Paris Fashion Week: The best bits

As the curtain falls on yet another fashion month, we look back on the moments that made Paris Fashion Week the best finale the season could have asked for…

WHAT: Balenciaga SS23

WHERE: Parc des Expositions de Villepinte 

THE VIBE: Mud splattered self-expression 

Balenciaga SS23 was always going to be one of the most talked about presentations of fashion month, and Demna’s latest contribution to the Spanish brand did not disappoint. As journalists, guests and celebs like Kylie Jenner, Charli XCX and Doja Cat, shuffled cautiously around a vast, 20ft deep mud pit, which many have described to emulate a mass grave, the only insight the designer gave of the show was his desire to not let anyone put himself or the brand insight a box, to “make love not war” and to “let everyone be anyone”. 

It was a sentiment that was felt throughout the show. From the bold, monochrome designs that saw Kanye West (before the social media torrent that ensued after his surprise YZY show in Paris) wearing a full tactical vest security rig and a Balenciaga mouthguard, to Bella Hadid’s understated statement of an oversized hoodie and pierced forehead – the vision covered a lot of ground. There were Balenciaga Lays crisp bags, Reborn babies strapped to chests in their carriers, glittery dresses that pooled at the feet and were dragged through the sloshing mud, starry platforms, as well as a Le Cagole dress that has morphed through the seasons from bags to boots to full blown Matrix trench. But in particular, the call for the world to embrace individuality and the “unsung weirdos” (as Alexis Stone explains in her interview with HUNGER) came in the makeup, prosthetics and piercings adorned onto the models faces, which endeavoured to celebrate the uniqueness of each of the cast and tap into their individual stories of existing beyond what society deems as “normal”. 

The show, of course, felt very ‘Balenciaga’ – much the same, but through their trademark sense of keeping people keen. The forays into male corsetry were a start but not exactly mind blowing, and it feels that, in retrospect, it was only cool to have Kanye in the show for about a day, until the social media storm came. But the production in its entirety makes the Balenciaga SS23 show one of the presentations of the season, and its subtle hints at looming societal annihilation keeps us pensive… until next time!

WHAT: Vivienne Westwood SS23

WHERE: La Gaîté Lyrique

THE VIBE: Renaissance 

It becomes difficult to talk about a collection when the brand’s designer finds it difficult too. Andreas Kronthaler, who came out after the show to personally hand front-row Doja Cat a bouquet of flowers, had said that even he couldn’t quite explain to Vivienne Westwood some of the reasoning behind the show, and why he wanted to present in Paris. But what we do know is that the show was inspired by the Renaissance, essences of countryside punk (a bit like that butter advert Johnny Rotten is in), and the poetry of John Donne. 

After attendees had squeezed their way through the bulging crowd of young Parisians wanting to catch a glimpse of the likes of Doja Cat, Evan Mock and Bella Hadid, the setting took up an entire theatre, with seats pushed right back to the wall, and a platform in the middle that gave off triggering reminders of make-shift and minimal school plays. But what ensued was far from a shaky modern adaptation of Twelfth Night. 

As models hobbled up onto the stage in skyscraper platform boots (one even took an unfortunate tumble), we saw jockstraps and cinched pants hoisting up any crotch action. It was sexy and homoerotic. But there was also Bella Hadid in a coat that doubled up as a mini dress, as well as corsets, and ripped t-shirts that were either designed for the show or taken straight out of Kronthaler’s own wardrobe. Even though most of the show was spent biting nails and hoping another model doesn’t give into their impractical footwear and precarious descent off of the platform, the show brought beloved Vivienne Westwood, British staples to the Parisian arena. 

WHAT: Akris 100 Years

WHERE: Palais de Tokyo

THE VIBE: Celebrating a century

There were some moments during this season’s Paris Fashion Week that felt like a moment. And even if Akris’ offering to the season wasn’t necessarily as experimental as we had seen in other places, it delivered on celebrating everything that it has done best for the past 100 years. 

Using the iconic showspace of the forecourt and fountains at the Palais de Tokyo, models slinked around the water underneath a rainbow that read “We Are Poems”. Umbrellas stamped with multicoloured hearts and “100 Years” prints could be found on everyone’s seats. But in line with what designer Albert Kriemler wanted to achieve with the show, there was no rain in sight, and even the sun started to set behind the Eiffel Tower. 

