Slimane causes a little controversy at Celine, Demna Gvasalia shows his sleek creations at Balenciaga, Pierpaolo Piccioli takes Valentino back to its roots. Escapism was a recurring theme at Paris Fashion Week.

Dries Van Noten spoke about “couture, but not in a retro way.” John Galliano at Maison Margiela applied all his couture-learned knowledge to a vision of genderless equality. Rick Owens’s fiercely inventive skills cut a wardrobe for superwomen. In the end? There was an overarching positivity in seeing designers enjoying applying themselves to clothes to make people feel good. It took intellectual effort, honed skills, innovation, playfulness, and a refreshing sense of reality. All this came together in places as disparate as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Paco Rabanne, Junya Watanabe, and Loewe. The last word should go to Pierpaolo Piccioli, who had everyone on their feet applauding the sheer life-enhancing, couture-fabulous inter-generational relatability of his show. “Everyone is talking about escapism,” he said. “I don’t believe in that—I think everyone should just live their identities.”


New era of Celine

The main event this Paris Fashion Week was without any doubt the return of Hedi Slimane, formerly of Dior Homme and Saint Laurent, who unveiled his first collection for LVMH-owned brand Celine.
When British designer Phoebe Philo took the helm of Céline a decade ago, the brand rapidly built a loyal following among grown-up women, who fell hard for the clean lines, fuss-free accessories and no-nonsense aesthetic of the French brand. Slimane’s total revamp of the house was in line with the work that made him famous at Dior Homme and Saint Laurent: ultra skinny suits for men (under him, the label will also be producing menswear), and short dresses and tailored separates for girls who love nothing more than partying till the wee hours. Slimane’s decision not to cater to the devotees of Celine – he also removed the accent from the brand’s name – raised some hackles in the fashion community and beyond. However, controversy aside, there are plenty of brands out there offering alternatives to replace the hole left in women’s closets.

In the New York Times, fashion critic Vanessa Friedman put it succinctly: To those who, upon hearing of Slimane’s appointment, “feared that the days when this brand defined what it meant to be a smart, adult, self-sufficient, ambitious and elegantly neurotic woman were at an end — you were right.”


Was the undercurrent at many of the shows, whether through dance, celebrated by Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior; obscure theatrics, which took centre stage at Gucci; the exotic and futuristic vision of Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière, whose work looks like nobody else’s; or just a plain sunny day on the beach, which Chanel and Thom Browne recreated in their sets and younger brands Jacquemus and Altuzarra conjured up in their Riviera-ready line-ups. When not walking on sand, models were literally walking on water at the Saint Laurent show, in front of the Eiffel Tower. Snakeskin santiags, mini sequin bodysuits combined with platform heels, long fluid and see through dresses were worn by Anthony Vaccarello’s models who walk through dark waters with great aplomb. The press release stated: “a Saint Laurent woman is an independent, confident, carefree, liberated, bold individual who loves to have fun and express herself.” Aren’t we all?

Space-age Louis Vuitton

LVMH’s Louis Vuitton presented a new collection fit for a space odyssey at the end of Paris Fashion Week on Tuesday, with futuristic, crystal-strewn looks, oversized sleeves and patterned dresses evoking skylines. Under white neon tube lights, models snaked around a specially constructed catwalk in one of the courtyards of the Louvre museum, with a front row that drew film stars including Paul Bettany, Alicia Vikander and Cate Blanchett.

The show was the latest big budget display from the heavyweights of the luxury industry, with France’s LVMH also pulling out all stops for its revamp of Celine last week, and cross-town rival Kering parading models at Saint Laurent under the Eiffel Tower.

