Paris Fashion Week SS21 Highlights: Hermès Gets Sexy and Matthew Williams Debuts At Givenchy
And just like that, the Paris Fashion Week that everyone was so eager to see how it would unfold in a pandemic-ridden world, has ended. For better or for worse, it was largely business-as-usual, many luxury brands hosted physical shows with some social distancing measures in place while smaller brands opted for interactive digital formats.
On the runways were more "wearable" clothes than what would usually be presented—comfortable silhouettes, barely any heels (certainly none high), but with a dash of print or sparkle for a tone of optimism, as if to remind audiences that brighter days are ahead. We round up the best of the week below.
Christian Dior Gets Spiritual
Maria Grazia Chiuri latest collection is inspired by the "visual poetry" of Italian avant-garde artist Lucia Marcucci, who created light boxes encasing collages of magazine images of art history made to look like sacred stained glass windows as the backdrop of the show.
The clothes themselves were meant to exude a more relaxed way of dressing as a result of it being created during lockdown—there were long, rustic tunics, conservative shift dresses, velvet paisley embroidered two-pieces, and a few Joseph's coats of rainbow striped coats, but also Chiuri's signature washed-out denim and ethereal, sheer gowns that make up her past collections.
Hermès Wow with Seductive Shapes
Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski put forth a sexier Hermès collection than most had anticipated, flashing skin under cutout leather apron dresses, delicate chainmail shifts and leather bandeaus worn under open moto jackets. Oversized cargo pockets at the breast and some baby-blue two-pieces were definitely happy surprises from the sensual collection.
See also: Introducing Asia's Most Stylish 2020: This Year's Best-Dressed List
Inspired by Hollywood actresses—and their glamorous looks on and off screen—Chanel recreated the iconic sign on the Santa Monica hills in its name as models strutted in silk scarves tied loosely at the neck as if swept back in a convertible, a smattering of fluoro graphics, some hot pink robes and of course, lots of tweed separates but paired with satin petal pushers.
The more elegant evening pieces had more obvious nods to the theme, like sequinned boleros, sparkling tweed, black, sheer capes, and tiered feathered numbers. A recently opened exhibition “Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto” at Paris' Palais Galliera showcases the house's century-old relationship with Hollywood, putting looks worn by the likes of Grace Kelly, Delphine Seyrig, and Jeanne Moreau on display.
Louis Vuitton Looks To The Future
In another inventive way of merging the physical and digital, Louis Vuitton gave virtual seats guests who couldn't fly in by installing webcams on the front row.
While still with a touch of futurism, Nicolas Ghesquière's collection this time felt much more street-friendly. There were dream jackets for everyone, from cropped blazers, oversized trenches to drop-shouldered bomber jackets paired with harem trousers worn with thick, twisted belt. The Dutch clogs might be a tad difficult for the average person to add to their wardrobe but gold chains on classic bags and neon green clutches will definitely fly off shelves.
See also: London Fashion Week SS21 Highlights: The Good, The Bad, And The Apocalyptic
Shows We Loved: Chloe, Kenzo, Miu Miu
Chloé: Natacha Ramsay-Levi spent lockdown rethinking the format of the shows, she tells us at an intimate Q&A over Zoom. She decided to stage models in a "realistic" way, milling about the show venue before doing the usual runway loop in order to mimic how the real women would act on sidewalks. The clothes, too, were meant to be easy, and they don't get easier than delicate, patterned shirt dresses and strappy satin shifts that were on display. The square patterns were also Ramsay-Levi's way of "going back to basics." Slogan dresses and bags in collaboration with the estate of the late artist Corita Kent read uplifting, hopeful phrases.
Kenzo: The sombre news of Kenzo Takada's passing away from the coronavirus came just days after current creative director Felipe Oliveira Baptista presented his second collection for the house, a playful one that surely Mr. Takada would have enjoyed. Oliveira Baptista blew up bee bonnets and pulled the veils over splashy floral printed dresses that were mixed with sporty elements like a camper's belt bag and utilitarian hoods and a dash of Japan as the looks were paired with thong slippers. Oliveira Baptista continues to surprise, in a good way.
Miu Miu: Shown to a "digital front row" in a hot-pink room that resembles a gymnasium, the collection itself was full of sport ground vibes. There were track and varsity jackets paired with hot pants, pointed, kitten-heeled runners and scuba tops but paired with Miu Miu's signature side of bling with bedazzled chokers, sunglasses and dangly earrings. The girly girl will still find the sheer ruffled blouses and evening looks of open-bag gowns with a long ribbon sash at the back to their liking.
Innovative Presentations We Loved: Loewe, Roger Vivier, Christian Louboutin
Loewe: Eschewing a physical show, Jonathan Anderson decided to have his usual audience participate in the experience through a "Show On The Wall". Editors and influencers were given enormous, two-metre posters of each look as well as a painting tools like a brush and glue to paste a wallpaper designed by installation artist Anthea Hamilton. Over the course of the show day, the brand dropped content from each of its collaborators like Hamilton and model ambassador Kaia Gerber, while Anderson talked through the collection of breathtaking, dramatic shapes that are meant to celebrate handicraft, many of the techniques being derived from Anderson's deep dive into traditional boning methods and using them out of context. "This is not the time to be bombastic, but to be sensitive," says Anderson. "Sometimes it's better to embrace a challenging time than to pretend it's not happening."
Roger Vivier: Usually known for his live, interaction presentations at "Hotel Vivier," complete with actors and themes for every room, creative director Gherardo Felloni had to make do with a digital experience this time, but managed to make it just as engaging with an interactive movie starring legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert. When asked why he chose her in an intimate Q&A session, Felloni said, "It's true I could have asked any Hollywood celebrity, but I think when you go digital, it's easy to lose yourself, and we are a French house, so we need to stay true to that." The "movie" sees Huppert move through different rooms, each themed after a movie genre, and audiences must answer a question correctly in order to move forward—and it's harder than it sounds. The collection itself blooms with 3D florals on the Miss Vivier shoulder bags and thong sandals alike. "I spent a lot of time in my garden during lockdown, finally able to appreciate spring in Paris because I'm usually working, so that's why there are so many flowers in this collection," he says.
Christian Louboutin: Louboutin partners with Zepeto for a virtual world where viewers could create their own avatars, dive into a digital rendition of Paris, go shopping in a Louboutin store (while looking at the new collection, of course) and even take selfies with their virtual friends and Christian himself! Leave it to the playful shoemaker to create a game appropriate for the times.
Matthew Williams' Debut For Givenchy
This season marks Matthew Williams' debut for the French Maison as creative director. Williams is co-founder of luxury streetwear brand 1017 ALYX 9SM, and he definitely brought his love of sparkle to Givenchy with plenty of hardware details, putting Givenchy's emblematic locks on belts, and metallic shapes of the logo dangling on sheer overlays. Sharp-shouldered caplets and devil-horned caps definitely brought a harsher edge to Claire Waight-Keller's previously more sensual take on the brand, and the these motifs continue through the accessories as the House's iconic bags are blown up and horns take the place of heels.
Williams might still be new to the traditional fashion houses—and his first-ever couture offering will surely be litmus test for his future success—but the 35-year-old designer actually found common ground with late founder Hubert Givenchy through the Maison's ties to Hollywood (most famously to Audrey Hepburn who served as his muse). The LA-native's formative fashion experience came through working with Kanye West and Lady Gaga.