Paris Fashion Week: engaged fashion, androgyny and a desire to escape
Towards the end of last week, various designers expressed their different personalities on the runway at Paris Fashion Week. Vivienne Westwood and Rahul Mishra presented an engaged approach to fashion; Christian Wijnants presented a light and colourful style, and Haider Ackermann showcased a sombre spirit with masculine silhouettes.
Vivienne Westwood: Whistleblower Mode
As usual, the British designer and her husband Andreas Kronthaler used their runway show as an opportunity to shine a light on the urgent ecological situation and social injustices in a globalised world. The collection oscillated between Victorian-esque outfits and much more humble silhouettes such as tunics made form accumulated pieces of cloth and fringing made from rags. One model wore two dresses suspended from hangers directly placed on her head to symbolise the plight of migrants.
Grandmother's cotton shirt was worn with a simple red skirt, loose t-shirts slipped on over leggings or bermudas, and a blouse that looked like it had been cut from a sheet. Printed images of the endangered Sumatran tiger featured throughout the collection and a giant cotton fish balanced on a model’s head and a bird’s nest hat reminded onlookers of the harmful effects of pollution on nature.
Symbols of the sea were found throughout the collection and served to denounce how the oceans have been turned into landfills, with shell jewellery and knits that resembled fishing nets. The brand informed the audience that the collection’s clothing was made using handmade textiles from Mali and textile waste from Italian manufacturers.
Dresses in satin or draped taffeta, elegant checkerboard skirts, and pearl adornments also featured in this eclectic runway show along with large, vaporous cloud-like hats, which sometimes also transformed into umbrellas. Human figures cut out of black or orange latex slipped on like a vest and, as the head and arms dangled and fell around the body, one asked if this was a symbol for the end of humanity.
Rahul Mishra reinvents the art of embroidery
In the same spirit, Rahul Mishra unveiled a superb collection with couture detailing that was entirely made by Indian artisans. Faithful to his ethical and social approach, the designer continued to preserve and highlight local-based skills, in particular Indian embroidery which he used to create new volumes with 3D applications that worked as an extension of his fabric.
Mishra mixed two opposing themes, the urban sprawling of metropolises and the growth of nature. Hundreds of skyscrapers sketched on small pieces of organza rustled on white ensembles and swelled and twirled on maxi dresses in shades of black and grey that resembled feathers. Tulle embroidered with tiny bougainvillea flowers embellished a tunic and was used to create a bodice and textile flowers were sewn onto clothes and suspended by their stems like colourful, living scales.
Rahul Mishra has allowed 300 embroiderers from the slums of Mumbai to return home to live in their villages with their families by working on his collections. An ode to “slow fashion”, the brand said in a statement, which insists more than ever the importance of “adding sustainable value to clothing which tells a story, all while building a socially sustainable model which empowers rural India’s large artisan community.”
Haider Ackermann: masculine/ feminine
The Colombian designer showcased an almost austerely androgynous and minimalistic collection on the runway on Saturday which explored a gender neutral aesthetic. The show began with a group of looks featuring grey jackets and trousers modelled by an androgynous cast. Trouser- and shorts- suits followed worn by bare-chested male models and more street-style trousers were paired with tank tops.
The collection also featured more classically feminine pieces such as long, black dresses with bright coloured bands around the shoulders and top half. For the evening, reversible jacquard kimonos with a black lining were paired with sport-shorts for both men and women.
Christian Wijnants: A subtle African homage
Models walked to the rhythm of percussions at Christian Wijnants’ show on Friday. Outfits featuring masculine trousers quickly gave way to floaty dresses draped in summery hues and African prints which appeared to be inspired by West African boubous. Large mint green shopping bags added a holiday feel.
Stripes, geometric patterns, mosaics printed or created in sequins, and colour-blocking made up Wijnants’ light and playful wardrobe. Silk also featured with overlays to create volume, gathering, and drapes. It was a joyous collection of puff-sleeve tunics, slit-skirts, printed suits, striped knitwear, and strapless dresses.
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