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March 8, 2020

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A passion for fashion on the Paris runway

THE globe’s biggest luxury labels set up camp in the fashion industry’s maternal home this week so their prolific designers could show off the latest collections and current trends at the fall/winter 2020-21 Paris Fashion Week. As ever, they were inventive, eclectic, controversial and reflective of the times.


“A very simple, very pure momentum. Romanticism, but without any flourishes,” is how Viard described her designs.

Evoking French film director Claude Chabrol’s 1968 film “The Does,” a lesbian drama, female models walked the runway and chatted like intimates in the first looks. The models wore stylish retro black leather boots with a brandy bell-shaped collar at the mid-calf that became the collection’s leitmotif. Viard’s simplest designs were the most effective: a black silk bodice dress with the top lobbed off and dropped Juliette sleeves, modeled by Cindy Crawford’s daughter Kaia Gerber. And voluminous studded jodhpurs that opened up at the bottom cut a beautiful silhouette, paid homage to Lagerfeld.


Designer Hedi Slimane put on a refined collection for Celine that was notable for its relative understatement.

Slimane’s touchstone for several seasons, the air of the on-trend 1970’s, was captured in every of the 111 salable looks.

Oversize black floppy hats followed statement talisman necklaces, sequined dresses with bow collars, ruffles on shirts and, of course, that decade’s staple of brown corduroy pants. They were all styles we’ve seen before on the Slimane-Celine runway.

Yet this season was marked by an added refinement — with a perfect balance to the silhouette.

Isabel Marant

A clean-looking cream carpet covered the Isabel Marant runway. Was it perhaps an indication that the normally boho French designer was moving in a more pared-down aesthetic for fall?

The collection proved this to be true. While not entirely minimalist, it did away with the usual boho froth and frills, and in their place appeared 53 monochromatic and more focused looks that riffed on the 1980s.

Marant’s trademark exaggerated 1980s shoulder still was the silhouette from which the designs hung, ones that were often cinched chicly at the waist. While, floral prints interrupted the monochrome, with flashes of true blue.

Thom Browne

The pinstripe-suited and gender-fluid designs of inventive US designer Thom Browne were shown again this season in a winter wonderland snowscape where spring was a frozen garden, fall was a white wood.

Models, in twos, passed through large wooden doors in the center of the runway — evoking the magical furniture in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicle “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Animal masks, such as a horse and a rhino, appeared on some models, who also had handbags in the form of a dog and other creatures. Fashion-wise, the wacky designs meshed multicolored stripes in divergent styles. One blown-up check plaid in Yankees blue was inserted as the sleeves of a striped coat, above a gray skirt and white-laced snow boots.

Vivien Westwood

The clothes, by designer Andreas Kronthaler, exuberantly mixed punk, with ethnic styles and the regal — all to dramatic effect under the sparkling crystal chandeliers of the City of Light’s historic Hotel de Ville.

Then Vivienne Westwood and Kronthaler posed with model-of-the-minute Bella Hadid in a voluminous sheer lace Marie Antoinette-style bustier and a garland of yellow blooms. Yet it was the live warbling at the Westwood show that seemed to provoke the most interest.

The year is 2020. A revolution is happening. People are fighting back — an androgynous singer, with long hair and exposed breasts, sang at the foot of the runway. It added a further dimension to the designs made of eco-minded and often-sustainable fabrics by the house that puts a spotlight on the fashion industry’s responsibility to protect the environment. This was Westwood and Kronthaler as their most subversive.


Valentino’s designer Pierpaolo Piccioli has been in an experimental mood of late. In last Sunday’s ready-to-wear show at Paris Fashion Week, this was more than apparent as the Italian-born designer dramatically departed from the house’s oft-angelic signature designs. It was a nice change. In the place of purity this season was subtle kink.

See-through black mesh gowns followed sheeny thigh-high black leather boots, while split-leg bustier gowns bore inches of flesh and some visible nipples. Even the Renaissance-style capes, a Valentino touchstone for ages, were crafted for this fall in a provocative sheeny black on a model with dark eye make-up, stomping black wedge boots and long blood-red leather gloves. This angel had fallen from heaven long ago, the show seemed to say.

Aside from the kinky elements, there were lots great fashion-forward plays on shape.

Issey Miyake

With a black felt-tip pen at the start of Issey Miyake’s Paris fashion show, an artist sketched out a human shape on a paper sheet with speed and impressive precision. Then, to gasps from the audience, that shape — and others next to it — were cut out.

As sections of paper fell to the ground, models appeared from behind the holes. It was an imaginative start to designer Satoshi Kondo’s fall show, which began with a geometric series that riffed on this idea of thick lines cut out on clothes. All sorts of shapes and square sections flickered out. The collection soon expanded into bright hues — with sheeny silk fabrics, weaves in fine nylon yarn and colorful knits.

Several busy jazzy prints— one in particular in apricot — seemed a little unnecessary and distracted from the beautiful shapes in the designs. But Kondo made up for it with a deft play in form using the codes of the Japanese maison. Silk dresses curved back around at the bottom — like a sort of parachute sleeve — and formed a cape-hybrid. It filled with air as the models walked and in the beautiful motion, it seemed as if the models might take flight.


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