What a difference six months makes. When I was in Paris last February, I mostly whined about how cold I was, how cold it was to be here without knowing why I’m really here. How watching a show through my iPhone, picking up on its nuances through various portals (Snapchat, Instagram stories) make it less necessary and therefore less exciting to be in physical attendance. I wondered how I could have been so wrong about myself. I thought I loved Paris! I thought I would do anything to get here and stay here and never have to leave (reason irrelevant) and yet, there I was, writing a takedown on the city. I must have been depressed. In fact, I know I was depressed. Nothing felt important, not even new fashion — the singular clutch that has always saved me from the pits of despair. But that was then, and this? This is a new now.
No one in Paris seems to understand the new now as well as Simon Porte Jacquemus. He’s one of the rare Parisian artisans among the storied designers of this town who understand a concept I touched upon in New York: that beyond just making good clothes, designers are expected to produce personalities. His show notes read, “I don’t think I ever saw my mother more beautiful than on evenings after the beach and probably when she was in love.” The collection was an homage to that — a love letter, in ways, to the French seasides that support the memory of his late mother and a case study in using a runway, the most formal viewing of your clothes, to espouse the ease of balmy carelessness.
Maria Grazia Chiuri, up at the plate for her sixth ready-to-wear collection for Dior, is committed to a different kind of “new now.” Her now is imbued with an obligation to carry the feminist torch of the implications of her post as the first female creative director at Dior. This show was inspired in part by Niki de Saint Phalle, a female photographer who had a close relationship with Marc Bohan, a former creative head of Dior, and a 1971 essay by Linda Nochlin called, “Why Have There Not Been Great Women Artists?” (This question appeared on the opening t-shirt, a sequel to last Spring’s “We Should All Be Feminists.”)
In case you’re wondering, it was a handful: 80 looks that ran such an elaborate gamut, each series touching upon a uniquely different woman. The opening looks, 70s inspired to be sure, were comprised mostly of denim. Those became a series of motocross-inspired clothes which turned into checkered mod dresses and knee high lace up boots, all flat. Then came the embroidery on tulle, plenty of exposed legs, hips covered by briefs that peeked through sheer fabric and a couple of gimmicks to boot: illustrated dinosaurs and hearts as breast plates and colorful striped bodysuits. If collections have often felt like homogenous renderings of a single individual, this show was a nod to a nuanced take on identity-diversity. No two women are the same, right? Their clothes shouldn’t be, either.
Anthony Vaccarello, the greatest benefactor of Hedi Slimane’s relentless pursuit to reinterpret Saint Laurent, showed a third collection for the house he took over last September. Put plainly, it was awesome, like an exquisite trip through Morocco (flimsy white cotton, crochet, relaxed cuffed shorts) to the bar (leather, leather, boots, leather) and into a Parisian gala (the feathers! The peplums! The sequins, the zebra!). Slimane kind of invented the prioritization of attitude and energy at a show but Vaccarello is taking it home. After the show, he told Sarah Mower of Vogue, “That girl of Saint Laurent—she wants to have fun. She’s not depressed. She wants to enjoy life!” Which is exactly what you got from the clothes. They did not hit all the points of the triangle that is female identity the way Dior tried to, but the exacting focus of this party girl with her garments, practical eye candy and her attitude was powerful. She was unapologetically dismissive of the notion that anyone in the room could possibly argue they “don’t like Paris.”
Feature photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images; runway photos via Vogue Runway.