PARIS – Paris Fashion Week is back after a coronavirus-related hiatus. The high fashion world went mainly digital for a year over the pandemic, but big hitters like Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton are finally returning to the live runway this season. The must-have accessories? The face mask and health pass, bien sur.
Dior made sure that Tuesday’s ready-to-wear comeback — with VIPs such as actress Rosamund Pike and tennis ace Roger Federer — got off to a glitzy start on the first full day of spring-summer 2022 collections. It was the famed house’s first ready-to-wear runway since February 2020 — an emotional return for some.
Here are some highlights, including Saint Laurent:
DIOR REVIVES THE “SLIM LOOK”
Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri dived into the Dior archives to return with a playful collection that celebrated color and graphic form.
All around the venue — in an annex inside Paris’ Tuileries Gardens -- were colored blocks and retro signs that were a clue to the collection’s 1960s aesthetic.
The show was a homage to former designer Marc Bohan, whose “Slim Look” collection from 1961 defined a generation. (Liz Taylor famously ordered 12 gowns immediately from that iconic show.)
On Tuesday, Chiuri revamped Bohan’s slim styles with her contemporary twist. Bold color-blocking — riffing off the decor — came in a camera-snapping palette of raspberry, red, navy, orange and green.
The display evoked a dream world. Models rotated robotically around the decor to off-kilter music. Stylish boxy '60s jackets with graphic statement pockets mixed with sporty vests and dresses that channeled a tennis skirt. The main let down of the otherwise tasteful collection were a series of silken boxer pajamas — which made the house appear like it was trying too hard to be youthful.
BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL? NOT QUITE
Now that coronavirus travel rules have been relaxed between Europe and the U.S., fashion editors from New York have returned to the City of Light. It was an emotional event for many, who had missed seeing their international friends in the industry.
“It’s nice to see everyone. I’m happy that the system is back. I’m happy that the brands can get this kind of exposure," said Kenneth Richard, editor-in-chief of The Impression magazine. “It’s a gift what we do.”
Richard expressed skepticism, however, in the way that Paris opened up so fully. Many at the Dior show and others did not wear masks even though seating was extremely cramped. At Milan Fashion Week, social distancing and mask-wearing were more stringently enforced.
“Look at this space, we’re shoulder to shoulder,” Richard said pointing to the four sections of back-to-back seating. “In Milan, everyone was three feet apart."
Although a third of Paris Fashion Week’s 97 shows this season -- including most of the heritage houses -- have opted for a physical presence, some two-thirds remain digital.
SAINT LAURENT COMES BACK
Former French first lady Carla Bruni and actress Catherine Deneuve looked up to the sky in awe as the Eiffel Tower sparkled at the strike of 8 p.m.
The storied house of Yves Saint Laurent famously said it was renouncing the Paris Fashion Week calendar. But on Tuesday it changed its mind, coming back on the first major day of shows. Thankfully it did — as it might it be crowned the season's best collection so far.
Oozing sex appeal and glamour, designer Anthony Vaccarello was in a confident mood, breaking out of his normally restrictive short-skirted silhouettes for a bold collection that twinned style with provocation.
Notable details included a flash of bright blue gloves on a pale (signature) tuxedo dress. Or a thick gold bracelet contrasting with a color-blocked vermilion suit-skirt. Proportions were at times oversized, with ample silk fabric weighing chicly on dress hems. Exposed nipples on models with piercings mixed this classicism with a fierce street vibe.
BOTTER GOES WATER MAD
Surreal aquatic head gear, masks and breathing apparatus at the Botter show conjured up a underwater dystopia. Or was Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh’s show just another swipe at the pandemic?
Either way, the designers were in fine fashion-forward form for spring-summer in their statement about ecology and the state of the oceans.
A diaphanous curtain billowed as if it were underwater as models strutted out in aquatic themes, including swimming caps, scuba looks, a boxy T-shirt with “CARIBBEAN” on it and a large blue umbrella for a hat. Tongue-in-cheek humor was never far away from the design inspirations and blue, of course, was the defining color of the show.
The house said over half the fabrics in the display were created from recycled ocean plastic.
KENNETH IZE IS A RISING STAR
Kenneth Ize kick-started the week with a vibrant, color-rich display that paid homage to his Nigerian heritage.
There was a lot to prove for the young designer, who was a finalist of the 2019 LVMH Prize and caught global attention for his 2020 debut show because Naomi Campbell hit the runway. Yet he pulled it off with panache.
Moving away from the sober colors of his last collection, Ize used gold shimmer and bright patterns for an optimistic view of spring. Sexy silk slip gowns mixed with fun plays in clashing stripes. Sandals on each of the show's 29 looks gave off a relaxed vibe.
Other garments also evoked couture.
“We produce our woven fabrics using the age-long weaving techniques of the Yoruba people in present day southwestern Nigeria,” Ize told The Associated Press after the show. “We merge these weaving techniques with what we consider our version of modernity, creating a sync between a historical craftsmanship and modern silhouettes.”
Celebrating both continents of Europe and Africa (the designer was born in Vienna to Nigerian parents and grew up in Austria), his couture-conscious craftmanship was evident in gold dresses and diaphanous gold thread, with one fringe billowing down from a bag like in a fairy tale or Greek myth.
Ize is one to watch.
Thomas Adamson can be followed on Twitter.com/ThomasAdamson_K