However, maybe Kriemler was hoping for rain, or rather, hoping for the shimmering moments after the rain has fallen. Rainbow colours were at the heart of the joyful occasion, with chiffon dresses in various colours reflecting off of the pools, in between offerings from the brand’s extensive archive. There was the 1993 Gabardine wool suit and 1978 cashmere coats, all reminders of the brand’s century of meticulous design with a particular focus on the quality of the fabrics used and made very much with the wearer and wearability in mind. 

WHAT: Givenchy SS23

WHERE: Jardin des Plantes

THE VIBE: Williams vs wet weather

If any show during PFW could have done with umbrellas laid out on the seats, it was Givenchy SS23. After the heavens had well and truly opened, leaving team members scrambling to wipe off the water-logged seats using little more than tiny square napkins, the Givenchy SS23 show was a display of a new era for designer Matthew M Williams. 

There were dark clouds at the start of the show, and lingering mentions of a brand that had lost its way in some senses, but it didn’t take long for MMW to shake up those expectations, displaying a collection that had its toes dipped in lots of pools of inspiration; spanning from  reworked archival red dresses to more street style type denim and silhouettes that the likes of Gigi Hadid sported down the runway to the tune of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’ – the kind of song you put on at a party because a) you don’t know much music or b) you know everyone will enjoy it. 

Whilst at times the show may have felt slightly mismatched in terms of design and narrative, what became clear was Williams’ reach and ability to transform varying influences into enviable items. Most notably, his LA background has fired the starting gun on making shorts that finish just below the knee cool – for the first time ever – as well as the gloved, tight ruffle dresses that cut distinguishable and memorable silhouettes into the backdrop of a soggy Paris. 

WHAT: Miu Miu SS23

WHERE: Palais d’Iéna, Paris

THE VIBE: Barely-there performance wear

Last year’s collections saw Miu Miu go viral on TikTok for their introduction to ‘balletcore’, setting the standard for hitch-hemlined elegance. This year didn’t disappoint. The brand has matured to what is being called ‘performcore’, where the runway revelled in its layered looks and earthy tones. In collaboration with artist Shuang Li, the show hailed the soundscape of Eli Osheyack. The cast included Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajowski, Ethel Cain, and FKA Twigs who closed the show in a white shirt, navy cable knit sweater and black miniskirt with exaggerated pockets.

Miuccia Prada layered silks, cottons and cashmeres on previously seen clean classics, sticking to what she knows. But for SS23, Prada underscored that this collection would be “transgressing boundaries between decoration and function.” In doing so, the designer introduced utility pocket details on shirts, coats, tailored jackets and sweaters – emulating more the Dior SS23 iteration of utility luxury rather than Balenciaga’s full security rig jackets. 

The slate was wiped clean with SS23-ready tones. In many ways, what was sent down the runway was expected from the brand, especially after the continued rollout of their hit (very) mini skirts. Indeed, as we’ve seen, the brand has all the means to single-handedly create a cultural renaissance. Though the cuts and garments are undeniably soothing and satisfying, and perfectly cater to their audience, Prada is widening her scope to how “the use of fashion is not only physical but psychological”. If the brand delves into this wholeheartedly, we may see Miu Miu put their best ballet slipper forward and cross boundaries into something new.

WHAT: Rick Owens SS23

WHERE: The fountains of the Palais de Tokyo, Paris

THE VIBE: I went to Egypt and all I got was miles of recycled tulle…

Rick Owens’ flare for the apocalyptic strikes again. Inspired by a trip to Egypt, Owens has named his collection ‘Edfu’, after a temple on the bank of the Nile. Awed by the greatness he encountered on his travels around the country, this collection sits uncomfortably in a pool of fear for the state of the world.

He found a sense of emotion in the remoteness of Egypt, and this is translated throughout the garments. As white smoke engulfed the audience, the pieces this season felt different. We saw armoured structures like that of a beetle with exaggerated shoulders, colours of iridescent yellows and bright pink, and gigantic tulle dresses layered in pyramids of fabric. We still see staples from the zip-up bomber to the platform boots, but feeling particularly politically driven, this show takes a refreshingly sustainable approach, to align with the fear of demise of the world. Hundreds of yards of tulle is recycled, and organic cotton and woven fabric is introduced in an effort to do better for the bigger picture.

The brand is confident in catering to its diehard fan base and unwavering sense of ‘otherness’, and the dystopian setting did just that. However, it was not just the loyal followers of Owens’ in the audience, as the brand is beginning to get recognition from those not just in-the-know, with his recent red-carpet work on the likes of Zendaya gaining traction for perhaps a more mainstream road. But for now, the road is still exclusively deserted for Rick Owens to trailblaze, as his own world of organic tumbleweed and studded leather cacti sit strong at Paris Fashion Week.

