After nine days of nonstop runways, Paris Fashion week—and the Fall 2019 show season—has come to a close. And what a week it was! Kicking off with promising young talents that have broken through the city’s notoriously stiff fashion establishment (see: Rokh, Marine Serre, Koché, Jacquemus, Ottlinger, and Y/Project) and ending with the late Karl Lagerfeld’s snow-covered final vision for Chanel, PFW was exciting and emotional; it left showgoers both looking forward and in a state of reflection.
There were trends aplenty, some of which, like menswear fabrics and puffer coats (don’t miss Dries van Noten’s plush take!) carried over from New York, London, and Milan, while others, like amped-up shoulder details and oversized, ’80s silhouettes, were unique to the City of Lights. Paris also offered a reminder of the power of the fashion show: At a time when the relevance of the runway is being questioned, brands like Rick Owens, Thom Browne, Comme des Garçons, and Tommy Hilfiger (replete with a Grace Jones cameo) gave us fashion theater at its best.
Here, we revisit the biggest trends and takeaways of Paris Fashion Week.
No Shoulder Left Behind
Feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world? Paris’ designers might be able to help. This season, shoulder details ruled the runways, with sculptural, puffed, almost Victorian versions popping up at Lemaire, Koché, and Olivier Theyskens. There were padded iterations protruding at Balmain; peaks and ruffles skimming ears at Louis Vuitton; and razor-sharp styles cutting dangerous forms on calfskin jackets at Rick Owens. Sometimes, the details were subtler, like at Balenciaga, where shoulders were slightly raised at the seams, or Givenchy, where designer Clare Waight Keller enhanced the silhouettes of prim coats and jackets with smooth but deliberate arcs.
Paris Keeps it Kinky
There was no shortage of fetish-inspired gear in London and Milan, but Paris was the kinkiest of them all, with designers proffering bondage buckles, rubber wares, and body-stockings galore. At Noir Kei Ninomiya’s third-ever runway show, models were bedecked in complex vinyl confections and strapped into gloved harnesses, while Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo proffered black rubber body molds and fishnet tops and stockings. Against a dungeon-like setting illuminated by purple neon lights, Marine Serre sent out her signature crescent moon-print body-stockings which, in many cases, covered the face. A black latex hood was particularly subversive, resembling a gimp mask. Mugler’s Casey Cadwallader proposed thigh-high patent boots held up by garters, and Joseph Altuzarra fused elegance and fetish in his collection inspired by toughness and Robert Mapplethorpe photographs. His hyper-luxe shearling jackets, grommeted belts, all-leather looks, and buckle details struck a considered balance between suggestive and sophisticated. More in-your-face were Glenn Martens’ sex necklaces and earrings at Y/Project, which depicted bodies passionately entwined. “It’s an inspiration to us all,” said the designer about the act of amore. Of the jewelry, he added, “It’s all about having fun.”
Let’s be serious: For us fashion folk, the ‘80s never really ended. In one way or another, the decade rears its head on the runway nearly every season, and for Fall 2019, it was all about the larger-than-life power silhouette. At Saint Laurent, Anthony Vaccarello focused on big-shouldered coats and blazers, shown with no-nonsense, blackout sunglasses. Isabel Marant, meanwhile, embraced the era’s exaggerated hourglass shape with nipped waists, roomy trousers, and the sharpest of shoulders. Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing pumped up the glam with massive leather jumpsuits; corseted, stone-washed denim; and heavy embellishment; and oversized ‘80s overcoats reigned at Y/Project, Nina Ricci (whose new designers, Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh, made an impressive debut), and Off-White.
In this day and age, when an Instagram snap has more impact than just about anything else, the relevance of the runway is in question. But during Paris Fashion Week, a handful of designers reminded us just how powerful a show can be. Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo expertly expressed her vision with a collection that seemed to explore the pervading global anxiety, as well as an occult feminine power, exemplified in the finale, when her models, clad in black armor, congregated in a circle, staring up at a startling light. Thom Browne, that master showman, revisited his roots during a dreamlike presentation that shone a surreal light on life in a cubicle. The outing harkened back to the American designer’s first European presentation, which was held a decade ago at Pitti Uomo, and while it was less theatrical than his recent romps, it proved to showgoers that he is equal parts skillful and whimsical. Rick Owens always manages to tell a stirring story on his runway, and this season, it was about a post-apocalyptic glamour, punctuated with body modifications imagined by 18-year-old artist Salvia. As they stomped through the smoky, dim light in the Palais de Tokyo, Owens’ models exuded a sense of assurance and strength. Oh, and we can’t fail to mention the fact that Grace Jones brought down the house at Tommy Hilfiger, conjuring the Paris of yore.
Farewell, Karl Lagerfeld
The memory of Karl Lagerfeld, who passed away on February 19th, loomed large over Paris Fashion Week. During his more than three decades at Chanel and over 50 years at Fendi, he shaped the industry as we know it. At Chloé, where Lagerfeld designed for a quarter of a century, current creative director Natacha Ramsay-Levy paid tribute to the late visionary. Ahead of her ‘70s-tinged show, postcards depicting some of Lagerfeld’s most beloved designs for the brand were placed on editors’ seats. But it was at the Chanel show where Lagerfeld’s presence and absence was felt the most. Lagerfeld was always meticulous, planning and designing obsessively far in advance, so there’s no doubt that the brand’s Alpine-themed Fall 2019 outing, complete with faux snow, Chanel skis, and chalets, was entirely his vision.
Held, as always, at the Grand Palais on the final day of PFW, the show began with a moment of silence. When the minute had passed, Lagerfeld’s voice echoed through the space. He spoke in French and then, en anglais, exclaimed, “It’s like walking in a painting!” Indeed, Lagerfeld’s shows were always like paintings—or alternate realities more fantastic than our own. Fall 2019 was no exception, and it was a bittersweet reminder of the magic Lagerfeld brought to our industry and our lives. Tears ran down models face as they walked the runway, but there was also a joy, best expressed by Penelope Cruz, who strutted in the finale while smiling and carrying a white rose. During his prolific career, Lagerfeld brought so much joy to so many lives. Thus, it was fitting that his final Chanel show served not only to remember his genius, but to celebrate it.