The slogan sweater that opened the Christian Dior show proclaiming “C’est Non Non et Non” was a reference to the 50th anniversary this year of the student protests in Paris in 1968 initiating a social revolution that changed France. But it could easily be a comment on what is happening today with the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns.
Paris Fashion Week was held in the lead-up to International Women’s Day on March 8 and was punctuated in the middle by the Oscars in Hollywood, where Frances McDormand (who was named best actress) asked all female nominees at the awards to stand up “because we all have stories to tell”. Back in Paris, Miu Miu’s 1950s and 60s rockabilly-inspired collection by Miuccia Prada was also a timely reminder of what we have gained in recent decades — careers and some measure of independence.
The centenary of women’s suffrage in Britain similarly has helped put feminism on the front page. It is an issue that underpins Maria Grazia Chiuri’s work at Dior and Miuccia Prada’s politics, expressed in CND logo sweaters, check kilts, black leather, shearling and patchwork jackets at Dior and the PVC jackets, bustier dresses, mohair sweaters and bobbysox of rebellious teenagers at Miu Miu.
Sonia Rykiel founded her fashion label in 1968 at the time of those student riots, and there were many references to that period in Julie de Libran’s anniversary collection for the label, with striped sweater dresses, long scarfs and black leather minis and biker jackets, but all modelled with a joyous, bubbly attitude. For the generation of women who came of age during that period, Rykiel symbolised a new era of freedom.
Asked if the feminist movement has influenced him, Martin Grant says it has always been present in his collections. “I know many strong women and it’s always about them,” he says.
This is why he makes a point of not imposing one seamless theme on each of his collections but designs each piece with its own personality to appeal to the different moods of his clients. So there are pops of bright yellow for relaxed tailoring, a gold-flecked tweed pants suit, black sheaths and loose Lurex chiffon dresses.
Strong women are on Toni Maticevski’s radar as well. “My clothes are about making a statement,” he says of his dramatic sculpted eveningwear in spongy sports mesh fabrics. “You can’t be shy wearing these pieces,” he explains. “It’s about how you wear them.”
Feminism is not only driving change in attitudes, it provides another subtext to many collections, that of a more modest and covered-up look. Longer sleeves and skirts, higher necklines and even hoods (check the exquisite applique hooded capes at Valentino) made the sexy, super-short Saint Laurent collection look out of kilter. Black leather, traditional power dressing armoury, is a key trend in Paris, but in the hands of Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski at Hermes and Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy, the leather becomes loose-cut dresses and trenches with softened shoulder lines, rather than laser-sharp power dressing.
The leather and trouser suit tailoring at Alexander McQueen, however, was tautly fitted, but this was a collection about extreme nature and metamorphosis, so the black leather of softly armoured beetles unpeeled to reveal fringes, drapes and prints of butterfly and moth wings on dresses.
Nature played a leading role this season, with both Chanel and Hermes creating woodland settings for their catwalks. Karl Lagerfeld took inspiration from the carpet of fallen leaves, reproducing their bronze and golden colours and printed patterns on dresses, or as embellishment on long tweed coats. Chanel’s long, narrow Edwardian silhouette was anchored with brogues and strangely tasteful gold thigh boots, while long black lace dresses were teamed with brightly coloured opera gloves.
The modest silhouette was echoed by Giambattista Valli in his long, darkly printed Victoriana dresses together with maxi coats or leather and denim pieces that suggested a shift away from his traditionally sweet, romantic standpoint, and a nod to real women’s lives.
In fact, there was a greater sense of realism on many of the catwalks. At Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquiere’s look was quintessentially French, almost bourgeois, with knee-length skirt suits in glossy leather, tweeds and checked wool, yoked blouses and fluid silk shirtdresses. This from a designer who has been known to mix sci-fi with high fashion, but he left the futurism to the spaceship catwalk set up in a courtyard at the Louvre.
The understated aesthetic at Akris is perfectly pitched for the working woman’s wardrobe. The references to Viennese artists Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt that inspired designer Albert Kriemler were stripped back to subtle details like gold flecks in a black pants suit and square patterned Swiss lace like the micro-mosaic of a Klimt painting.
There were Klimtian gilded touches to Yiqing Yin’s debut collection for Poiret, another haute couture name to be revived, albeit 90 years after the original business went into bankruptcy.
Paul Poiret (a Klimt contemporary) was famed for his oriental inspiration and Yin’s dramatic gold-flecked cocoon coats and kimono wrap dresses are among the most desirable on the catwalk this season.
Equally desirable, but functional rather than decorative, were Sacai’s hybrid jackets that pick up on the season’s trend for classic masculine fabrics and the popularity of the puffer silhouettes (which she actually helped kick-start).
This entailed quilted half jackets patched together with striped school blazers and tweed jackets, or half a check coat to a boldly striped one.
It sounds complicated but was impressive and gives another point of view to women’s fashion for next season — the mix of modernity and tradition, of power and of softness.Read more at:mermaid wedding dresses | casual wedding dresses