Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Finding the Future at PFW // Fall 2018 //

Roughly around the same time the fashion descended upon Paris for the last leg of the monthlong fashion circus, the snow did too. With plummeting temperatures stifling the thought of a European spring it must’ve been a pleasant excursion to hear traditional Moroccan music at the Petit Palais, for Simon Porte Jacquemus’ Fall 2018 show—which, rather in tune with the current industry climate, didn’t bear any resemblance to the season at hand. Having visited Marrakech recently, for the new cultural attraction of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Jacquemus intended on bringing summer back with him.

After a breakthrough spring show last September, this show picked up where that left off, albeit on a different continent with the same principles: effortless vacation style. It’s quite remarkably what he does, really. The simplicity of his aesthetic, which predates the advent of social media, is both archaic and familiar yet his sensual seduction manages to breathe new life into it. Whereas last season oozed sexuality, this was insistent on sensuality, which felt in line with the time. It was less daring, there were more trousers and longer hemlines, more t-shirts and less sarongs, in a gorgeous palette of terracotta, burgundy, flax, olive and Majorelle. There were, of course, sightings of skin—it’s Jacquemus after all, and the times can’t seismically shift his aesthetic, that would be dishonest. After all, there is an interwoven level of emotionality that defines his work.

There was only one pitfall here: a lack of progression. With a business still in the early stages of development, perhaps Jacquemus is seeking a signature, but even at that there needs to be signs of a way forward rather than situating himself, albeit comfortably, in a creative impasse. (Notwithstanding this criticism, kudos to him for a show of diversity.)
Marine Serre debuted on the schedule yesterday. The Frenchwoman graduated last year, winning the prestigious LVMH Prize of €300,000, her graduate collection from La Cambre (also where Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello studied) serving as the proof that she was a business worth investing in. It’s clear Ms. Serre is responsive to the world around her, and it’s likely what caught the eye of the judging panel which included Karl Lagerfeld. The aforementioned graduate collection was punctuated with crescent moon symbols, commonly associated with Islam. It was produced in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels and the effect it had on her life as a Brussels-educated, Paris-based creative.

For Fall she continued to take a personal approach. Much of today’s fashion is concerned with mass-appealability to youngsters—or ‘millennials’ as we’re odiously labelled—and she considered how does she want to dress as a 26-year-old woman. She is concerned with functionality and hybridity and designs “future-wear”, which is a post-sportswear answer to how dress might look in the years to come. It’s centred on the notion of protectionism, the idea of clothing as a means of shielding the wearer from the anxieties of the world, which has been prevalent on runways since the 2016 US presidential election campaigns kicked off. There was one jacket on the runway with holders for a highlighter, torch, pen, lipstick and a pocket for your water bottle. It was real utilitarianism, not press release fodder.

There were sportswear tropes, infused with formalised outfits. White runners were styled with lilac lycra and black leather, denim with upcycled silk scarves. (Ms. Serre told T Magazine: The New York Times Style that she has collected 1,500 vintage scarves thus far and wishes to source more before the production process begins after orders are placed. She is one of the few designers in Paris placing an emphasis on sustainability, something which she rightfully prides herself on.) Velour tracksuits made an appearance, and alongside plastic overcoats. The end of the show was underscored by handkerchief-hem scarf dresses. There were some pieces that bore resemblances to the house where she received training and also Céline but then again this is her sophomore show out of college. Overall this was evident of Ms. Serre’s pedigree as a designer and her commitment to making sustainability more than a fashion statement. It will be exciting to see her grow as a designer. 
Marine Serre starkly contrasted with Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest feminist folly at the historic house of Christian Dior. The Musée Rodin was decorated with visually striking graphics from the 1968 Civil Rights protests and women’s liberation marches. I am not questioning Ms. Chiuri’s feminist credentials nor am I saying her work is inherently anti-feminist, I find her work to be at odds with the feminist movement. Undoubtedly, since her freshman outing she has commodified the movement in anyway possible, making $700 t-shirts that read ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. Maybe her work is reflective of the times—it does nothing but spotlight the capitalist establishment’s gain from the proliferation of the feminist movement. 

This season’s proposition expanded on the empty sloganeering with Ruth Bell’s opening look reading “C’est non non non et non!”… She succeeds in capturing the zeitgeist but she crashes and burns in communicating with women by creating uninspired clothing that shallowly riffs on punk, 60s graphism and patchwork in the only way she knows how: commercial, headache-inducing separates that are closer to the high street than they are to a storied couture house. That's what Dior is meant to be, isn't it?

This isn’t to mention the rail-thin, mostly white cast of models wearing the clothes. So much for a quest for authenticity. Not to mention Johnny Depp being the face of the 'Sauvage' fragrance. Or the upcoming advertising campaign which might continue to use retouched photographs, which is in direct opposition to the house’s presumed beliefs. (In the past, the house worked with photographer Patrick Demarchelier and stylist Karl Templer, both of whom were accused of alleged sexual misconduct in the recent Boston Globe article which detailed models’ experiences with the men, which must leave a bad taste in the business' heads’ mouths.)

Feminism is not to be taken lightly as 2017 finally—or at least it seems to have—knocked into the heads of contemporary culture. Kate Bush on the soundtrack and meaningless outerwear? How is this in anyway revolutionary? Where is the “Dio(r)evolution”? International Women’s Day is hot on the heels of the Dior show, falling two days after the Paris shows; it’s an awful shame Ms. Chiuri couldn’t cohesively cater to women’s needs instead of trivialising them with juvenile and tokenist interpretations of feminism. 

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