31 Rue Cambon. Chanel Pre-Fall 2020

Virginie Viard takes Chanel to its (at times clichée) codes. Viard titled her Métiers d’Art show “Paris 31 rue Cambon” for the street where Coco Chanel first set up shop as a milliner in 1910 (“Chanel Modes” at Number 21), and where she later expanded her fashion empire to embrace six additional 18th-century buildings, with her legendary haute couture salons at Number 31. The guests sat inside of Coco’s legendary apartment, XXL-scaled and set up in Grand Palais (there was even the famous mirrored staircase). “I adore the apartment,” Viard said backstage, and she evidently found inspiration in this setting where Chanel retreated from the running of her house and entertained friends. The designer described the collection as “the things we like, a mix of Karl and Chanel—the codes.” Of course, comparing to Lagerfeld’s globe-trotting Méters d’Art fairy-tales – think Moscow, Edinburgh, Texas, the Met in New York – seeing Viard show in Paris felt quite unamusing. Nevertheless, the collection was properly Chanel – elegant, refined, refreshingly minimal, yet far from modesty. The pre-fall collections of Chanel showcase the incredible work of the luxury suppliers of the fashion industry – embroiderers, feather and artificial flower makers, milliners, custom shoemakers – many of which Chanel has acquired to keep them operational and the skills alive. Viard, who directed the Chanel studio under Lagerfeld for decades, has a fine appreciation of what these ateliers are capable of. A bolero jacket with broad feathers overprinted with a shadowy pattern of Chanel’s iconic camellias; a feather blazer worked into a subtle trompe l’oeil plaid; eveningwear kept in the most gorgeous, sorbet ombré colour palette… delightful. Viard proves once again that her Chanel takes a slower approach, one that cherishes the timeless classics and the artisan work. Less Instagram moments, more beauty in the details.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The New Sexy. Khaite Pre-Fall 2020

For pre-fall 2020, Catherine Holstein tweaked some familiar Khaite hits – Victorian blouses, romantic tulle dresses,  Western skirts, timeless denim – and sprinkled in a touch of 1960s rock & roll glamour. That said, the designer felt her greatest departure was in the ultra-short minidresses and body-hugging ruched gowns. “I’ve always avoided using the word ‘sexy’ to describe the clothes,” she said. “I would call them ‘sensual,’ which sounded more modern, or maybe more feminist. But I really wanted to embrace the idea of sexy and what that means for our woman right now.” Beyond the sheer blouses and minis, even the suits had a curvier, more womanly fit, with narrow, high-rise trousers and snug blazers. The sexiest look of all might have been the ivory pantsuit, shown with a black leather belt and nothing else.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Between Morocco and California. Saint Laurent Resort 2020

The theme behind Anthony Vaccarello‘s resort 2020 line-up for Saint Laurent is parallel to his spring-summer menswear show staged on one of Malibu’s beaches. For both, Vaccarello had been thinking about how Morocco’s glittering hippie/boho enclaves of the late ’60s and early ’70s (distinctly Yves) are mirrored by the today’s free-spirited California. So, a black velvet smoking jacket, worn with a long black leather skirt with a fastening running down its front; a gold sequin lace camisole with white jeans; a pleated lurex skirt styled with boots, a barely-there tank-top and a big, heavy pendant… in terms of fashion, there’s nothing innovative (or even fresh) in Vaccarello’s “day-to-day” vision of a wardrobe. It nods to Yves’ eternal chic, yes, feels very California, yes, but in the end it still  looks like Hedi Slimane’s work for the house from the (not so distant) past. Really, how do clients choose between a denim, maxi-lenght skirt from Slimane’s Celine offering, and a nearly identical one with a Saint Laurent tag?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Never Nostalgic. Azzedine Alaïa SS20

