Usually, there is a cocktail of ingredients that helps a real-life show sing, especially in paris. the eiffel tower might be twinkling in the night sky, the venue gently perfumed, the models mesmerising and the music transportive.
Without all that, its harder to stir your audience. this season, like most of the british fashion press, i was at home in london reviewing collections on my computer while the fts paris correspondent leila abboud, armed with a mask and hand sanitiser, attended a handful of real shows. inspiring an audience divided across channels and time zones posed a real challenge for the 84 brands on this weeks show schedule, about half of whom are debuting their collections solely online.
Many of those online experiences were unmemorable. but lvmh prize-winner marine serre, who describes her fashion as eco-futurist, made a short film that blew my socks (and slippers) off. last season, serres masks and balaclavas, shown just as italy went into lockdown, chimed eerily with the zeitgeist. the mood for ss21 was similarly relevant to the multiple crises facing the world.
The video begins with a person of indeterminate gender lying on a tabletop in a laboratory. the figure is surrounded by models in moon-weave jacquard tailored separates and black, multi-pocket utilitarian garments made from biodegradable nylon and recycled moir. they examine her like scientists analysing an alien. the characters then move to a dusty, overheated-looking planet it could be earth where models wear desert-storm-style hats made from upcycled carpet in terracotta shades.
Finally, we cut to an underwater world where the characters sport blue, trippy-print jersey bodysuits and face masks made with vintage embroidery. (serre wasnt the only designer in sci-fi mood: later in the week, rick owens put forward a kinkier twist on the genre with leather thigh boots, hot pants, visors and masks.)
A show is difficult; you have 10 minutes to prove the work of six months. its really intense, its only for 500 people and not everyone can travel there, says serre, whose crescent-print bodysuits have been worn by beyonc and adele. i thought things would be different for some time and in a way thats for the good.
Serre is environmentally conscious, and one of several young designers using recycled, upcycled and deadstock textiles in her spring/summer collection. she also thinks deeply about their function. i try, on every garment that i make, to think what utility will this bring to my life, because its one more garment on the planet, she says.
Diors maria grazia chiuri was also thinking about how clothes feel on the body, and what we need from them this season. our style of life is completely different, she said in a zoom interview before the show, which was held in a custom-built space in the tuileries. its a more intimate relationship with clothes now that we dont see so many people. we want something more comfortable.
Revisiting a 1957 collection that christian dior had made for the japanese market, chiuri turned out soft, kimono-like jackets in paisley, denim and tie-dye, ankle-length or to the thigh, worn open or with a thin leather belt. fluid chiffon dresses came in muted shades of china blue and leaf green, while cropped trousers and tunics had an arty, bohemian look. lvmh does not break down figures for dior, but said in july that the brand had showed remarkable resistance in the first half of 2020. these chic but easy silhouettes should continue that trajectory.
Chlos natacha ramsay-levi also staged a physical event, with models wandering along parisian streets before converging on the steps of the palais de tokyo for an outdoor show.
The clothes were fluid and feminine with some more boyish touches. silk dresses and camisole tops came with fine strips of valenciennes lacework, in lilac, candyfloss pink and buttermilk or spriggy florals. high-waisted trousers were paired with floral shirts, an antique rose blazer was slung over a pleated peach skirt. ramsay-levi also made a case for the wide belt, which models wore over tunic tops with appliqu art nouveau florals.
[they] are very simple, very pragmatic, its a dress, a shirt, pants, theres no crazy volumes, ramsay-levi says of the collection. they are about a simple attitude and clothes that you can grab easily.
While chlo rejected crazy volumes for wearability, loewe designer jonathan anderson embraced what he called inflated volumes via sculptural sleeves and skirts, puffball cuffs and crinolines made of leftover fabric. think balloon animals in fabric form. perhaps a little unsuitable for our newly scaled-down lives, but anderson decided this was a moment to celebrate creativity.
I want it to be fashion, i wanted everyone in my design team who is struggling through this to make clothes that excite them. i was not worried about the end result in terms of selling, he says. that is a luxury loewe can likely afford, being part of the solvent lvmh stable, but he adds that: in china we are seeing people buying show looks...they want to own the iconography.
Anderson decided during lockdown not to have a physical show. instead, he sent everyone who would normally be there a show on the wall kit containing wallpaper designed by artist anthea hamilton, scissors and posters. i admit i was slightly stumped by it, but it seems that others have more creativity and have already wallpapered rooms and posted the results on instagram.
There is nothing better than a show, its a performance, but does it feel right for this moment? i really dont think so, he continues. we are in this transient moment...why not think about how to do it differently?