Lockdown notwithstanding, Wednesday was a very busy multinational day in Paris Fashion Week, with the season’s key debut, the first collection by Gabriela Hearst for the house of Chloé.
Hearst took her video show back to Chloé’s birthplace, shooting her collection at night in Saint-Germain, Paris, and putting it online at 1 p.m. Shortly before, a mile away on Ile de la Cité, down the block from the office of fictional French detective Maigret, senior editors were given private briefings of the latest ides from Guillaume Henry at Patou.
This Paris Fashion Week, the sixth since lockdown began – including menswear, couture and women’s wear – featured Fall/Winter 2021 collections, ranging geographically from Acne, Sweden’s most famous runway fashion label, to South Africa’s Thebe Magugu, with an almost hallucinatory mini-feature.
But the most attention was definitely on Chloé, the largest fashion house within the Richemont luxury group, where the choice of Hearst is seen as proof of the conglomerate’s renewed commitment to its fashion brands. After naming Philippe Fortunato last June as the new CEO for its fashion division, Richemont have launched Alber Elbaz’s fashion house AZ Factory, and named a successor to Azzedine Alaïa, Pieter Mulier.
Hearst arrived in Paris with the weight of expectation, especially after a first-rate show video for her own eponymous label 12 days ago on the banks of the East River in New York, in the midst of the North American ice storm. With another cold front about to hit Western Europe this weekend, this Chloé collection looked very timely.
Shot at night on the cobblestoned streets of Paris, the new Chloé gals opened the action by exiting the Left Bank’s most famous restaurant, Brasserie Lipp, and then strolling past the medieval church of Saint-Germain. A clever reference to Chloé founder Gaby Aghion, who showed her earliest collections in Saint-Germain cafés to friends and famous. From Gaby to Gabi, hence.
Marching on platforms or wedge boots and attired in fringed ponchos finished with padded puffer necklets and worn with matching carpet bags. Followed by some curly-haired ladies in big bold striped recycled cashmere sack-dresses with matching frayed shoulder bags, made of low-impact environmentally friendly materials.
More than half the collection was made up of coats – from intreccio leather looks to shearling cape coat with front zips to her finale, a patchwork leaf-shaped leather coat, like a badass gal from a Blaxploitation film; Pam Grier in Paris. Hearst also came up with some enticing bags – rope lace-up handbags and fab woven leather totes, riffing on archive bags.
Enveloping and protective and all very plausible, but perhaps a tad too similar to Hearst’s own Uruguayan hipster in Manhattan aesthetic in her own label. There were even long flared gaucho-girl skirts, something we’ve seen before from Gabriela in New York.
That said, this was a strong collection, granting a sense of poise and composure to the cast, as they strolled past La Société restaurant, the power fashionista’s canteen of Saint-Germain. Plus, Hearst did take plenty of risks – notably the huge patchwork parkas with mixes of corduroy sleeves; kicking fabric; mega stripes and painterly images – several coming with complimenting backpacks.
Before the statuesque Hearst took her own bow in a patchwork and crochet coat, after an accomplished debut.
“We’ve all traversed a très long and très dark period of lockdown, so I wanted joy and something blooming,” explained Guillaume Henry as he unveiled his latest collection for the house of Patou.
Presented at Patou’s charming headquarters on the Quai du Marché Neuf in Paris, it featured fantasist and flamboyant voluminous blouses and coats; where multiple garments were layered onto stockmen. Even if the individual pieces can easily be worn with jeans.
Inspired by a photo of several Patou hot-colored dresses back 1972, when Michel Goma was the house’s designer. Henry even met the 90-year-old creator last week.
Emphasizing the house’s no waste policy, cuffs came in faille made from recycled polyester or poplin; while mustard yellow coats with patch pockets were made of recycled cashmere. Each room featuring different colors – red, yellow, blue and violet – the latter standing before a great view of the Seine.
Floral metal earrings and necklaces enhanced the overall look, which managed to be grand as a musketeer on parade, yet also work as clever, polished elements in a modern wardrobe.
Jonny Johansson does not get enough respect. For the past several years he has been producing pathbreaking collections for Acne, and staging provocative and punchy shows. If he had staged those shows for a storied houses in Paris or Milan, he would have won numerous awards. Instead he designs for Acne, and has impressively elevated its reputation, so the brand fits comfortably on to the Paris Fashion Week calendar. Yet the recognition he merits still somehow escapes him.
Case in point this Fall/Winter 2021 collection, shot as scratchy downtown 1980s video in a mock factory; with young models recounting their name and country before the appearing inside an abandoned art gallery, mimicking the broken pattern floral invitation Acne sent to editors; seen in the striking opening dressing gown/coat.
Johansson loves dollops of panache – like the fab pink felt knit pantsuit that one model looked like she was sewn into; or a divinely voluminous terylene gallery opening dress; or the fantastically rouched semi-sheer cashmere school marm dresses.
His fold-over ribbed knit to-the-ankle skirts and sculped over-dried wool tops and excellent leather spy coat, which looked like someone had shorn the lapels with scissors, worn over pony-skin boots were all worthy of applause. An audience-free show that cried out for a standing ovation.
What guy, or girl, wouldn’t want to date gals in this collection?
For his latest collection, Thebe presented a video entitled ‘Ultimate Midnite Angels,’ which began with a baptism in a sunset lake, and continued with a quintet of gangster goddesses marching Seventh Seal-style along a plateau. Not that it was all sweetness and light, seeing as half the cast wielded machetes.
Next, two of the gals – dressed in polka-dot dresses, stovepipe hats and baseball bats – chained a distressed victim in a pink pantsuit to a chair, leaving her with a bloodied broken nose. All speaking a local language with English subtitles. Before a rival gang appeared – the Midnight Cutters – another quintet in oversized orange nylon trenches and pill box hats. Glauber Rocha in the Veld.
“Eat shit and die, trash… “ yells one, as the Midnight Cutters strip down to some ’60s-style body-con cocktails with fringes and begin a proper rumble in a local desert.
Before it all changes gear and setting, and two female models in blotch prints looks throw down their weapons and start kissing passionately along the banks of a river.
Images of shamans, priestesses and hipster college kids all blend together in a film which Magugu termed “a visceral story of African spirituality.” He even had the chutzpah to inject a little provocation – black nuns with white-painted faces, led by a machete-swinging reverend mother in a great white pantsuit.
This LVMH Prize-winner has one of the most fertile minds in fashion and someone should really give him a proper Paris fashion house to revive. But if that means he doesn’t have time to make riotous fashion flicks like this, then maybe not.