PARIS – Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing capped the second day of Paris Fashion Week Wednesday with provocation — and a thought for Ukraine. VIPs such as Serena Williams looked on as a battalion of dancers resembling soldiers in helmet-style hats put on a strange performance in the Le Marais venue to start the show. They seemed to fight one another depicting a battle — until the two lead soldiers dramatically kissed.
Here are some highlights of fall-winter 2022 shows:
BALMAIN HOPES FOR PEACE
Rousteing linked the display, which featured warlike drum music, to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, even penning a note in which he said collection was a “push-back against lies, hate and aggression” — referencing the “anxiety-inducing headlines of the past week.”
Yet, the collection itself dealt with the idea of honesty and transparency in a metaphorical way: Through color.
The show was conceived as a response to Rousteing’s own personal battle with secrecy, after he was burnt and left ashamed at being permanently scarred by an October 2020 explosion in his home but he felt that the collection theme unfortunately dovetailed with the events in Eastern Europe.
Shimmering gold armored breastplates, shields and stiff gilets featured in the exhaustive co-ed collection that used light colors such as whites, creams and pastels as a contrast to represent honesty or truth. Lace was used alongside metal and neoprene to further this point of contrast — on signature Rousteing silhouettes that emphasized the shoulder and thick pants that clung to the legs with criss-cross or ribbed detailing.
There was nothing groundbreaking here, though some of the 74 looks cut fine styles, including a white paneled apron that seemed part-Japanese Warrior, part-Cricket whites.
ROCHAS' FLUTTERING GOTH
Charles de Vilmorin — who was plucked from relative obscurity last year to head up one of Paris fashion’s most iconic houses — has a lot to prove.
The twentysomething wunderkind decided to show his fall-winter Rochas aesthetic inside the brutalist concrete walls of the Palais de Tokyo. It was a bold setting given that house founder Marcel Rochas — the first designer to put pockets on skirts and to create a three-quarter length coat — was known for classical femininity and elegance.
Yet de Vilmorin used that backdrop to his advantage. It was a dramatic take on gothic or ethereal allure. Models with strong kohl framing their eyes and long, spooky fingernails floated by. Fierce looks, such as dark tailored jackets with cloche cuffs and spiked-toe stilettos, contrasted effectively with fairy-like details such as billowing diaphanous sleeves on a loose, trapeze-shaped printed silk gown in black and white.
Large sheer silk hats fluttered by, like a rain cloud being blown by the wind. There was also an eye on heritage. High turtle necks perfectly captured the retro 1920s styles that once made the maison’s founder a household name.
COURREGES GOES SEXY
Nicolas Di Felice was in a sexy mood for the Space Age 1960s house of Courreges on Wednesday.
In a season where the 1960s seem to be in, the generation-defining brand founded in 1961 by André Courrèges and his wife Coqueline may well be having its comeback moment.
Sexy thigh high space boots evoking an intergalactic stripper came in loose styles with an 80s feel. Alongside the decor of a sea of squashed silver soda cans, they pointed to a hot yet trashy dystopian future.
Infusing the 40-look collection with a sporty look, caps and minimalist tight white tops filed by.
The fall sexiness continued in black leather straps across the bust and V-neck detailing adding a sense of space-age geometry. Mini-skirts, the house’s signature garment, were uber short, and at times, triangular.
Despite all the precise design execution, one question remains: Is the house that’s known for its minimalism becoming too pared down for its own good?
THE STARS ARE BACK
Fall-winter in Paris this season seems to mark a return to the starry pre-pandemic days of fashion week after almost two years of low energy or reduced capacity displays. Kick starting the week, Serena Williams, Bella Hadid and Cindy Crawford stepped out as models the Off-White runway Monday night in front of an A-list front row comprising A$AP Rocky and Pharrell Williams.
And on Tuesday, on the same day that the French government ruled masks no longer obligatory, Rihanna caused a stir at Dior proudly showing off her new baby bump. She also turned up late — as she used to do in pre-pandemic shows. Yet there was a pang of emotion — it somehow felt reassuring.
Spice Girl-turned-fashion designer Victoria Beckham was also spotted by the Eiffel Tower, posing with her son Romeo at Saint Laurent.
DRIES VAN NOTEN
The Belgian fashion master was on eclectic form on Wednesday with a show held together by sheer exuberance.
Styles were a rich tapestry. At times, they seemed to be inspired by interior decor, with leopard print that might have been found on a rug leading on to a large coat draped around a model like curtains.
But the first look was surely the best, a surrealist white coat with tubular arms that looked like it had been made from papier mache.
The silhouette was varied, but cross over lapels and oversized proportions in tops and coats made for sharp contrasts with tightly clasped waists and long split skirts. Showing only presentations, owing to the pandemic, there’s a feeling that Van Noten’s inspirations would benefit from the energy and razzmatazz of returning to the runway.
SAINT LAURENT’S ART DECO
Anthony Vaccarello explored the geometric universe of Art Deco for a rare runway show that diverged from channeling house founder’s designs — in favor of his interior decor.
Yves Saint Laurent, who died in 2008, was said to be devoted to the famed 1920s artistic movement that combined modern geometrics with rich materials. Yet the designer never much used the styles to inspire his fashion shows — seen instead in his choices for furnishing his Parisian residence.
Here, Vaccarello fixed this.
The 40-year old Belgian designer put on a Saint Laurent show doused in this shape-rich movement — seen on the runway in front of the glimmering Eiffel Tower in stacks of gold, silver and bronze bracelets, sharp V-necks or thick angular shoulders that sloped down.
Contrasts, such as a sheer panel on a fluid black dress that exposed the nipple, created a sensual tension, as did sharp yet fluid tuxedo jacket (the house signature) against a bare chest.