhouettes and epic amounts of tulle were used thus producing an emotional, mystical, couture-like moment. Additional favourites included, John Galliano for Maison Margiela with experimental deconstruction, Dries Van Noten’s rich brocades, Paco Rabanne’s club-kids, Undercover Lab’s ode to Cindy Sherman and of course Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino. Piccioli even received a standing ovation from an overjoyed audience and fashion press hailed the collection as a triumph – which it absolutely was. Valentino Garavani, one of the most influential figures in fashion in the 20th century has found a very worthy predecessor and if there was even a shred of doubt before, this collection made the point that Piccioli is continuing to lift the brand to new highs.

Most accurate in representing today’s youth zeitgeist was Balenciaga, Y Project and Koche. Balenciaga not only conjured up the shoe of the season – the elevated croc platform – but inspired a younger generation on style notes. Accurate in a sense, as most “millennials” cannot afford the Balenciaga offering, but they do indeed purchase vintage in order to imitate modern high fashion and here Balenciaga gave opportunity to others not necessarily in their target audience. Additionally, Y Project, the IT label of the season, rooted in 90’s rave culture, is becoming the uniform for cool  kids, thanks to an counterintuitive aesthetic and meticulous draping. Koche as well continues to evolve, where this season they challenged the relationship between “high society” and football culture with tremendous  success.

The Paris collections also provided the debuts of Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy and Natacha Ramsay-Levi for Chloé. The oomph factor was no doubt missing at Givenchy, which focused on femininity with a (semi) subversive edge albeit without a zing. For Ramsay-Levi, you could see her signature (from previously working with Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton) due to the sharp angular shapes, steering a once whimsical Chloé into a less forgiving frontier. At Chloé, gone are the days of running through wheat fields- this new Chloé gal has more important things to do, like fighting her way to the top and conquering her dreams. (Note to Dior: now THIS is a feminist collection!)

Fashion, like all industries (and areas in life), goes through booms and troughs, and this season in Paris we saw a boom offering a sense of  much needed escapism and designers looking forward to a future with hope and optimism.