There was much talk last year about the symbolism of the woods. Taylor Swift's lyrics, Hillary Clinton's post-election walks in Chappaqua as a means of finding solace. Quadruple Pulitzer laureate Robert Frost is famously fond of the American pastoral. The Chanel show, first thing yesterday morning at the Grand Palais, featured a vast set piece, a theatrical display of an oak-lined, detritus-strewn wood.
To say the codes of Chanel are as engrained in culture as, say, Coca Cola wouldn’t be going too far astray. Bouclé suits, tweed and quilting are three signifiers of the brand and for fall they were given minor adjustments. Sweeping coats bore similarities to Red Riding Hood, albeit the Chanel-imagined version, with hoods and floor-sweeping capabilities. It was a show heavy on pattern and surface decoration but the effect of this progression was virtually absent, the brown leaves and tall oaks suffocating the life out of the show. If the woods is meant to symbolise clarity and the streamlining of thought, there was no sign of that here. If anything, it appeared Mr. Lagerfeld had once again found himself lost in the woods, unclear of which path to take.
It was a fashion fairytale of sorts but that seems rather outdated in this current climate. As did most of the clothes, which were weighed down by an extravagant set piece. One is wistful, thinking about the perfection of his musings on the state of France, that polished and pristine collection that took place beneath a model of the Eiffel Tower—the simplicity of it all, notwithstanding the towering structure. He’s found balance before, he should search for it again.
Who will lead us out of the woods?
The answer came in the form of Nicolas Ghesquière’s closing comment on fashion month with his Louis Vuitton show (possibly his last, some say) at the Louvre. His set consisted of a spaceship and his alternative spin on workwear was clean, cohesive and clear. The French bourgeoise was on his mind but it wasn’t in any way anachronistic, it’s something he rebels against. His work last season was more in line with this statement but there were flecks of it here. He wasn’t entrapped by the familiar sheen of the stereotype, rather he chose to impart it with historical qualities. He added embellished waistcoats, he lobbied for button-up camisoles and sportswear-inspired blouses. Other blouses were transformed into swishy, sumptuous day dress, buttoned asymmetrically and branded with the updated logo. Structurally he created contrasts with colours and fabrications, extending the foray into the realm of garment hybridisation. Leathers urbanised the aesthetic and it was offset again the expertly precision tailoring. Disco pants were styled with an argyle patterned sweater.
His work remains manages to remain dynamic and seductive without tapping too much into youth culture. He’s a noted fan of sci-fi films and television, namely Stranger Things and Tron. Others this season have been desperately pandering to the demographic—either with sloganeering or nostalgic references to films like The Matrix—all resulting in varying degrees of success.
That was Miuccia Prada’s gambit. Miu Miu’s panache and verve were thrown off-course this season with a rare misstep. Perhaps it is down to the fact the collection is whipped up in ten days, a fact she repeatedly states in interviews. She went for a similar 80s youth-quake inspiration as Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior and while she did it in a feminist fashion, it was without the jargon which acts as a propulsive force for contrived territory. Mrs. Prada has always been a staunch women’s rights advocate and her work, especially of late, has taken a stance on women’s place in society. This season she utilised the tropes of 80s fashion—big hair, big shoulders—to convey an empowered, rebellious spirit but it was cliché. That’s the thing about looking back, you have to be prepared to bring it forward.
It is an inborn skill of Mr. Ghesquière’s. He splices together the past, present and future in his work and it’s the reason why he conquered both Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton, captivating audiences and shaping the fashion landscape. Step foot inside any high street store today, walk down any street— Mr. Ghesquière is one of the few designers who has shaped contemporary fashion so profoundly that men and women worldwide dress themselves based on his visions, knowingly or unknowingly. It’s all down to the lucidity of his expression.
It isn’t a wonder he received a standing ovation at the end. It was a breath of fresh air.