Continuing in a similar vein to what we saw in Milan, Paris Fashion Week’s Fall 2023 season sided with a more subdued, subtle aesthetic. Whether it’s a turn away from our post-pandemic love of maximalism or a reading of the room by brands reacting to a recession climate, there has been a return to simple craft, with the idea that luxury is to be found in elegant cuts and heritage textiles.
From the controversial return of Balenciaga to the fashion week circuit following its advertising campaign scandal to the sleek femininity (and incredible craftsmanship) on display at Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, to JW Anderson’s signature surrealism at Loewe, and some statement 80s power-suiting at Yves Saint Laurent, here are some of the highlights from the most recent Paris Fashion Week.
Following the controversial advertising campaigns that engulfed Balenciaga in scandal (and customer furore) late last year, the brand returned to the runway for the first time. In a bid to shift the narrative, the brand had made its intentions known before the show, with designer Demna unveiling his desire to move away from the viral fashion moments he had become so known for and to focus instead, on building a legacy of craft. (One of which Cristobal himself would be proud.) From the oversized black tailored looks that opened the show to the evolution of Demna’s renowned flower-printed knife dresses to the distinct absence of logos, this was a grown-up collection for a brand that has been forced to do a lot of growing up lately and marks a clear change of approach. The only question is whether it will be enough to draw consumers back.
There was an air of post-WWII austerity that permeated Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Fall 2023 collection for Christian Dior, where modest, almost sombre styles delivered a new season uniform. Anchored by three muses: Juliette Gréco, Edith Piaf and Monsieur Dior’s sister, Catherine, Grazia Chiuri capitalised on their feminist credentials to create looks that felt confident and deliberate. Here, notions of the past were recontextualised for the present where there was an easing and modernising of Dior’s signature templates, using purposefully imprecise fabric, for instance, to construct typically-sharp silhouettes. Everything felt light, practical and liberated from the bounds of sculptural structure. Of course, there were also a handful of fun accessories, made to look even better when layered.
Designer Matthew M. Williams tempered Parisian chic with his distinctive, American ‘cool’ to create a collection for Givenchy Fall 2023 that offered a new, elegant code. Here, the kinds of sleek, distinctly French silhouettes for which Hubert de Givenchy was so known are given a more casual edge, where comfortable-looking, floaty silhouettes came to the fore in evening wear that sat alongside a series of casual pieces, reimagined. And while there was beautiful leather tailoring and some incredibly impressive gowns that delivered the couture glamour befitting of this occasion, it was a collection that felt inherently wearable and versatile — clearly the buzzwords of the season.
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Again, the idea of couture classicism meeting something fresh was proliferated on the Loewe runway, where designer JW Anderson enthralled onlookers (and the Internet at large) with his surrealist, tongue-in-cheek designs. From his ‘ghost’ pieces (white duchess satin shifts over-printed with blurry images of various vintage garments) to his T-shirts and jeans festooned entirely in goose feathers to his strapless cocktail dresses that, at first glance looked normal, but on closer inspection were rigid and tubular, more like the sculptural interpretations of a dress, Anderson revisited an idea that clearly offers a wellspring of inspiration: what is real and what is fake? And while the trompe-l’œil pieces had everyone talking, the brilliance of Anderson is in the way that he can cohesively place these designs alongside ones that are uncomplicated and wearable. Another trend-defying triumph.
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Throwing a party in the Palais Royale to present her Fall 2023 collection, Isabel Marant gave onlookers a much-needed shot in the arm with a series of sexy, strong, feminine pieces that balanced super precise construction with undone ease (in the kind of cool girl way that only Marant knows how to do so well). Boxy jackets took centre stage, as did oversized parkas, boyish sweaters, signature heeled boots, sleek dresses and of course, a new jean shape that is destined to become an ‘it’ piece for the season ahead.
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Referencing ideas of ‘anatomy’ in humans, flowers and clothing itself, Sarah Burton created a Fall 2023 collection for Alexander McQueen that spoke, in a way, to the brand’s Savile Row beginnings. From Naomi Campbell’s opening look in an architectural, black corseted dress to a parade of dramatic, powerful tailoring, slashed fabrics, voluminous silhouettes, luminous metallic threads and bold florals and sequins, the collection saw Burton capturing the imagination of those at Paris Fashion Week by subverting the classic McQueen codes in the best way.
Anthony Vaccarello took things back to simple elegance in his Fall 2023 presentation at Paris Fashion Week for Saint Laurent. Creating looks anchored by exaggerated, statement-making shoulders, precise tailoring and 80s silhouettes, and brought to life by a range of sumptuous, heritage, menswear fabrics (from tweed to luxurious velvet) it was a study in how to reimagine more traditional, historical shapes for women today. (The fact that we wanted to don a skirt suit immediately after the show is a testament to that.) From the sharp shoulders to the softer notes of simple cotton singlets, silk blouses with neckties that flitted loosely around the models’ necks and elevated cashmere leggings, Vaccarello’s collection was quieter and more refined, in many ways, than his usual penchant for drama, and pulled our focus back to thoughtful, considered craft.
For Fall 2023, Nicholas Ghesquière started with the question: What is French style? It was a jumping-off point that led the designer to create a collection that felt more down-to-earth than his usual spectacle, with a focus on soft, easy silhouettes that masked the incredible level of detail and craftsmanship that had gone into their creation. After all, isn’t French style all about effortless elegance? (Or, elegance that appears to be effortless, at least.) There were chunky blazers, oversize pinstripes, long-tailored coats and pants in balloon-like shapes. Here, quiet luxury won out, offering a collection that felt timeless, but was firmly grounded in the now.