We try always try to have something that relates to our history, without being dated or nostalgic – Mr. Alaïa was never nostalgic,” said Caroline Fabre Bazin, Azzedine’s longtime right arm, during the spring-summer 2020 presentation for the maison. The look-book is a classic homage to the couturier’s outstanding oeuvre. One of the designer’s most iconic pieces, the perfecto, appeared in the collection few times, being the season’s key item. “He would always say ‘yes, okay’ and then he’d change everything, because he hated repeating himself,” said Fabre Bazin. “Practically from the beginning, he made them every season: short, long, with zip, without, in python, leather, denim; every time it was different.” This season, an early, pre-2000 biker jacket returns in Japanese denim or in python. Other throwbacks: a polka dot faille trench or a denim peacoat from summer 1992 (a nod to the Tati exhibition currently on show at the Association Azzedine Alaïa). The bow theme may nod to a collection from 2010, signature studs may return via 3D printing, a technical silk organza may be embroidered with an archival motif and then used on a different silhouette, or a print from 1991 may find fresh relevance on different materials – the studio working under the name of the master reinvents, revisits, reworks. Ultimately, “then” fuses with “now”. The Alaïa atelier has all it needs to keep shining for years to come.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Beautiful Consistence. APC AW19

This was a classic A.P.C. presentation, with a few plot twists. Jean Toitou invited two collaborators for autumn-winter 2019 collection: Brain Dead, an Los Angeles–based streetwear brand, and Suzanne Koller, the house’s longtime stylist and Parisian friend. The first created graphic hoodies based on the 1972 documentary, Future Shock, in which Orson Welles, playing narrator, discusses how technology is moving too fast for humans to keep up. Koller, the fashion director of M Le Monde and Self Service, designed the collection’s black wool dress (worn by her currently favourite blond, Maggie Mauer) and an oversize parka that she teamed with a monochrome look in gray: chunky sweater, turtleneck, wool trousers, and leather boots. During his speech, Touitou joked, “Maybe you can guess which pieces are hers.” Knowing her style and work, you could think of Koller right away, even not knowing about A.P.C.’s collab.  A.P.C. values consistence, which seems like the best advise for any brand doing shows in Paris. And their eventual ‘surprises’ make this consistence even more beautiful.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Light. Nina Ricci AW19

Paris saw two debuts at historic maisons that were originally found by women. The first was a proper, but mild restart at Lanvin by Bruno Sialelli. The second appeared to be at Nina Ricci, where Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh took the role of creative directors. The couple have a menswear label, Botter, whose oversize tailoring and energetic humor caught the attention of the fashion world last year, made them LVMH Prize finalists and scored a top design award at the Festival d’Hyères. They’ve never designed womenswear, but LVMH gave them a blank page. So you could actually expect anything. The designers decided to play rather safe and referred to Ricci herself, whose fashion was roamntic, airy and light. Rushemy and Lisi cleared the garments of any unneeded details, like lace or embroideries, and delived a line-up of minimalist, yet feminine silhhouettes. There were organza tops and flowing gowns, but we’ve also had beautifully constructed suits and over-sized shirting. For me, this collection lacked the intrigue that Guillaume Henry (Botter and Herrebrugh’s precedessor that parted ways with the brand quite abruptly) delivered to the brand. But I’m paying attention to what’s coming from the new creative directors in the near future.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Classics. Chloé AW19

This was Natacha Ramsay-Levi‘s most commerce-wise collection for Chloé in her tenure at the house – and this isn’t a bad thing. The designer has already established such a solid set of her Chloé classics that it felt like the right moment to list them in one line-up. Some chic, breezy dresses in plaid; really good, masculine coats; a silk blouson tucked into a knee-lenght skirt; reworked denim; 70s inspired outerwear with shearling collars. All that styled with eclectic (even slightly ethnic) jewellery, always-in-demand riding boots and equally desirable handbags. Since her first season at the maison, Natacha holds close to her favourite colour palette that’s all about rust, beige, navy, and ecru. As I said, classics.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.