A look at select designers and a note on excessive displays of wealth
Between January 17 and January 22, Paris held its semi-annual fashion week. Paris is one of the “Big 4” cities that hold Fashion Weeks throughout the year. The other main fashion week cities are London, Milan, and New York.
A fashion week is defined as a week in which multiple designers are featured in organized shows. Although France was known for fashion shows as early as the 1700s, the first official “Press Week,” which later inspired the term “Fashion Week,” was held in New York in 1943. This was a way to showcase the often overlooked American designers while fashion insiders were unable to travel to Paris because of World War II. There were also a variety of fashion-week-esque events that were held in a variety of cities during the early 20th century.
Here are some impressions of four of the fashions shows held this Fashion Week.
Maison Margiela, a Parisian haute couture house, that, according to their website, is, “founded on ideas of nonconformity and the subversion of norms,” was created in 1988 by Belgian designer Martin Margiela and Jenny Meirens. Some may know this brand for their popular Replica perfumes.
Their 2023 Paris Fashion Week show took place on January 22. The show was set in a white room with a white runway. The models walked in a very over-the-top, expressive way in sync to fast-paced techno music. The outfits were very androgynous, which follows the founding principles of the brand. Some common themes among the outfits included mixed patterns and material, plaid pieces, short veils and different types of typically black or fishnet pantyhose.
Kenzo, founded in 1970 by Japanese designer Kenzo Takada, held their show on January 20 in a dark room with a red runway. The models were accompanied by a string band. When the band began rehearsing, I expected them to play something slow or experimental, and was surprised to hear them play “Help!” by The Beatles on repeat throughout the entire show. The first models of the Kenzo show wore preppy looks including blazers, tweed, collared shirts, shoulder pads and generally muted colours. More variety was shown midway through the show, including a lot of pieces featuring denim.
Louis Vuitton, founded in 1854 by Louis Vuitton, had its show on January 19. This show was incredibly extravagant in comparison to the other shows I viewed. The stage featured a very colourful set made to look like different living spaces. The models interacted with different pieces of the set throughout the show. Spanish singer Rosalia performed live as the models walked the runway. The first pieces introduced in the Louis Vuitton show featured neutral coloured, oversized pieces. Later in the show, much more colour was introduced.
Yves Saint Laurent, founded in 1962 by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge, held its show in a Parisian art museum. The room was round and bare, but there were beautiful murals on the rounded ceiling. The models were accompanied by piano. The pieces featured were very androgynous, and experimental in that regard, and were primarily black and white. I was very impressed by this show, which was the brand’s first menswear show in Paris under its new creative director Anthony Vaccarello.
Fashion Weeks are known for dramatic looks, new trends and, of course, celebrity sightings. This year, one of the most notable celebrity moments at Paris Fashion week occurred between Kylie Jenner and Doja Cat at a Schiaparelli show. Jenner was wearing a faux lion head, custom made by Schiaparelli, and Doja Cat was wearing a custom red gown by Danielle Roseberry, and was covered head-to-toe in 30,000 red crystals by celebrity makeup artist Pat McGrath. The interaction between the two was commented on by many online, and also became the inspiration for many satire posts.
Many of the posts online commented on the way celebrities are flaunting their excessive wealth, while millions, if not billions, of people are continuing to suffer financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Fashion Week is a way for clothing designers to show their art, it is also, at its core, an event for the wealthy. Many of the items showcased during Fashion Week are not meant to be worn, but rather seen as art. The pieces that are made to be worn are usually incredibly unaffordable for the average consumer, even if many of the pieces are made through unfair and incredibly cheap labour.
Although I do like to see the art created by designers during Fashion Week, I am incredibly critical of the culture and behaviour associated with Fashion Week. It feels like just another way for the elite to show off. The attention should be given to the designs showcased rather than members of the audience. Excessive displays of wealth during an economic crisis are not only tacky during Fashion Week, they’re tacky all the time.