In late February last year, Paris was quietly falling into the clutches of the coronavirus pandemic as packed runway shows took place at locations around the city during Paris Fashion Week. Event attendees joked uneasily about adopting the fashion cliché of air kissing, and applied extra lashings of hand sanitizer as they compared notes about who was being allowed back into the office or had been asked too quarantine at home “as a precautionary measure.” Despite it all, the event was largely uninterrupted and most attendees went about the business of fashion in what we now recognize as careless naivety.
A year on, and the event could not be more different. As is the norm across all the fashion weeks, the Paris shows were virtual, and international editors, journalists and buyers had to forgo their usual trip, watching the season’s latest presentations from home instead.
And while the 10-day schedule of mostly videos and live streams felt overwhelming — at times relentless — there were moments of ingenuity as a number of designers clearly hit their stride in the new digital fashion show space. Read on for highlights from Paris Fashion Week.
No travel? No problem
As a designer what do you do when your guests can’t travel to Paris to see your clothes? You bring the city to them, of course.
Dior presented its collection in a haunting fairytale-inspired fashion film shot inside the Palais de Versailles. Louis Vuitton unveiled new designs incorporating drawings by the irreverent Italian modernist Piero Fornasetti in the Michelangelo and Daru galleries within the Louvre.
The Louvre helped set the scene for the Louis Vuitton FW21 show. Credit: Grégoire Vieille
Chanel’s Virginie Viard pulled online viewers into the depths of legendary Parisian nightclub Castel. In an act that still feels painfully out of reach due to the pandemic, models ditched their coats at the door as they embarked on a night out, dressed to the nines in a number of sheer and slinky looks.
Christian Dior shot their FW21 film in the Hall of Mirrors inside Versailles. Credit: Adrien Dirand
Meanwhile, Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing staged his show of both menswear and womenswear on the wings of a grounded Air France plane (playful invitations were sent out to guests in the form of a fake passport, airline ticket and a neck cushion covered in the Balmain motif). The collection drew on the uniforms of pilots and astronauts with lace-up boots, bomber jackets and large parachute-inspired frocks.
Balmain’s new collection was inspired by the mind expanding power of travel. Credit: Balmain
Further afield, Miu Miu transported its digital audience to the mountains of Cortina d’Ampezzo in northern Italy, where a band of models wearing crochet balaclavas (also serving as face masks) and faux-fur boots cut lines through the endless white snowscape in a collection that blended padded outerwear with pretty lingerie.
Loewe’s custom-made newspaper included shots from the campaign and details of new collection. Credit: Loewe
Anderson’s generously proportioned collection features bright colors, geometric shapes and playful tassels. It’s clothing you’d expect to see at an art gallery opening or a design fair, which makes sense given Anderson’s unwavering appreciation for arts and crafts.
Jonathan Anderson’s collection for Loewe was all about catching the eye. Credit: Loewe
The return of joy
Fashion is often a reflection of the wider world, and so pandemic-driven upheaval, fear, and even that all-too-familiar mundanity have been the themes for a number of the collection stagings over the course of a difficult year. But this season hinted at a possible seachange; with intimations of hope, strength and even smatterings of joy all making an appearance.
Schiaparelli’s FW21 collection was an homage to the label’s surrealist roots. Credit: Schiaparelli
French designer Marine Serre launched a website dedicated to her new collection, with a series of short videos depicting light and familiar scenes. The collection, called “Core,” is made from an eclectic patchwork of textures and fabrics including deadstock leather, silks, denim and tartan, and the designer’s message was a celebration of family. Children play on the lawn in front of their apparent home; a young mother takes her baby outside for a walk, stopping to wave at her partner through the window; a father and daughter watch a sunset. Each moment planting fashion firmly in reality, or at least a version of it.