Paris is buttoned up. You can barely walk into a place without having to cross at least three check points; this is true at the shows and inside shops — bag check, pocket check, and do you look like you might be carrying a suspicious weapon? It’s a constant reminder that beneath the surface of a city that does not fail to floor me with its spectacularly romantic structures no matter how many times I’ve been here, there lies a dark underbelly.
So maybe that’s what Dries Van Noten had in mind — yesterday’s collection was no doubt dark. But that didn’t make it sinister. On the contrary, the equation that Dries Van Noten has cracked — that is, if you make good clothes, you don’t have to keep reinventing yourself; just surprise your consumer with a splash of the peculiar so that they think they’re getting something different and watch the clout grow — has set him up to narrate beyond just what happens on the runway. And the reliability of this collection: Robes! Pajamas! Huge pants! Unshapely dresses and the omnipresent peplum force it to feel familiar. Like the fears we try to suppress. But there’s hope embedded in the splash of the peculiar — net armor rendered entirely in pearl, faux fur collars attached to larger-than-life leopard print coats and a pair of meme-printed pants I’d have never understood out of context. This is what keeps us from paralysis.
Fashion, in my opinion, has a moral obligation to do that — not ignore the world, but to save us from it.
John Galliano, now in his 8th womenswear collection for Maison Margiela, gets this. Often it takes becoming the thing you’re trying to save yourself from to recover, but the recovery is finally starting to look great. Galliano is the rare designer, a name brand in his own right who has proven he can take his DNA and implant it anywhere. Yes, there are traits that make Margiela, Margiela: I’m thinking particularly of one top — a polo — worn not as a shirt but simply as a bib on the penultimate look. But beyond the deconstructed, reconstructed, unobstructed, there is Galliano in huge white lacquer belt buckles, theatrical make up, the metallic details, long arm gloves and various forms of wool plaid. You almost get the sense that these clothes were broken apart to gain experience and come back together new as complicated, wonderful beings. A jacket isn’t just a jacket, it’s a tutu. A knit isn’t just a knit, it’s a prom press; we can’t stay one way forever. That doesn’t work.
For now, though, we will have no problem taking a third pass at a Rochas platform. They’re smart in satin and bright colors, worn with thigh-high knit socks in contrasting colors. So festive you almost forget about the clothes, which, by the way, were just caffeinated enough to provide that dose of energetic delight that follows a groggy morning (or hail storm, like we saw yesterday in Paris). Many of the tea dresses and shin-length skirts spoke to fashion’s new kind of eccentric woman. This was true of the brocade pants coupled with velvet button down shirts and knit turtlenecks as well. I thought about Vetements and Nina Ricci by Guillaume Henry through some of the full sequin numbers but mostly just basked in the satisfaction of what it means to be here, in France, among new ideas being injected into our universe where purpose is being questioned and reality has felt far too tactile. They sprinkle hope over tender wounds.
Photographs via Vogue Runway.