A lmost precisely a year back, the Louis Vuitton show, kept in the yard of the Louvre, brought the drape down on the runway circus as it as soon as was.
Although nobody understood it at the time, it was the last mass live style occasion that would occur; by the time attendees had returned to their home countries, coronavirus-induced quarantines and lockdowns had begun, and fashion, like much of the rest of the world, appeared to go on pause.
Or did it?
Twelve months later on, Vuitton was back in the Louvre, once again bringing the season, odd and digital though it was, to an end– without an audience and even a catwalk, however with a point. Ends up that while sitting in the house, designer Nicolas Ghesquiere had actually been on an odyssey– of the mind, anyhow.
The outcome was a raucous whip-stop tour of Greek and Roman folklore (through a cooperation with Fornasetti), gladiator armor, couture curves and 1960s Jolie Madame dresses; ruffled crinolines and retrofuturism; one female historical archetype mashed up against another and entwined with the trappings of conquest. A black sack gown included a crystal mosaic plastron, a Michelangelo-print parka lined in crumpled gold atop tutu frills. There were gladiator snow boots.
We may not have the ability to take a trip physically, but fashion can still take us all sorts of places we never ever believed we ‘d go. That’s an enormous vicarious enjoyment, now more than ever.
So, at Schiaparelli, Daniel Roseberry went out on a limb, offering up a model of the gold breast-shaped breast– plate? guard?– that initially appeared in his couture show, stitching it into coats, adding it to knits and throwing in a gilded corset together with, complete with stubborn belly button.
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At Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri went through the social media looking glass into the really dark world of fairy tales– the ones written to alert kids that the world can be dangerous location, not the ones with pleased endings– and from there to the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, although her hall wasn’t precisely the Hall of Louis XIV.
Rather, artist Silvia Giambrone had blanked out the reflective surface areas with wax and peppered them with thorns. And instead of wearing ballgowns and mooning after a prince, Chiuri’s ladies were altogether darker in mien: schoolgirls in twisted uniforms of white shirts, leather pinafores and grey customizing; Red Riding Hoods gone rogue in strenuous, bar-inflected suiting and rockabilly leopard; the damaged innocence of tulle. She called the show Disturbing Appeal, and it was.
And at Miu Miu, Miuccia Prada set off for the high, high reaches of the Dolomites, deep in snow, to check out a vast wilderness– not simply one speckled by fir trees but one that stretches between the poles of home and away, the within and the outside.
Her components were wispy slithers of fragile slip gowns and camisoles; duvet-quilted trousers and coats in sugar-sweet pastels; spacious cargo trousers and a huge selection of striped knit beanies, scarves and tights, plus furry mittens and boots that might reach past the knees, all layered up like a baked Alaska and just as difficult to withstand.
On a Zoom call after the show, Prada kept in mind that what many people most likely don’t understand about her is that she enjoyed the mountains– and often, when it was warm, she used to ski in a swimwear.
Simply sit with that image for a moment and take pleasure in the art of the possible.
Speaking of skiwear, it made an appearance, too, at Virginie Viard’s Chanel program. (The outdoor rec world is having a major renaissance, and the puffer is the piece of the season.) Here it bumped up versus the lacy bodysuits and large chiffons of the Parisienne coquet in the narrow halls and spirally staircase of Castel, the popular French bar.
The evening began promisingly enough, with traditional bouclé bandeaux and skirts just barely veiled with a sheer overlay and paired with furry snow boots, but then veered off in stunning directions: quilted logo-festooned bib overalls, lurid logo miniskirts with fuzzy faux fur-effect vests; and tinselly black skirts with transparent twin sets made up of a shirt with a trompe l’oeil tie and cardigan. For every cool little black party gown, there was a Chanel No. 5 red sweater, crystal garter belt and pair of pearl suspenders. It was a little Frantically Looking for Susan, the high-end version, and hard to find out where precisely it was going.
At Balmain, by contrast, it was pretty clear: up and away.
Recorded in an empty airport, with designs literally strutting the wings of an Air France jumbo jet, the tarmac and a hangar, it showcased a fleet of olive green greatcoats and shearling pilot coats, ruched parachute silks and the intricately laced minidresses for which Olivier Rousteing is understood. Also scrunchy Mylar-like silver and the neon orange and yellow of ramp workers.
The last few months, Rousteing states on a Zoom call, have made him understand that, as much as any garment, “travel is a luxury”. (Real: we always want what we can’t have.) That resulted in, paradoxically, his most grounded collection yet, devoid of a lot of the overblown excess and MTV absurdity that has weighed down his work in the past. You just needed to dodge the periodic shooting shoulder pads and Eighties results.
At the end, the designs walked a virtual truth runway in the shadow of a faraway world. “I can’t have a fashion program on the moon, but possibly, one day,” Rousteing says. (From his mouth to Elon Musk’s ear.).
In the meantime, you can dress for it. That’s the power of style, and its guarantee.