The great thing about Paris Fashion Week, with all its legendary houses, glittering landmarks, and maverick design, is that style here still turns on a dime. In the course of an hour, a fusty old label that no one paid much attention to the season before can suddenly become the hottest thing again. New designers are born every day.
Of course, the opposite holds true, too, as former stalls fall out of favor. This season, especially, promises a reshuffling of the deck. The shows opened on Tuesday with a promising new talent, Marine Serre, who won the 2017 LVMH Prize, which is judged by a committee of designers that includes Karl Lagerfeld and Nicolas Ghesquière. So Serre, who worked at Balenciaga previously, is likely to go places.
VIDEO: Paris Fashion Week Dior Highlights
Her collection played heavily on silk scarves, sewn together to create skirts, wrapped around bodysuits or worn with sport shorts, and some were attached to earrings, which looked a little dangerous. Models walked in seemingly random patterns around a square space, jutting diagonally or weaving around columns, carrying bags shaped like small or large globes (some wrapped in scarves). The created a striking image, though not so different than the work of other anti-fashion-high-fashion streetwear designers who have captivated editors since the arrival of the Vetements collective five years ago.
What did stand out was Serre’s commitment to looking forward and giving purpose to her designs. Her “Futurewear,” as the clothes were tagged in several instances, incorporated pockets and seems to accommodate gadgets, tech, or whatever seems relevant to younger customers today.
There are also moments in Paris when you see the deserving get their due. Maria Grazia Chiuri, the artistic director of Dior, hasn’t won over the critics easily with her pro-feminist collections and visible bras and underwear, which have been just a bit too on the nose for people who like to turn up their noses. But she has made an impression, and by the company’s accounts, customers are buying her new look.
Now two years into her role at Dior, she is branching from that established baseline into new directions, and for fall, settled on the feminism of 50 years ago, specifically that most traumatic of years in history, 1968. In America, that year marked the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. In France, there were incredible displays of protests by students and workers, with riots and strikes that crippled Paris that spring. But this period also introduced a revolution in fashion, the Youthquake, and a sense of freedom that changed the way people dressed for much of the next decade.
Chiuri paid homage to this period quite directly, with peace-sign knits, patchwork denim dresses, kilts, berets worn with yellow or pink tinted shades, and groovy knit dresses. It worked and went a long way toward demonstrating the depth of Chiuri’s vision for Dior.
At Saint Laurent, Anthony Vaccarello returned to an impressive venue staged in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, this time thankfully inside a large cube constructed for this occasion, as it’s freezing right now in Paris. His fall collection started out strong, and well in line with his minimally-skirted, black-is-back, model-and-rocker-friendly aesthetic. In fact, the first half of the show was mostly black, save for a few sprinkles of silver studs or crystals on those clingingly tight dresses. Oh, but the accessories were amazing – so many shoes, bags, and fantastic felted hats that there was little concern of seeing anyone look repeated twice.
Vaccarello has made a good case for how he differs from his predecessor, Hedi Slimane. He is productive, prolific, and better versed in optics. But both designers adhere closely to a sexy, skinny, sometimes vampy silhouette, and soon they will be competing directly when Slimane returns to fashion with his new job at Céline later this year. There’s probably room for two of them in this town, but it will be interesting to see what happens, and who comes out on top. For what it’s worth, Vaccarello is making a big stand, rounding out his collection with what seemed like a second collection, this one full of beaded floral mini-dresses with strong square shoulders that were so hot they practically burned the runway.