On Wednesday, the final day of a month-long tour of the fall collections from New York to London to Milan, and finally to Paris, Louis Vuitton artistic director Nicolas Ghesquière drew editors to another enormous production on the grounds of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Under a heavy downpour, the traffic was backed up for miles, but once guests arrived, including recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, Jennifer Connelly, Lea Seydoux, Selena Gomez, Jaden Smith, Zendaya, Doona Bae, and Sophie Turner, they discovered a set decorated with large, crumbling columns covered in small panels of shattered glass – like so many busted iPhone screens. The impression was one of an archeological site, although the designer had in mind a dig into the present day as discovered by explorers of the future.
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That is an interesting thought indeed. What will future fashion historians make of this moment, of a selfie-driven culture that drives designers to make ever more exotic clothes? Ghesquière’s response, in fact, was surprisingly focused on images taken from contemporary life, with sports-inspired sweaters and trim trousers, soft bags in a variety of shapes and prints, dresses made of patchwork fabrics that appeared to be stapled together at the seams, and leather jackets affixed with patches like those of a globetrotter’s suitcase (pictured, top). In effect, it was a collection of memorabilia, both ordinary and incredibly personal.
While it was not the forward-looking work that Ghesquière has made a hallmark of his two-plus years at Vuitton, it was more approachable by far, and this collection read like the pages of a diary. In fact, while the talk of Paris Fashion Week has been the shape-defying collection that Demna Gvasalia introduced at Balenciaga, there has also been an undercurrent of designs that seem equally driven by comfort and versatility.
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Karl Lagerfeld described his fall Chanel collection as “all about ease,” and this was obvious from the treatment of tweeds almost as knits. On a stage designed to mirror the inside of a couture salon, with an infinity runway that snaked between rows and rows of seats (every guest had a front row ticket for once), he brought the clothes to the people, in a sense, and many of us remarked that we could have sat there all day watching more. Added to the tweeds were lots of sportswear, like denim vests, skirts, and tops no more complicated than a T-shirt, but a lot more haute. If I were a Chanel customer, I’d have bought a sweater dress covered with grommets in a heartbeat. Looking for something more formal? There were plenty of tiered lace gowns for you, all piled with pearls (below).
I’ve often wondered how the Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli would handle streetwear, and was rewarded this season to also find delicious knits here in a collection that served almost as a palate cleanser from the extraordinarily decorative designs they are known for on the red carpet. Though much of the show included ballerina-inspired gowns that were as ethereal and slightly austere as ever, there were also a lot of great coats and handbags, one of which featured a thick denim strap (below).
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A stranger trend to come roaring across the runways this season was the full prairie or baby-doll dress. Stella McCartney included some, I suspect as a joke, that looked like Snuggies or grandma’s house robe (below, left). Of course, they will probably be just as much of a hot item come fall. And these looks appeared midway into the Kenzo show on Tuesday night with dresses that looked like fancier versions of those old-fashioned prairie pastels worn by members of polygamist cults in Texas, or Kimmy Schmidt. The designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, however, were careful to show their strengths – the skirts of their dresses were finely pleated, and the cuts oversize to look somehow both a little bit off, and a little bit cool (below, right).