Paris is a city where the taxi driver who takes you to the airport not only knows Fashion Week has just ended, but also wants to talk about the highlights. On the way to Charles de Gaulle in the dark this morning, he asked, “Qu’est-ce que c’est ta marque favori?”
How can we start anywhere but Chanel this season? Since Karl Lagerfeld’s death two weeks ago, the tributes haven’t stopped, but the best came from the man himself in the form of the swirling checked tweed coats and downy white princess dresses that bookended his final outing for the French house that he helmed so beautifully for 35 years. Heaven is a mountaintop in the Swiss Alps with a bouclé tailleur and a marabou cape. It was a fleeting moment, as we all stood for Lagerfeld’s last finale with David Bowie’s “Heroes” soaring through the Grand Palais, but it was indelible.
This was a terrific week for tailoring. Strong shoulders were the foundation of John Galliano’s austere collection for Maison Margiela and Anthony Vaccarello’s latest for Saint Laurent. Both Rick Owens and Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia were at their inventive best, pushing their silhouettes in new, avant-garde directions, while at Dries Van Noten and Alexander McQueen, flawless suiting was counterpointed by seductive flower prints.
Celine’s Hedi Slimane surprised just about everyone with his reappraisal of the label’s ’70s and ’80s haute bourgeois uniform. His country tweeds and culottes could prove agenda-setting. Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson and Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière took more eclectic routes. A concept-free mix with attention paid to craft feels most modern now.
The future is with designers like Marine Serre and Julien Dossena of Paco Rabanne. The former dreamed up a post-apocalyptic world of survivors and the latter was looking back at Old Hollywood via a 1970s gloss. Yes, Serre’s approach sounds conceptual, but we’re going to give it to her. The heart wants what the heart wants. Each in their own way, Serre and Dossena produced the most desirably romantic dresses of the season.
Yes: Terms that were banned from the lips of the fashionable while streetwear and athleisure reigned are now being rehabilitated—couture, tailoring, and glamourbeing top among them. It’s not just a mechanical swing of the pendulum from one thing to the opposite, but a psychological response to events. Dossena understands exactly why: “It’s about how you uplift yourself through dress. In the end, that’s all we expect from fashion. You know—that thrill when you wear something special? It gives you power; it gives you confidence.” —Sarah Mower
Clad in a fleecy leopard jacket, her eyelids flashing with a vivid electric blue, Marine Serre is talking in the gloom of her subterranean show venue, a former wine cellar on the outermost edges of Paris, about her Fall 2019 collection, titled Radiation. It was a stomping yet soaring vision of warriors from the future emerging from the pitch blackness in seamed leather coats, sculpted parkas, and achingly romantic paneled dresses trailing psychedelic, pastel-hued scarves and fronds of fake fur, under which were worn head-to-toe bodysuits—bodysuits that suggested surrendering to inner kink as much as they did protection from the elements. “It’s after the apocalypse; a group of friends are underground—a community coming together,” Serre said. “It’s a safe zone in which a new world is being created, a future world, and a new way to see fashion.” —Mark Holgate
Here are one or two things that stood out: his retooling of Cristóbal Balenciaga monastic silhouettes as “incognito” high collars and hoods that obscured the wearer’s face from side view—an extreme, intellectually witty extension of Gvasalia’s reputation as a maker of hoodies. The erasure of trainers, dad-like or otherwise, in favor of square-toed black leather shoes and new high boots for men. The young men carrying fistfuls of B-branded shopping bags. “It’s real,” said Gvasalia. “When I’m on the streets of Paris, that’s what I see.” —S.M.
There was an icicle-like tinkling on the soundtrack. Models assembled, one by one, on the snow-covered steps of a faux alpine hostelry, the Chanel Gardenia. It was hard, the suppressed anticipation of what was going to happen next. What is the correct form for honoring someone at a fashion show, someone who was always so fixed on waving away vulgar sentimentality, and who always had something hilariously skewering to say about the posthumous hagiographies of anyone he cared to mention? Karl Lagerfeld was the least sentimental of people. He loved his job and always regarded it as the task of continually living in the present. He reveled in letting it be known he had a “contract for life” with Chanel, which he enjoyed to the maximum moment. —S.M.
To research this collection, Burton took her team to northern cities outside of Manchester, to Macclesfield, where she was raised, and nearby towns where mills still produce the textiles used for men’s suits in the United Kingdom and abroad. For the show, the audience sat on bolts of fabric from these mills, the very made-in-England wools used in the collection (both for the samples and, ultimately, the production). Burton wanted to showcase the products, tradition, and culture of the England in which she was raised: the woolens, the local festival traditions (in which there are rose queens), the history of suffrage and its white-clad campaigners, the Brontës (regional heroines), and the codes of punk and new wave, which are ingrained in Burton even if she is too young to have seen Joy Division before it all went tragic. There is a silver dress in the collection that appears to be made of elongated metal paillettes, but the show notes reveal it was made from a loom’s heddles cut into sequins and studded with bugle beads. The noise the dress makes as one walks is meant to mimic the sound of a shop floor. And there is a coat of Prince of Wales check in which the skirt is covered in a swirly, ruffled embroidery made from the scraps of selvage edges left on the cutting room floor. This coat is one of the chicest nods to upcycling in any collection, and perhaps the only instance of upcycling from a major house this season. It is both elegant and relevant. And this is perhaps the real triumph of Burton’s collection. —Sally Singer
Whether or not Jonathan Anderson has deliberately set out to fill the Phoebe Philo void in fashion, his Fall collection for Loewe stepped in and did that in its own way—without the kind of “Old Céline” mimicry that has sophisticated women rolling their eyes. The proof: his knack for smoothing away the contradictions between simple, clean silhouettes and craft and texture, between a sense of now and an honoring of history. “It’s quite strict and crafted,” he said. “Craft under a microscope. It became about reducing things. How do we see silhouette?” —S.M.
