Well, the proverbial bow has been tied on the month that is Fashion Month. From New York, to Milan and everything in between, the last month has been chock-full of designers navigating the COVID-19 waters and putting out collections either by way of digital presentations or socially-distanced runway shows.
I know I've said this before but I'm going to say it again, there's magic in the live runway show. Don't get me wrong, a lot of designers put out incredible and captivating digital presentations and creative editorials but there's just something about models marching down a beautifully designed runway that remains unmatched. To me, that electric energy pulses through the screen and can be felt by audiences far and wide. Something I'm grateful for during this season of change and season in which I find myself craving even more creative outlet and output.
That being said, let's dive in to Paris Fashion Week! While Paris is traditionally the penultimate representation of Fashion (hello, it's P-A-R-I-S) and closes out Fashion Month with an uproarious bang, I have to tell you, it wasn't my favorite smattering of shows. Granted I did find it slightly more difficult to tune in to all of the various shows so perhaps that affected my positioning but still, other Fashion Weeks took the "cake" (*cough Milan cough cough*) for me.
I approached Paris Fashion Week in a very similar way to Milan and tuned into the shows that I heard about beforehand and/or saw buzz from via social media, etc. as well as some of my favorite designers. While a month of Fashion weeks is quite a bit of industry content, I still find it so fascinating the way designers can artfully speak to each of their subsequent audiences. Watching a New York Fashion Show versus a Paris Fashion Show is like peering through the looking glass to see to the heart of the New York Woman as well as the Parisian Woman's style, her priorities, what matters to her when it comes to her Fashion, etc. It's safe to say all "women" are quite different. All it takes it one look at the runway to see that.
Paris Fashion Week: SS21 AlmostFabFaves
Saab was one such designer who decided to forgo the traditional runway show at Paris Fashion Week but his digital presentation, "Hymne à la Vie," was so captivating, it didn't even matter. Also, the reasoning behind the shift reminds us of the power of perseverance and the cathartic release that can come by way of creating. Saab's atelier and his home were destroyed in the explosion that happened back in August in Saab's native Beirut, Lebanon. However, just two weeks after the explosion that destroyed everything, his haute couture team made up of of 200 people was back to work. "It’s emblematic of the Lebanese mindset [...] The Lebanese people are always looking forward, we live for tomorrow and plan for everything to be better and more beautiful,” Saab said in a Vogue Runway article written by Ellie Pithers.
I still get chills reflecting on the Balmain Runway show in my head. I've linked the Runway show here so please treat yourself to this masterful celebration of life and fashion when you get a moment. The show opened with Olivier Rousteing waltzing out on the dimly lit runway to take his wooden stool throne. He then welcomed six older, but no less captivating, models out onto the runway. On the Balmain's Instagram page it summarized this collection as a celebration of the brand's "amazing 75-year legacy," as evidenced through the re-introduction of Monsieur Balmain's PB pattern seen throughout the show and in particular on these women opening the show.
At this point in the show, the voiceover proclaimed, "Black is the only color young people can wear more successfully than old people. A young girl dressed in black is always tremendously beautiful. An older woman in black can be dreary," an idea directly juxtaposing the fabulously beautiful "older" women donning black on the Balmain runway at that very moment. The runway then immediately electrified with neon pinks and greens and The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights." Stage and mood officially set.
A traditionally ultra-feminine and bohemian brand, Chloé infused the runway with messages of hope and resilience and masculine-inspired pieces as well. The runway show began with a split screen image following the various models around Parisian destinations. From street corners to stairwells, the Chloé girl is on the move before making her way to her final destination, an outdoor runway show at the Palais de Tokyo, a beautiful setting might I add. Although you're hard pressed to find an ugly setting at Paris Fashion Week truth be told. A bit of a departure from the old and an invitation to upcoming, optimistic times the Chloé runway was a breath of fresh air.
Isabel Marant's SS21 runway show was truly one big outdoor disco as proclaimed by numerous fashion outlets. Her adoration for the 80s and the joy that emanated from the night club scene in that decade was evidenced not only through her electric clothing prancing down the runway but from the flash mob of dancers following models around on their runway walks. It was fun, it was funky, it had you scratching your head at times but ultimately it did exactly what Marant set out to do: it brought people joy.
"Inspired by a tempered mix of emotion and pragmatism — and informed by the life we’re living right now — the Spring 2021 collection took a more relaxed shape and approach to the season. Volume, draping, and soft femininity of the designs define the silhouettes that made their way down the runway for Spring," according to Joseph Altuzarra on the brand's website. He also spoke to this desire for deconstruction in the brand's SS21 runway pre-show which is beautiful displayed throughout the collection below.
The Hermes Designer, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, attributes the SS21 collection to missing the human touch, like many of us have during the current era of COVID-19 and social distancing, according to Vogue article written by Anders Christian Madsen. “Well, look at us. Tactility has been taken away from us. I wanted the fantasy of touching. I think it’s important to keep that somehow," Vanhee-Cybulski acknowledged in an interview before the show. This "skin hunger" as Anders Christian Madsen proclaims the media has called it, is explicitly displayed in the designer's use of neutral tones, clean, classic lines and figure-highlighting silhouettes waltzing down the runway.
After witnessing the masterpiece that was her Paris Fashion Week SS21 runway show, it came as no surprise that Gabriela Hearst was this year's winner of the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year. This was the first time a Woman designer had won the award in five years!! According to a Vogue Runway article written by Nicole Phelps, Hearst "offset the show’s carbon footprint with a donation to Madre de Dios, a Peruvian NGO that protects the country’s Amazon rain forest and monitors its endangered species, creating jobs in the region in the process." Not only that but the designer "continues to be a leader in the use of upcycled materials and deadstocks," Phelps said.
Displayed alongside exquisitely feminine and chic models sauntering down the runway, photos taken on Valli's iPhone from a holiday in the Mediterranean evoked the natural influence and inspiration in the SS21 collection. “People were obliged to be with themselves, to have this introspection, and to start a conversation with themselves. This has brought a new purity to life: taking care of one’s soul and psyche; one’s own skin. There are no more red carpets or big events, but there is more intimacy; more honesty,” Valli said about the inspiration behind the collection in a Vogue Runway article by Anders Christian Madsen. Personally, my soul feels quite taken care of after viewing this feminine fantasy of a runway show.
“My question this season was less about one theme; it was about this zone between femininity and masculinity. This zone is highlighted by nonbinary people, people that are taking a lot of freedom dressing themselves as they want, and, in turn, giving a lot of freedom to all of us. I found it inspiring to explore what the items are that represent this wardrobe that is not feminine, not masculine. I wanted to zoom in on that section in between,” according to the French Designer in an interview with Vogue. I am LIVING for this androgyny seen across numerous runways throughout Fashion Month. Not only did Louis Vuitton master the art of androgynous and oversized dressing but the brand also made bold statements with graphic prints, à la Chloé, reminding its audience to "vote" for example. Last but certainly not least, La Samaritaine, a large department store in Paris, where the runway show was held was perhaps the most exquisite indoor facility I've ever seen.