Nicolas Ghesquière gave mesh dresses a sci-fi vibe with angular shoulders, while some looks featured ruffles and bouffant sleeves worthy of a space-age musketeer. More sober styles included suit jackets with zip fastenings. It was hard to fully pin down the bright prints; were they abstract florals, were they lifted from modern art, were they scanned from photographs? There was a hint of ’80s to them, and yet, there were unplaceable — though eagle eyes will be certain to find Ghesquière’s nod to fashion’s current obsession with bold logos. One look, a silver dress with orbital sleeves, felt ripped from a sci-fi movie, but was immediately followed by a sister look in white and red which helped to ground it in wearable territory.


A tribute to Isadora Duncan and Pina Bausch at Dior

Paris est une fête (Paris is a party) according to Dior as well, where Maria Grazia Chiuri paid a tribute to iconic dancers, such as the legendary Isadora Duncan or contemporary Pina Bausch “who used dance as a way of breaking free”, says the creative director. Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal gave a performance throughout the show, as models crowned with strict buns and wearing nude fluid dresses over bodysuits walked around this one of a kind dance floor.

Dance was at the heart of the Dior collection for SS19. Maria Grazia Chiuri invited the choreographer Sharon Eyal to create a modern dance performance, around which the models walked, with the idea that dance and fashion define the body. This collection was a delight, light and airy with a serene fluidity. Bodysuits, tanks and light jumpsuits were mixed with full skirts, short and long tutus, some in artisanal floral prints and tie-dye. Corsets had been replaced by a simple tank to liberate the body and enhance movement. Jeans were teamed with bodies and tailoring to push home the relaxed silhouette; the colour palette was a sea of faded nudes, and large coats and jackets wrapped the delicate skirts and dresses.


The beach by Chanel

In a whole other dimension, Chanel’s mannequins hit the beach that Karl Lagerfeld had recreated at Le Grand Palais. The German’s designer scenographies never hit and miss, and this setting was definitely the most astonishing one of the week – there were actual waves with boardwalk and lifeguards in the Grand Palais.. Large sleeves and pastel tweed constituted a seventies vibe reminiscing the free spirit of this decade. Models held their shoes as they walked through the lapping waves on the sandy shore. However, swimsuits featured only briefly via a logo monochrome one-piece styled with jeans and a frayed boater. Bouclé skirt suits with A-line minis and bell-sleeve swingy box jackets formed the core of the collection, with an emphasis on jewellery. The beach ball shaped bags were highlights. 


A lesson in chic unfolded at Hermés. The Longchamp racecourse was transformed with a sand-covered catwalk (trend alert – see also Chanel’s beach) in front of a huge slating mirror angled to reflect the cloudy sky. It was the perfect backdrop for Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski’s minimal collection. Key pieces were a chestnut-hued leather pinafore skirt; a soft suede tunic with matching trousers; and a swimsuit trimmed in Hermés orange, worn as a top with shorts. An elegant bucket bag was the standout accessory.


Lusciously all-round gorgeous Valentino

Pierpaolo Piccioli received a standing ovation for his SS19 Valentino collection. Opening with an off-the-shoulder voluminous black dress, followed by a series of black dresses and trouser ensembles in shapes that screamed inclusivity, it was easy to imagine every woman in the room wearing something from this collection. It closed with bold and joyful prints, stunning sequin work and a crowd-pleasing pleated, cap-sleeve, floor-length dress in Valentino red. Feather-backed flat sandals perfectly balanced beauty with function, and oversized feathered hats brought catwalk pizzazz.

“Valentino tonight was just utterly, lusciously all-round gorgeous. . . . In a season when there’s been so much talk about the appreciation of couture dressmaking and craft skills, Piccioli just took it to the ultimate. It was as accomplished, as complexly cut—and as simple as that.” —Sarah Mower


Cotton from an organic farm in Egypt

Stella McCartney, queen of sustainability, was all about tie and dye, large suits, skater dresses and sexy nightgowns. “This collection is full of organic denim and jersey, traceable and sustainable viscose, and cotton from an organic farm in Egypt with women working in the community!” explains Claire Begkamp, Head of Sustainability and Ethical Trade for the brand.