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Paris Fashion Week: all-out theatricality

Nothing is going as planned at this fall-winter 2022-2023 fashion week. When, at the end of 2021, the brands worked on the organization of the parades which take place from February 28 to March 8 in Paris, most bet on reduced gauges, assuming that the Covid-19 would still disrupt the festivities. However, the pandemic has subsided enough for foreigners to swell the number of guests, and the war in Ukraine is spreading a wave of panic.

On March 3, the Fédération de la haute couture et de la mode issued a press release stating that it was asking ” all [ses] members to contribute to aid operations for the Ukrainian people” through donations to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Models have announced that they are donating part of their fees to associations supporting Ukraine, and several brands, mostly independent and small, have taken a stand: the Hungarian label Nanushka has announced a partnership with the charity Ordre de Malta, the Georgian collective Situationist wrote a text for “a world without war”, the Swedish house Acne has suspended its activities in Russia. The large groups, on the other hand, showed some caution. So far, only LVMH, Kering and Chanel have spoken, announcing donations for the benefit of Ukrainians.

Fashion is never short of a contradiction, on the sidelines of these initiatives, fashion week followed its course rather normally. The first days were even marked by a form of dramatization of the parades, which made people forget, for a few minutes, the geopolitical situation.

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Saint Laurent returned to its habits by building a superstructure at the foot of the Trocadero, opposite the Eiffel Tower. Inside, the black lacquered walls and the soft beige carpet do not absorb the cries of the delirious crowd in front of Catherine Deneuve, Demi Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, as well as the stars of the series. Euphoria. Beyond the actors installed in the front row, this parade plunges into a cinematographic atmosphere.

Bright colors explode everywhere

When a soprano voice rips through the darkness, the walls slide down, offering a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower whose spotlights illuminate the parade. A procession of models that looks like something out of a film noir advances with a serious air of circumstance – the artistic director, Anthony Vaccarello, having dedicated this parade to his father, who died in February.

Saint Laurent.

Long enveloping coats with wide shoulders cover flowing satin dresses, shimmering like mother-of-pearl, in which the wind rushes. Trench coats, peacoats, perfectos and (faux) furs worn next to the skin shine with their neat cut and their implacable sobriety, skilfully balanced by a dose of sensuality in the slits of dresses or the depth of a neckline.

In these elegant women with their hair pulled back and imposing ear clips, there are reminiscences of the Saint Laurent of the 1970s and 1980s, a tribute to this ideal of fatal beauty which found in Catherine Deneuve or Loulou de la Falaise perfect ambassadors. This season, Anthony Vaccarello is not looking to reinvent an aesthetic but to perfect a formula whose effectiveness is well established.

Dries Van Noten.

The glamor of another era is also the theme of Dries Van Noten, who chose an original format, that of an exhibition: the Belgian designer has invested in a magnificent private mansion on the left bank whose state of dilapidation gives it a haunted house look. There are scattered fake mannequins. Here is a larger than life leaning on the banister of the monumental staircase in a black dress with puffed and golden sleeves, another, planted on a marble fireplace, wears a coat embroidered with sequins more dazzling than a disco ball , just like the long dress of the one hidden behind the door of a cubicle…

Aside from the staging, the materials can also surprise, like this bewildering pair of boots more delicate than a Ming vase, an imitation of white porcelain pigmented with blue, in reality in slightly cracked patent leather. Everywhere, bright colors explode, animal and floral prints blend with the accuracy that characterizes Dries Van Noten.

Rochas.

At Rochas, the parade does not begin until the famous three knocks, prior to any play. The wardrobe of Charles de Vilmorin, 24, has a reputation for being bombastic: for his second season, he deplores tragedian drapes, ruffs, Harlequin prints, iridescent pleats, worn with black nails as long as Gothic claws. A fashion, sometimes too disconnected from the world, with sarah-bernhardtian accents.

Relaxed, stuffy, crazy

Theater ? It is an understatement to say that there are also some at Off-White. For the first parade since the sudden death of Virgil Abloh on November 28, 2021, a parade in the form of a tribute is held at the Palais Brongniart. At the entrance, dozens of teenagers take pictures of the arrival of Carla Bruni, Pharrell Williams, Paul Pogba, Rihanna… size of a car, around which models first pass wearing outfits made by the studio where all the Abloh gimmicks are recognizable: holes in the suits, slogans in quotes, XXL metal paperclips, sportswear designed through the gaze of an architecture graduate. But it’s the grand finale that is worth the detour with a series of excessive dresses: millefeuille, sculptural, sequined, meringues… All worn by star models who don’t skimp on diva poses. Here, Bella Hadid, sneakers on her feet, nonchalantly holding a pair of pumps. There, Kendall Jenner and Karlie Kloss snobbishly sipping a can of soda.

Off White.

“We all have so many personalities within us that fashion can reveal”, remarks the Belgian Meryll Rogge, newcomer to the calendar and semi-finalist of the LVMH Prize 2022. She receives in a true-false cocktail, with stacked champagne glasses and a laid table, but with plates garnished with sandwiches, fries or entrecôtes in plastic . Around: racks of clothes to pick up as one would invent, to go to dinner, a character à la Cindy Sherman, one of his inspirations. Choose from: football shirts transformed into evening dresses, jumpsuits, aged-effect leopard knit, sportswear pieces shaken up with lace or graphic prints. Relaxed, stuffy, crazy. The designer confirms: “After two years of not going out much, I wanted to show multiple silhouettes that everyone can appropriate according to their character or their state of mind. »

Meryl Rogge.

At Courrèges, we leave the theater and the buttock clamp for the next stage: a club where the basses make the walls of the warehouse that hosts the show vibrate. In the middle of the stage, hundreds of aluminum cans were crushed (and will be reused as decorative elements during the season, assures the brand). They are reminiscent of a 1973 Courrèges staging where smiling models in colorful dresses strolled through a car junkyard.

In the hands of Nicolas Di Felice, who took the helm of the brand in 2020, the atmosphere is less candid. The monochrome silhouettes, mostly black or white, marry geometric patterns: circles in the back of jackets, triangles suspended on dresses, pointed sleeves, tubular collars… An approach that is sometimes a bit conceptual, but which works perfectly on coats reinterpreting the Courrèges heritage. Passionate, talented and well connected to the fashion network, Nicolas Di Felice has all the assets to make a name for himself. This is also what the many journalists, influencers and François-Henri Pinault (director of Artémis which owns Courrèges) present at the parade must have thought.

Courreges.

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