The second half of the show was focused on evening. Thick swaths of Fortuny-printed jersey spun asymmetrically around the torso à la [Charles] James, only his grand ball skirts were missing in favor of hip-slung wraps trailing floor-scraping trains. Bias-cut blood red columns were more covered-up, but no less sexy considering the gestural, figure-hugging way Owens draped them. The red dresses seemed like they could be nodding in the direction of the red gown [Larry] LeGaspi’s wife, Val, wore to their sole appearance at the Costume Institute’s Met Gala in 1979. Fascinatingly, Owens said that James and LeGaspi shared models. “There was a crossover. Totally different worlds, but they appreciated each other.” On the designer continuum, Owens’s legacy will be right up there alongside that of James; there will be museum retrospectives. But who can resist that subversive streak? —Nicole Phelps
Tailoring—coats, trouser suits, skirtsuits—is indubitably on fashion’s agenda this season. That already sets a competition running for who can be the first to grab a customer’s commitment to investing in this new-yet-trad form of garb. It takes a designer with an arsenal of hands-on skills in their repertoire, like Galliano, to pull it off and yet still look like themselves. He can take shears to cut a slightly waisted, charcoal-gray double-breasted herringbone coat and implant it with wide, black, felted sleeves seemingly culled from masculine militaria, and then clinch its desirability with what Savile Row tailors term a pronounced “shoulder roll.” He can also cut in the upside down and the inside out, leave the shadows of one garment on another and fillet skirts (or trenchcoats, or whatever they may have been) so that only the framework of former hems swings free below the knee. —S.M.
Dries Van Noten
It was Dries Van Noten at his reassuring best as one of the few designers who can be solidly relied on to back women up with a fully resolved, thought-out wardrobe for living through, no matter what. Much as he can evoke a mood, tune in to the changing times, signal artistic awareness, he is also a great pragmatist. He will have all bases covered in a collection, paying proper attention to office attire—maybe political office, why not?—as well as opening up a spectrum of evening dressing. Brilliant strokes came our way there: a long black column with a side drape sprinkled in gold and silver microbeads; a gold glitter trouser suit with a sheer veil thrown over it; the stunning black tuxedo that bookended the show with an identical silhouette to the opener. —S.M.
There’s been a lot of talk this week about bourgeois dress codes—we’ll soon be inundated with camel and culottes. But this was a different view of Paris, backward-looking, in some ways, to the 1980s, yes, but with less prescriptive results. LV clients with a sartorial streak might fancy the tomboyish tailoring. Craftier types will appreciate the quilted floral-print jacket and oversize vest, almost country-ish in their attitude, which qualified as the most surprising elements of the show. For the women who go to Louis Vuitton for its savoir faire with leather, it will be the Damier check pencil skirts. Eclecticism was the collection’s virtue—and its audacity. Sitting at a café in the Fourth Arrondissement, or anywhere, you’re going to watch these clothes walk by, not stare into your smartphone. —N.P.
The designer’s other subjects this season were YSL’s Opium moment and the haute couture “Scandal” collection of Spring 1971. The former produced all manner of lavishly worked beaded evening jackets, worn with micro-shorts, Swiss-dot stockings, and knee boots for a modern vibe. The latter was Vaccarello’s Pop reinterpretation of Saint Laurent’s own revisionist take on World War II–era clothing, which was critically panned at the time but went on to become influential in the street. This section of the show was harder to see, with the models walking behind a wall of glass, in black light, with a Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room mirror situation behind them. Vaccarello has made a signature of these “second acts,” but this collection hardly needed one. He had most of us at that coat inspired by Betty Catroux. —N.P.
There have been all sorts of jokes about “old Celine” since Hedi Slimane took over. But in his third showing for the house, this—and everything that followed—was his turning of the tables. This was old, old Celine—exactly the kind of politely classy merchandise originally sold under the label before LVMH acquired it, long before even Phoebe Philo’s predecessor, Michael Kors, was drafted to make runway shows out of it.
In our time of so much fashion, this was Slimane’s moment to iterate, and reiterate, his version of French fashion from a time of nonfashion—a niche of Parisian upper- and middle-class style that he must have understood from being a boy growing up in France. In a way it was exactly what Slimane has always done—taking the subject of a seam of preexisting street style and drilling into it for all it’s worth.” —S.M.