WHAT: Heliot Emil SS23

WHERE: A 4,000 sqm four-story warehouse in Paris

THE VIBE: The future looks grey… but kind of sexy

Julius and Victor Juul went hard for their show in Paris; sexy cutouts and a minimal chrome twist tops rendered the pieces almost BDSM-like, as though they were sending looks down the runway to challenge notions of traditional binary dress. The army of models were poised to deconstruct stereotypes, breaking into an empty 4,000 sqm room.

The collection was utilitarian and futuristic, catering to form and function. Named ‘Primal Substance’, the idea behind the pieces were elemental as they created heat reactive and water resistant material, earth-contoured seams and fabric that inflates like air in a wind tunnel. The whole show grew from the inspiration of artist Bill Voilar, whose instalment ‘Martyrs’ challenged physical onslaught from fire, water, earth and wind. With this survival style approach, the pieces translate the ideal clubwear, with silhouettes that ranged from a tailored look to body-contouring to oversized duvet-like puffers.

The collection introduced the new scent from the brand, ‘DAWN 2.0’, in collaboration with Haisam Mohammed from Unifrom. Models were doused in the fragrance and carried it in leather string-tie pouches. There was also a collaboration with Alpinestars, who created Formula One getup, and brought the likes of metal hardware to seductive soft cutouts and exposed torsos. Strapped up and ready for action, Julius and Victor Juul are here to come forward and serve for their home brand, and look ready to fight for the future of technological fashion the industry is heading towards.

WHAT: Issey Miyake SS23

WHERE: Paris Event Centre

THE VIBE: In honour of sheer pleated innovation

After the passing of Issey Miyake in August this year, the brand expectedly dedicated the collection to the revolutionary work of the late artist. Miyake was known for his jellyfish-like dresses; lung-emulating breathing sleeves; floating dresses that fall from the sky; and most of all his pleats. House designer Satoshi Kondo led us into the world of Miyake; a world of material playful with movement and spirit. Titled ‘A form that breathes’, the runway was dedicated to bringing true curiosity and a level of innovation to fashion that brought the pieces to life. 

Oceanic structures and angular lines that mirrored that of tailoring meant the architectural influence reigned strong throughout. Jersey dresses and a-line skirts were followed by elements of suits and reimagined blazers. Building on his legacy, there were heaps of pleated fabrics in soft palettes displaying the signature movement that was central to the work of Miyake. It was only natural for pools of pleats to have fallen onto the runway and into the pieces. Audiences were hushed in an emotional journey towards a new era for the brand with the leadership of Kondo.

The narrative of the show began with projected images of Issey Miyake, and ended with a dance performance. Songbird transcended into a heavier string of music by the pianist, and the models were replaced with dancers who left the runway on an emotional yet empowering note. It was a beautiful tribute to the legacy of the late creative, and a welcome to the new designer filling the position left behind, who looks promisingly set to bring as much joy and pure wonder as the late and great Issey Miyake.

WHAT: Enfants Riches Deprimés SS23

WHERE: Lycée Henri IV

THE VIBE: Fully functioning figments of the imagination

Henry Levy brought ostentatious and arty to his runway, designing to impress his loyal fashion following with exactly what they wanted to see. Starting as a designer selling luxury tees, his dedication to a particular chic style protrudes through in all of the designs. This collection began as a character study, and developed into a series of looks inspired by the spirits of creatives. 

With an apt namesake, the looks cater to his young affluent audience of followers. As guests lined the vast walls of the library of the Lycée, perching awkwardly on white, clinical beds, what was immediately apparent was the exceptional styling in weaving details of punk youth into an unwavering sense of well-to-do-ness. Knee high boots and leather jackets met tailoring and ties, and in that, the characters had arrived. Graphic tees were back again, this time with the likes of an image of Mao Zedong and a slogan underneath. Opinions may divide over the politics of his slogan tees but ultimately, he knows what works in gaining a reaction and reworks to see fit, even if the message of the communist political leader appears lost amongst one of the West’s most capitalist luxury events. 

The perfect chaos of messy cutouts and clean lines left clothes tattered and models embodying their roles whether they wanted to or not. Fictional yet functional, the pieces remain strong in their storyline of the brands DNA. It’s almost as if the sweat from the designer’s brow was falling onto the jackets, as the hard work that goes into the seemingly effortless artists’ pieces is evident in the details of the well-executed designs. Chaos and creation; Levy knows the brand and impresses his audience time and time again with what they want to see. 

WritersRy Gavin & Ella Chadwick