hat is fashion? I have been thinking about this question, simple to some but veritably loaded to others, since I got to Paris yesterday. This is partially because I have acquired a pair of shearling-lined sandals that truly resemble the boots one is required to wear to heal a foot injury, but also because everyone in this town is running around wearing a trench coat in spite of 75-degree weather and a spotless blue sky. Few things encourage me so much as a feckless garment, so is that it — the frivolity of something made specifically to be worn functionally? And what about the shoes — is it irony? The influence of what is definitively un-chic? I am still searching for my definition.
One thing I know is that Dries van Noten is a designer who does not concern himself with fashion. He is, on the contrary, a master of style. His 61-look parade from Wednesday was comprised primarily of silk twill scarf prints worn as skirts and dresses, large paillettes on utilitarian silhouettes like cargo pants and some really easy army green tops, dresses, pants and jackets. The pants in particular were paired with a bustier over a white T-shirt and the collection as a whole provided just the right amount of incentive to take to your closet, visit an unlikely pairing, and make yourself feel like you are wearing Dries van Noten, when in effect, you’re just wearing you. Sometimes I forget that this is what style is all about: taking what you have and coming to know, see, experience it differently. Last night, I joined two black shoe bags, tied them across my chest to wear over a white t-shirt with green flare pants and called it Dries.
Called it, dare I say, fashion.
Chloé opened Thursday, where the widely-adored new designer, Natacha Ramsay-Levi, iterated on her own scarf motif with a group of asymmetric-hem dresses, blouses and pants. There were also rope belts and tie-dye logo t-shirts paired with fringe-hem mini skirts and very short shorts. One crochet floor length dress paired with a purple bikini set and some bags, also tie-dye, seemed to represent a harkening to 1960s America, which is a reference I am probably looking too hard to find. We saw this in New York at the likes of Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Staud, and I can’t help but think we’re unconsciously tapping into the last time America’s youth culture was so wrapped up in meaningful political protest. Revelation #2: It is increasingly difficult to extricate the narrative I live from the one I am visiting.
But then again, !fashion!, isn’t it about great escape? The energy at Chloé was probably more akin to a sanguine holiday on a Greek island than it was fight-the-law. And I think that’s okay.
The double-header last night belonged to Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and Isabel Marant. Abloh is widely regarded as a sort of fashion renaissance man, but I have always admired his unique and pointed ability to assess the zeitgeist’s expansive spectrum, extract from different elements of it and then bring them together in a uniform vision. It’s a genius curation rooted in a simple modus operandi. His spring collection leans on the philosophical principles of both athleisure and black tie; dressing down to stretch out and sigh, dressing up to get up and go. Performance T-shirts were paired with ball gown skirts. A sheer tulle dress was styled over neon track shorts. There were tuxedo pants but also leotards, unitards, denim, velvet and Nike. It’s a hodgepodge that can’t be unseen, that demands you expand your definition of both attires. Which, of course, I am down to do.
By the time Isabel Marant reared her parachute pants and paper bag waists and silver lamé dresses and tops, I was so tired that I almost missed the rhinestone belts, no doubt a relic I will take into 2019 with me. And the silver — so much silver. It’s a gangbuster trend continuing to explode through this season’s collections. I thought about what I could approximate now. Did I have the materials? Any similar styles? Not really. Not at all. I guess I’d have to buy it. Did this thought make a victim, a truly zealous consumer, or simply, you know, someone wrapped up in the whirlwind of fashion?
Feature photo by Peter White via Getty Images; Runway photos via Vogue Runway.