West was right there at this early hour, next to the piano in the center of the singing circle on stage at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, but above all he was silent – just smiling and swinging. The members of the choir were the stars. They brought their charismatic optimism, their rhythmic waves and their emotional testimonies to shine a little light in the middle of the dark.
For 90 minutes, there were many voices in a beautiful unit. It was only music: no MAGA hats. No political provocations. No fire and sulfur. No fashion. No question of pandemics. No controversial Kanye. For 90 minutes, maybe people could resist the urge to be cynical, to seek ulterior motives, to be on alert.
The choir plunged into a Fashion Week that was practically dystopian. The coronavirus threat sent some publishers and retailers home early, prevented others from coming, and put most people on the alert. Closure of the Louvre museum. Tourists roam the city with surgical masks.
There was an excessive amount of black on the runway. An overabundance of big shoulders and hooded capes. It is not a response to a virus; these collections were sketched a long time ago. It all stems from our long-standing feeling of anguish and uneasiness that some lead shoes are about to fall.
Many of the clothes on the track were born from a state of instability. That’s not to say that there aren’t any deeply fascinating ideas going down the slopes here and wonderfully compelling clothes. But they emerged from painful introspection, despair and frustration.
For designer Olivier Rousteing, an exploration of his heritage has led him to create his most refined and sophisticated collection for Balmain to date. In recent years, the creator, who has been adopted, has sought to learn more about his personal story – a journey that has been documented in the film “Wonder Boy”. He discovered that he was half Ethiopian and half Somali – not biracial, as he had always assumed. The reassessment of his roots reminded him of the rarefied world that he always felt beyond his reach because of the color of his skin and his background.
His fall collection is inspired by the codes of high society that surrounded him as a child in his childhood in Bordeaux: the equestrian style, the silk scarf prints, Old World fabrics. These things informed flowing silk dresses in mossy tones, molded leather bodices and lush woolen jackets and skirts.
By turning inward, Rousteing has brought a more meditative soul to his work. He stopped screaming. And by lowering the volume, it delivered a more resonant message.
In Céline, a kind of aesthetic cynicism was displayed. Designer Hedi Slimane rolled out so many culottes, tie blouses, skinny flared jeans, 70s blazers and rocker coats on men and women that the impressive number of looks on his runway on Friday night would put test the patience of your average fashion fan.
But not Slimane fans. They settled in for the marathon session and cheered when the latest model disappeared from view. Slimane chooses models that mimic the bean’s body at a time when portions were smaller, training was not part of a wellness routine, and amphetamines were sautéed like drops of gum.
What Slimane offers are retro-cleaned clothes, perhaps dazzled and stylish to evoke fresh and fresh air. As for clothes, it is difficult to argue with a well-cut blazer, a good pair of jeans and a pair of stacked heel boots. But it is difficult to ignore the fact that Céline de Slimane is at a standstill. He is stuck in a recent and distant past at a time when the future seems to demand our full attention.
The future worries designer Demna Gvasalia. As the guests arrived for the Balenciaga show late on Sunday morning, barely an hour after the Sunday choir urged people to keep the faith, they entered a fragrant black amphitheater with an aroma best described as smell of sweaty fear. Going down to the ground floor, it looked like you were walking towards an abyss – an optical illusion created by a perfectly still pool of water stretching across the theater .
When the first model came out, dark clouds rolled over the bright screen that formed the ceiling of the room. The mannequin, dressed in black, splashes in the murky water. On each side, the first three rows of empty seats were partially submerged in the water. It looked like a late afternoon flood had torn apart.
The music exploded and the dark clouds gave way to a fiery orange sky, until finally the image of our fragile blue ball was slowly eclipsed by a black shadow.
The specter of environmental danger was at the heart of Gvasalia’s presentation in the fall of 2020. And sensory overload was more an emotional boost than a set of grim statistics, a thick scientific journal or the exultations of a serious speaker . These are the images, sounds and smells of dystopia.
So what do we wear on a failing planet? Gvasalia’s work addresses the disconnect between individuals and the natural world, individuals and their community, individuals and themselves. While the models parade with their broad shoulders which make them look fierce and formidable, you are also reminded that the clothes serve as a kind of refuge. Tucked away in a massive coat or blazer, you don’t have to commit to others. Motocross uniforms, taken out of context, give the models an inhuman appearance and look more like armored cyborgs.
But the collection is not all bravado and boastfulness. There are fine examples of rigorous and modern sewing and tailoring, with body-molded jackets and jumpsuit dresses that transform the elaborate process of dressing for a black tie gala into the equivalent of pulling on an ultra glamorous jumpsuit. .
Gvasalia has already defended dramatic shoulders. They are part of his established vocabulary. Now, this is the most difficult chapter: take that vocabulary and tell new and nuanced stories with it. Her silhouettes are resolutely turned towards the future. But at the moment, the future looks awfully bleak. It is not necessarily the job of a designer to cheer us up – to offer something that is a beautiful lie.
Gvasalia shows us the truth of our unstable world, the darkness in ourselves. He ends his show with his favorite model, artist Eliza Douglas, dressed in a dress embroidered with rhinestones that captures and amplifies the pieces of light in the room.
Gvasalia stops giving us a nice death. And instead, it offers a reason to keep breathing.
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