Paris Fashion Week AW 2018

This season's catwalks were tinged with nostalgia as well as offering practical, wearable pieces for sophisticated women


Contemporary, intersectional feminism that considers not only sexism, but also racism and transphobia is front and centre on news agendas. The #MeToo movement has made it possible for diverse women to speak out in unprecedented numbers. As Jo Ellison at the FT notes, that Maria Grazia Chiuri – as the first woman designer at Dior – "has alighted on an all-encompassing feminist narrative to underpin her tenure is no wonder". However she looked to past movements for her latest offering, heavy on fringing, patchwork and 1960s rose-tinted spectacles. "This is a time of change and Ms Chiuri has that right," muses Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times. "But do the change agents of today really want to wear the garb of yesterday, no matter how gorgeously redone? Don't they deserve a, well, new look?" Regardless, the new 'D' buckle belts and J'adior merch aplenty are sure to quench its young fans' thirst for branded accessories.

(Image credit: Monica Feudi)


Balenciaga was sloganeering too – designer Demna Gvasalia has collaborated with the World Food Programme for AW 2018. The brand has made a significant donation to the cause, and will give a percentage of profits from the collection too – giving substance to its flag-waving printed sweatshirts. Visually, all the Gvasalia cues were there: flea-market-look shirts and sweats, extreme layering, exploring social types through dress. The Balenciaga silhouette of oversize hips was sculpted into jackets with high-tech fabrication too. For Jessica Iredale at WWD, "Finding his comfort zone yielded a very strong collection, one that kept apace the staggering momentum Gvasalia has swiftly delivered to Balenciaga, yet also had an air of steadiness."

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Anthony Vaccarello at Yves Saint Laurent had critics shuddering on one of the coldest nights of the year. In the grip of the "Beast from the East" the designer sent out a show of ultra-mini leather skirts, micro shorts, sheer blouses and jackets surely aimed at moneyed millennials. However, while Vaccarello's collection did not wear its inclusivity on its (oversize, 1980s cocktail) sleeve, many critics, such as Sarah Mower at observe that, "whisper it: among all those jackets, tops, and lean coats lies a plethora of choice for older sophisticates."

Yves Saint Laurent

Another designer who tapped into the 80s – though less flagrantly – was Clare Waight Keller, in her second season at Givenchy, who built her collection around Berlin's hedonistic club scene from the period. For Friedman, "It took her to kind of a dark place, one filled with oversize fake furs and jutting New Wave shoulders; leather Star Trek-like tops and pleated leather pants; asymmetric oil-slick silk skirts; big in-your-face bows on black tie separates and swinging silver fringe".

A recent hire who fared well this season was Natacha Ramsay-Levi at Chloe, whose re-envisioning of the house, strong on accessories and wearability, and embodying the DNA well, has won widespread praise. This collection continued that trend. Ellison at the FT comments, "Ramsay-Levi has done a good job in identifying a market for women searching for wearable clothes with a soupcon of cool. And she has quickly defined her point of view. Her clothes have echoes of her work for Louis Vuitton, where she worked previously, but already her Chloe is stamped with a distinctive signature." A question hangs over the hiked-up prices – though the scarcity of the current season's key pieces indicates consumers are keen.

The set for Karl Lagerfeld's autumn forest hymnal shared a palette with Ramsay-Levi – the audience was immersed in the soft browns of decaying leaves. Mower paints the picture, "As the lines of girls began treading purposefully through the moss-strewn glade, the first long, slim black coats struck a quintessentially Lagerfeldian note: the attenuated Edwardiana silhouette that has reflexively dashed off his pen for decades". But Lagerfeld kept it current too, by "tuning into the current puffer trend, then serving up several versions for the young, rich, and today".

Louis Vuitton

The final show of the season was that royalty of Parisian brands, Louis Vuitton, designed by Nicolas Ghesquiere. In the wake of a lavish Elysee Palace dinner (love-in) with the president of France Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, the fashion crowd was feeling receptive to Ghesquiere's high-tech French chic. Nicole Phelps at said: "Fluid, snap-front shirtdresses, for example were spliced above the shoulders with that striped spaceship uniform. The high-tech wizardry notwithstanding, the lasting impression was this collection's chic wearability." Skirt lengths that professional women will thank him for, in houndstooth and grey tweeds made for easy-to-buy pieces. For Phelps, Ghesquiere made sure that, "there was plenty here for the fashion-loving, jacket-wearing French First Lady to like. It felt like a fitting way to end a season that has been much about representations of women, and how designers should dress us now".

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