Paris Fashion Week blends history with the future in surreal runway shows


By AGENCY

Models wear creations as part of the Dries Van Noten Autumn/Winter 2024 collection presented at Paris Fashion Week. Photo: AP

Paris Fashion Week’s Autumn/Winter 2024 shows, headlining with Balmain, traversed an encyclopedic range from history to the future, blending tradition with cutting-edge innovation.

Designers delved into archives on Wednesday (Feb 28) to reinterpret the past while projecting forward with futuristic silhouettes and materials.

From utilitarian details that ground regal aesthetics in the contemporary to surreal interplays of form and texture, the collections celebrated the industry’s ability to innovate while honoring its past.

One of the highlights was Cher leading the VIP pack at Balmain’s show, as Olivier Rousteing embarked on a personal journey back to his roots.

The designer drew inspiration from the "green thumb” of the house’s founder, Pierre Balmain, and the verdant landscapes of his upbringing in Bordeaux.

Known for his sharp tailoring and bold aesthetics, Rousteing this season wove a story filled with natural motifs, bringing a touch of the "provincial” to the Paris runway.

"Today I’m returning to Bordeaux, the city that formed me,” Rousteing reflected.

Read more: London Fashion Week runways celebrate multiculturalism and urban life

He said his collection blended Pierre Balmain’s iconic "New French Style”, characterised by its bold architectural lines and precise tailoring, with the "graceful dignity of Bordeaux”.

This fusion was evident in nature-inspired designs, from earrings shaped like bunches of grapes to garments adorned with grape embroideries, prints and even whimsical snail buttons. A standout piece, a snail-shell golden breastplate, captured the audience’s attention, prompting a flurry of camera clicks from the VIP guests.

Vibrant grape embroideries punctuated the palette of khaki and black across silhouettes that nodded to the 80s.

Adding a burst of colour and humor, a bright red net shopping bag evoked memories of hometown markets for Rousteing, infusing the collection with a sense of levity.

While the organic musings stayed within the familiar territory of Balmain’s aesthetic under Rousteing, the collection was noteworthy for its diversity, particularly in casting models of all ages to present the 56 designs.

Belgian designer Dries Van Noten sews history, tension and elegance into each look.

His latest womenswear show was no exception, kicking off with a display of grandeur meeting a contemporary edge. The opener, a thick beige coat seeming regal, was immediately grounded in the present with a utilitarian studded collar, reminiscent of a choker, steering clear of vintage territory.

Van Noten, a master of blending the old with the new, further demonstrated this skill with a simple gray skirt that draped in a manner both fashion-forward and evoking the turn of the (last) century.

A loose top managed to straddle the worlds of sportswear and the refined elegance of Princess Anne of Britain, showcasing Van Noten’s unique ability to navigate between different eras and styles.

The show was a visual feast of illusions and contrasts. The sleeves were cut to make them almost two-dimensional, an innovative play on perspective that challenges the viewer’s gaze.

Sweaters seemed to animate, embracing their wearers in a dance of fabric and form. This interplay of textures and colors created a dynamic energy and poetry that has become a Van Noten hallmark.

In an age where digital communication reigns supreme and environmental consciousness is rising, the fashion industry’s cherished practice of creating elaborate, often handmade invitations continues to thrive.

Each season, these unique pieces of art crisscross Paris, hand-delivered to the guests, serving as a creative prelude to the spectacle of the runway shows.

Despite the digital shift, top fashion houses remain dedicated to crafting imaginative invitations that hint at the theme of their upcoming collections.

For example, Loewe ’s invitation, a watercolor painting set against a tree-lined landscape within a soft leather frame, showcased the brand’s commitment to combining art with fashion.

Meanwhile, Chloe’s invitation, a giant leather keyring adorned with a golden metal banana, introduced a playful element to Chemena Kamali’s anticipated debut.

Rick Owens personalised the experience with a white fabric neckpiece bearing the guest’s name. Yohji Yamamoto’s invitation, an enigmatic black plastic cutout of a human face in profile, added a layer of mystery.

These invitations, rich in creativity and craftsmanship, underscore the fashion industry’s appreciation for tradition and personal touch in an increasingly virtual world – while they may seem at odds with growing ecological concerns.

Read more: New York Fashion Week closes after a runway marathon of diverse designs

In a saleable display of monochrome, Nicolas di Felice unveiled his latest collection for Courreges on a pared-down, sanitised white runway, drawing fashion insiders into a world where Andre Courreges’ space-age legacy meets the enigmatic allure of underwater scuba wear, all while channeling a dash of 1990s nostalgia.

The fashion season proved to be a study in cool, low-energy sophistication.

Each piece boasted minimalist utilitarian details-flappy tassels, headwear caps reminiscent of scuba gear, and geometric paneling with scooped-out shapes that spoke of intergalactic adventures.

One of the models’ arms was often loose, appearing bare, tucking in the front of a garment, as the sleeve it was meant to occupy hung stiffly and empty at the side in a surreal touch. This geometry, a reverential homage to Courreges’ founding vision, was reimagined through di Felice’s contemporary eye.

Noteworthy were fashion-forward elements like pale body panels that cleverly played with the silhouette, erasing the traditional shape of the torso and introducing a fresh narrative on form and space.

There is also a strong 1990s influence, from the layering of skirts over pants to a chub coat that wouldn’t seem out of place in the wardrobe of Game Of Thrones' Jon Snow. – AFP

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