Paris Fashion Week final day: Chanel, A.W.A.K.E. Mode, Louis Vuitton
On the final day of the 26-day international catwalk season, Chanel staged a magnificent show in Virginie Viard’s homage to Last Year at Marienbad; Nicolas Ghesquière pulled off an agenda-setting collection for Louis Vuitton and A.W.A.K.E. Mode returned to Paris with experimental brio.
Chanel: Welcome back to Marienbad
The movie star was American and the photographers Dutch but this was the most French collection we’ve seen from Chanel in some time, presented impeccably before an enormous backdrop of film classic Last Year at Marienbad.
A spring/summer 2023 collection staged before a truly gargantuan wraparound screen of 200 meters long and 10 meters high, projecting the black and white 1961 movie, and its central star Delphine Seyrig, whom fashion historians will recall was dressed mainly by Chanel.
A flotilla of hundreds of chauffeur driven limousines delivered some 1,500 guests to the show inside the Grand Palais Ephemère, where two entrance tunnels featured a collage of historical images and a great new campaign starring Kristen Stewart and shot by photo legends Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. The actual show intro was a charming little vignette film of Stewart out and about in Paris with four lotharios in tuxedos.
“We are living in such an accelerated period of growth it gives me whiplash… It’s exhilarating,” says Stewart, as the camera captures her being pulled back by an invisible force in a Parisian impasse.
“It’s highly pressurised, as we are in this life-long, evolving art-changing project. To know who you are is subject to change. It’s not a fixed notion, the morphologies that define us and unite us,” she continues, answering an unseen interviewer as she emerged with from Le Champo, an art movie house in St Germain. Stewart even marches down Chanel’s famous glass walled staircase in its rue Cambon headquarters, attired in a shiny white bouclé suit that then appeared in the show.
The collage even featured in the opening look, a printed shirt worn over silk bloomers and flat shoes. Images of the symmetrical grand gardens of Bavaria where the film was shot evident on shirt and screen.
Chanel’s creative director Virginie Viard went for short this season, favouring the classic Chanel four-pocket jacket made as a dress but well up the thigh. She even made a lovely version in violet with a front placket. And when Virginie did send out a classic silken tweed jacket, she oft paired it with shorts.
Her preferred footwear were black-toed pumps with floral straps worn with fishnet knee socks. Though there was nothing retro about these clothes from the polkadot trenches cinched by metal belts, to the pearl studded leather cocktails.
While for evening, Viard wove in all sorts of feathers, rhinestones and bows that recalled the opulence of the film, none of which was shot in the Czech spa town after which it was named.
“The films we have seen, those that possess us and those we invent for ourselves, Marienbad, the Nouvelle Vague, the allure according to Gabrielle Chanel, Karl, the night, feathers, sequins, heels: I like it when things get mixed up,” remarked Viard.
What made this collection special was the ambiguity that defines Last Year at Marienbad. In the film, one is never certain if the couple had met one year before as the man insists, but the woman doesn’t recall. And in the collection one is never quite sure of the exact epoch of the clothes, yet somehow they are pretty much all clear expressions of Chanel’s DNA - poise, allure, polish and impertinence.
Louis Vuitton: Nicolas sets the agenda again
Sport met couture, hardware and amusement arcades in a tremendously forceful show at the Louvre by Louis Vuitton to round off four weeks of runway collections in New York, London, Milan and Paris.
Last, but very much not least, this was a chic and startling collection by Nicolas Ghesquière for Vuitton, possibly his most brilliant to-date for the luxury marque.
Staged in a pretty awesome setting, a giant elevated circular platform, where modes marched past open curtains as a bright sun peeped through a white sky. A set the brand entitled as a 'Flower Monster', courtesy of artist Philippe Parreno.
Above all, there was a wonderful sense of a humour about the clothes, which incorporated all sorts of LV equipment: closures, buckles, clasps, hinges and giant zips as objects or as prints. A heroic collection and show, opened by some brilliantly cut waistcoats and skirts reinforced by accordion pleat fabric tubes and held together by six-inch zip pull tabs.
Nicolas stepped that idea up a gear with some stunning prints, where meter-long grommet belts ran down the sides of blazers and the sleeves were printed in golden zips. Printed on leather or silk, they were zany, demanding to wear but unexpected and daring. Before going into overdrive with color blocking patchwork-leather baby doll dresses fronted by huge bows.
Plus, Ghesquière’s ingenious bags were first rate: like a smart new tote in the shape of a leather key holder, or another in the form of a huge baggage tag.
Though, the best moment was a sturdy replica bag of the founding family’s historic home in Asnières-sur-Seine. Almost a gingerbread house version of the original.
When it came to footwear, Nicolas was again thinking out of the box - with a new boxing boot meets techy sneaker. Ergonomic, funky and sprinkled with crystals, they will be huge hits, and influential.
Matter of fact, it has been some time since Ghesquière pulled off an agenda-setting collection, one that would drive the fashion zeitgeist. This collection will.
A.W.A.K.E. Mode: Experiments with brio
One of the more compelling voices in fashion design today is Natalia Alaverdian, the founder and designer of A.W.A.K.E. Mode, which staged its latest collection inside the American Cathedral of Paris.
In whose hallowed halls, A.W.A.K.E. Mode presented a multi-material and highly experimental show, that ranged from romanticism to rough refinement. Far too many designers have come out of the pandemic playing safe, clinging to their self-perceived codes and DNA. Not Alaverdian, whom to her credit, continues to break new ground in terms of structure and vision.
Alaverdian is certainly skilled tailor, playing with proportions with audacity in tulip sleeved cotton dresses; open shouldered parachute silk baseball jackets or flight jackets, as well as some tremendous skirts finished at the bottom by menswear shirt cuffs.
She showed marvellous pencil skirts, beautiful draped culottes and scalloped front cocktails, while her sense of asymmetrical draping in flared skirts was admirable.
Natalia had two big ideas this season, the first being woven and mosaic leather. Seen in some great ecru, honey beige or contrast color skirts cut half-way down the calf. The other was intricate layering made in cut out squares and circles. Used to charming effect in cocktail dresses and art gallery opening evening gowns.
Her experiments continued in accessories - from the woven metallic perspex heels, to perforated mesh mules.
At times, one cried out for the self editing button, as she piled on the cut-outs and foils. For often, the best ideas were the simplest - one shoulder recycled denim tops and flared bias-cut dresses.
Presented on a clever casting, given a Viking touch with their Valkyrie hairstyles.Though the opening the show with a bombastic industrial soundtrack just felt odd inside a church.
The designer took a short bow before explaining backstage that, because the house had built up a substantial business online during the pandemic, she felt closer to her clients and more able to take more risks in her designs.
“Structure and experimenting with texture. There were lots of elements I had previously tried and they all came together this season,” smiled the designer, before embracing one of her biggest fans, Doja Cat, the rapper’s hair, neck and face all painted gold.
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