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  • Francesco Lo Iacono


Updated: Aug 11, 2021

What makes Paris arguably the best fashion week of the lot is its diversity. There are of course the historic couture houses - the Chanels and the Diors – eternal providers of dreams. There are the cool young labels a la Jacquemus, Koché and Y/Project, keeping the city fresh and relevant. There are the expats looking for success in the fashion capital, such as American designer Joseph Altuzarra who made a strong and confident debut this week. Finally, there are the appointed designers, tasked with carrying on the legacy of an iconic brand. Such is the fate of Claire Wight Keller (formerly of Chloé) who recently took her first steps at Givenchy. A daunting challenge that takes the most-skilled designer to manage with panache.

Take, for instance, J.W. Anderson. After conquering London, the Irish designer has become one of the hits at Paris fashion week, ever since he took over Spanish luxury goods house Loewe. His intense focus on craftsmanship has turned this brand into one of the most sought-after on the market. This collection hammered the point home that great savoir-faire speaks for itself. There were plenty of highly covetable items to be found on the Loewe runway, from an easy breezy long tee shirt dress with gingham panels to sophisticated tapestry-like draping, or sexy-yet-chic bare hip cut-outs with floor-grazing leather straps hanging off. Not to mention the envy-inducing accessories, such as a rope-detail shoulder bag and a studded patchwork number. Anderson's genius is that he can make a simple and complicated look just as appealing. This collection definitely read more accessible and grounded than previous ones, but that doesn't mean it was any less desirable, on the contrary.

Another designer who is vying for relatability is Giambattista Valli. For a few seasons now, the designer has been looking to court a younger audience. Having his dresses worn by Rihanna will certainly help in that. But it's a risky move for a couturier to make a play for the millenials. Thankfully, this collection was Valli's most successful attempt at “edging up” his aesthetic. He was well-inspired to avoid slogan tees, ill-advised hoodies or cheap logos. He introduced more structured separates, cute knit vests and striped shirting to contrast with his usual array of floaty and frilly chiffons. It was a way to give his daytime offer more punch without losing the dreaminess he is known and loved for.

Speaking of dreams, Rei Kawakubo – whose work was most recently celebrated with a retrospective at the Met - provided us yet again with an otherworldly escapade at Comme des Garçons. Kawakubo has long forgone the idea of traditional clothing at the Comme show. Her pieces would be more accurately described as art masquerading as clothes. For SS18, Kawakubo gave us sensory overload with a show that mixed everything from ruffle patchworks to bright red latex, manga prints to 16th century still life. Sounds chaotic? Well, the world we live in is not much less confusing.

The focus on child-like imagery - including literally tacked on kids toys – intimated at the

infantilization of our society and the more regressive aspects of social media. But, as always, there was beauty to be found amidst all the noise. This time, it came in the form of a white angel in a tweed suit (complete with wings attached at the back). In the chaos, there is still hope.

One designer that has always relished in the chaos is Vivienne Westwood. Andreas Kronthaler has been at the front of the brand for more than a year now (although he has been working in tandem with Westwood for years behind the scenes). But this season his persona took on a larger space than usual. His first name was featured loud and proud on tee shirts and silk dresses, while references to his childhood in Austria could be found in Bavarian-inspired looks, rounded up by prints of country life scenes. This collection was also extremely Westwoodian and the duo have not lost their sense of provocation.

Marijuana leaves popped up here and there and could help explain the psychedelic colour palette of the show. Boys in heels, girls in suits, the discombobulated world of Westwood and Kronthaler is the breeding ground for a big post-gender post-race party. In chaos there is liberation.

Words by Martin Noives

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