Tuesday, September 24, 2019

#PlanningForTheFuture and Futurewear at Paris Fashion Week. Reviewing Dior, Marine Serre, YSL, Rokh

The final stint of the spring/summer 2020 shows is underway in Paris and the storytelling around sustainability and fashion’s negative impact on the environment is coming full circle, ahead of the next decade’s arrival.

Kering SA, the parent company of Gucci, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and more, said it is going carbon neutral, paying to offset its emissions. In the weeks previous, Gucci announced it would spend $8.4 million to offset its emissions. According to The Business of Fashion, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault will reveal the conglomerate’s updated plans to address fashion’s negative impact on the climate.

The Dior show at the Hippodrome Paris Longchamp operated on a zero-waste policy. The Bureau de Betak-designed set is recyclable and plastic-free. Featuring 164 trees, each one comes with a #PlantingForTheFuture tag with a scannable QR code revealing the individual tree’s origin and future life. 

(At New York Fashion Week, Gabriela Hearst hosted the first carbon-neutral fashion show. Gucci followed suit at Milan Fashion Week. Meanwhile, in London, Extinction Rebellion called for an end to London Fashion Week with protests across the city.)
‘Flowers and plants don’t just serve an ornamental purpose, they are our environment,’ said Maria Grazia Chiuri, artistic director at Christian Dior. ‘We have a commitment to care for them, today more than ever.’

It transpired that the show was inspired by Catherine Dior, Christian Dior’s sister, a lifelong gardener. There was a romantic utilitarianism to the checked suiting, off-the-shoulder Bar jackets, and overalls, while a summerlike effervescence permeated embroidered tulle gowns and ombre outerwear in the middle section. While she could’ve done away with the meagre attempt at swimwear, Chiuri’s rumination on denim could’ve been expanded. Note her buttoned-up shirting with ultra-feminine mini dresses - elegantly practical for the workplace. In all, Chiuri eschewed from an anachronistic reading of Catherine Dior’s history, offering some mostly modern propositions.

Ever the expert merchandiser, her flotilla of models were topped with straw hats by milliner Stephen Jones and grounded with boots or sandals. They’re sure to whet the appetite of the brand’s eager fanbase.

Dior ranks as one of LVMH’s most significant cash cows with revenues expected to reach €3.2 billion for 2019, a 26% increase from 2018. How sustainable is a fashion show with 90 looks that will, by and large, be mass-produced and rolled out in stores across the globe? How sustainable is having 241 outlets worldwide? Yet, some effort is a step in the right direction. 
Marine Serre
Marine Serre accounts for the damaging cost of production. At present, 50% of her clothes are made from recycled materials. The rest is produced locally, sourcing materials from French mills.

Her fashion, however, is time-stamped with a date somewhere in the not-so-distant future. Futurewear, she calls it. Certainly, she is one of the only designers sending models down the runway in branded anti-pollution masks featuring R-PUR filtration technology. Similarly, she is one of the only designers envisioning the Paris of tomorrow rather than the one of today or yesteryear. 

Her world is post-apocalyptic, emanating a (stylish) existential dread over the possibly impending climate wars and mass extinction. Her clothes are fit for that society but look enviable in ours. There’s no time like the present. Strike before the iron -- or in this case, the planet -- gets too hot.

A passage of all-black looks, each with a utilitarian flair, practical pockets, and full-body coverings, segued into a series of scarlet and brown, which was mostly nipped-waist suiting, her monogrammed second-skin bodysuits, and signature scuba designs, and also included smatterings of streetwear-influenced camo print. The blue and white portion was mostly branded denim and eyelet ponchos, floral print and cocktail dress, with the show culminating in a section of patterned dresses.

Each segment reflected something about the structure of post-apocalyptic society: if black demarcated of the survivalists, the reds were the overlords, the white and blue a sort of futuristic bourgeoisie, and the pattern bedecked finale the artistic free spirits. It was recognisable, perhaps attainable, but destined for the survival of the fittest. 
It made one nostalgic for days gone by. Ask Rok Hwang, whose label Rokh won the Special Prize at the 2018 LVMH Prize. His vision for spring/summer 2020 began with a memory of a three-month-long family road trip across the United States, from New York to Yosemite, in 1994. From the working women of New York to his father’s blue hiking vest, ‘[moments are] embedded, like impressions, into the fabric of the clothes.’

His splicing and dicing methodology of asymmetrically fusing fabrics, offering ‘flashes’ of familiar items -- the trench, the blazer, the shirt, the dress -- unfolded on this runway was kind of chaotic. It belongs in this world, for sure, but somewhere along the way, his working-woman-meets-urban-traveller aesthetic lost its sense of direction. It’s an interesting way of working, as if delving deep into one’s memory for long lost visuals of outfits past, translating it into clothes which, to the spectator, are familiar yet new. Here, however, nostalgia was a bit muddy.

Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello is much sharper when it comes to nostalgia. Continuing to stratify his vision for the house, he reinterprets house codes for the season ahead with one part glamour, one part questions about hyper-sexualisation, and a dash of Naomi Campbell closing the show in a shimmering Le Smoking under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower in the pouring rain. His quintessentially French understanding of the bourgeoisie aesthetic, despite its archaic understanding of fashion, looked wholly delectable, doctored by clear, convincing, and logical styling. It’s one way you can dress for the future but it’s not futurewear.

‘Those who are lost in nostalgia, always searching for something to distract from the present,’ read the notes at Rokh. If this decade has taught us anything about fashion, looking back is not the way forward. One must dress for today with an eye on tomorrow. Not yesterday.


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