Chanel Wins The Prize for Best Beach Party of Paris
Not often does Paris Fashion Week end with a trend so conclusive that it merits analysis, but it seems that designers here, just like me, really need a vacation.
In an unusual confluence of like-minded inspirations, Karl Lagerfeld, Joseph Altuzarra, and Thom Browne have each decided that this is the moment for a vacation on the beach. Earning honorable mention in this category is Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski of Hermès, whose runway was covered in fine sand.
Rather than boring you, dear reader, with an overly symbolic interpretation of the spring collections that ended with major shows from Chanel and Louis Vuitton on Tuesday, I, too, have decided that it’s time to take a break from such intellectual flou and relax while the sun is still shining. I think it's worth noting that the major message this season endorsed a laissez-faire attitude, more so than making a big directional statement. The Chanel show in particular, set on the dunes of a northern European beach, was more user-friendly than what Lagerfeld has offered in ages, and that’s a good indicator that designers are becoming more conscious of their duty to deliver joy to consumers, rather than political warfare. Come to think of it, Chanel on the Beach sounds like a great name for a cocktail.
Overall, this has been a strong season for driving trends, hand-knit macramé dresses, ugly sandals, and bold yellow outfits at the top of the list, challenging to consumers as they may be. But the Paris collections also offered a refreshing view on spring with many individualistic presentations that were exciting to watch. Chanel and Vuitton were spectacles, certainly, but so were smaller shows like Stella McCartney and Valentino. Each had its charm, and so, in a disruption from our normal review format, I would rather offer you my picks for the best of Paris Fashion Week:
Best Beach Scene: Chanel
Three’s a trend, as they say in the news business. Thom Browne opened his show with lifeguards on a boardwalk-inspired set, but his beach looked like it was designed for a weekend getaway from The Handmaid’s Tale, populated by women who were bound and gagged while walking in precarious shoes. Perhaps he thought he was making a commentary on our times, but instead he left many in the audience aghast. Too soon, Ofthom. Altuzarra didn’t literally show on a sandy runway, but he thought nostalgically of summer romance with his beachy separates and coverups that looked unusually undone for Paris. But Lagerfeld’s incredibly detailed beach scene, complete with a wave making machine and Brad Kroenig on lifeguard duty, was phenomenal. Models walked the full length of the beach barefoot, then slid into clear plastic sandals for the return along a boardwalk. And the clothes were so fun and practical, including great jeans, swim (obviously) and a finale of black baby doll dresses that brought evening to the shore, that you had to imagine Lagerfeld must have felt like he was on holiday while designing them.
Best Play on Gender Codes: Givenchy
Clare Waight Keller has made a mirrored relationship between men and women, and the way they dress, an important part of the thought process that goes into her collections as artistic director of Givenchy, and for spring, she made that the focus. This wasn’t as fluid as, say, what John Galliano did at Margiela with guys in gowns, but it still takes considerable effort for a binary guy to wear a lilac suit and still look kind of macho. Ladies wore army pants, in some cases, or dresses in gorgeous, matte blue and bottle green, which were somewhat conventional in their gender roles, but nevertheless had great attitude.
Best Trip to the Future: Louis Vuitton
The sci-fi sets at Balenciaga and Vuitton both had audiences going wild on social media, but only Vuitton had them talking about the clothes with equal enthusiasm. Nicolas Ghesquière offered sporty dresses and coats weirdly engaging egg-shaped sleeves, and some cool trouser suits on models whose gender looked intentionally neutered, as if the result of evolution or humanoid conquest. The floral prints, including unearthly blue and purple roses, held out hope that plant life might yet still exist in the future.
Best Flounce: Stella McCartney
In a season of flou, McCartney takes top honors with her bathroom colors and can-do attitude.
Most Valuable Player: Adut Akech
Two years into a career with real legs, the Sudanese-Australian model was the standout star of the season, closing several major shows. Her black gown at Valentino was the major-est look in what was already a major collection, upstaging pretty much everyone (including an appearance by OG Kristen McMenamy).
Best Use of Knitting Needles: Loewe
Everyone’s into macramé these days, by the look of netted overlays and hand-knitted doo-dads dangling from dresses like a fisherman’s catch. But Jonathan Anderson, with his references to contemporary art, made texture look more approachable. More than anyone, he’s responsible for setting the trend in the first place with designs that often look hand-assembled, with natural fabrics and handkerchief hems. For spring, the clothes were a little quieter, with slip dresses and simple cuts, but there were great big bags crochet bags, too, perfect for carrying your knitting needles.