I remember having a conversation with Business of Fashion’s Imran Amed several seasons ago outside the Hotel Meurice on Rue de Rivoli. He’d said that “Paris is the unmissable,” referring to the bi-annual week of collections that set in motion the wheels of the following season’s creativity. I agreed with him but didn’t know exactly why until I was seated at a show in New York last month and realized I was watching regurgitations from the previous season in Paris.
This happens every six months: you get through New York, you go to London, you’re almost dead in Milan and then Paris comes in (hopefully) like a lion and storms out like an even stronger one, sharing new ideas and concepts and textures, setting the stage for what will be a literal manifestation of the next six months of your life. And then the six months are up but you’re forced to endure another week-long recap only now it’s called New York Fashion Week.
The cycle repeats itself.
At the tail end of a particularly special round in Paris, the most salient trend to walk off the runways appears to be a sense of humor. At Valentino, it was subversive in its delivery: when the show opened at the Tuilerie Gardens, the mood was austerity. The all-black set was ominous — ready to present gravitas.
The opening series of stripes and black and white geometric figures, set on what have become full-skirted mainstays of the brand while in the hugely protected and intelligent hands of Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri suggested that we were very well about to listen to the story of the “Jailhouse Rock” that could have been. The music was sobering, the models severe and the clothes — the clothes were remarkable.
There was something for everyone: she who slouches towards rock and roll (with two tulle mini dresses featuring cascading sleeves but straight, shapeless shoulders); she who marvels in the cues of hyper-literal sex appeal (one black embroidered and sheer mid-length dress, straight and shown with just black underwear and a bra); she who dresses up for the theater of her life (where else, after all, is one expected to traipse with the swagger of Mrs. Jagger in a red, v-neck gown that leaves as little to the imagination as white pasties might); she who favors comfort (there were knits!) and, of course, she who wants to everyone to know, when she walks into a room, that she is wearing that Valentino dress.
It was beautiful, really, the whole damn thing. It didn’t live in the same vacuum of continuation of previous collections, which have earned Valentino the kind of sincerely Italian reputation that Dolce & Gabbana has built, but following Chanel’s cafe installation and the veil of fatigue that looked like it was almost literally lifted from the thousands of faces in that gargantuan room, Valentino was also just a show. And not a particularly funny one.
Until it wasn’t.
When the final model, in her elaborately embroidered dress disappeared off the runway, the music went dim, then bounced back with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller. The two walked the runway on opposite ends toward the photo pit. Zoolander turned left, Hansel dropped his mic a.k.a Valentino coat and just like that, fashion was fun again.
The two actors were announcing a second Zoolander movie, which will premiere next February. It was an important step on the quest to achieve funny-in-fashion. Here is Valentino, a show that has consistently functioned as one of the heaviest weight lifting champions of fashion month. And where we thought Tuesday morning’s brasserie could not be beat, in just a matter of hours, a new stroke of life, devoid of bells and whistles, was collectively inhaled by the lungs of fashion as if saying with a kind of indelible confidence that you can be good, you can achieve respect but you must — you must — be funny. It’s trending.
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Images via Style.com