Realness. Paco Rabanne SS21

Like many designers this season, Paco Rabanne‘s Julien Dossena focused on his signatures. Spring-summer 2021 show was an impressive vocabulary of the designer’s distinct takeaways he came up with for the brand – and it ranges from clothes you would see on the streets in Paris to chain-mail craftsmanship which equals to couture. And, as a matter of fact, the runway started on an actual street. The venue had a wide-open entrance in the background – the glimpse of the street was an intentional part of Dossena’s love letter to the girls of his neighborhood, not just the need of keeping Espace Commines safely aerated for the occasion. “I realized how much I’ve been missing being in the streets, passing people, looking at their style,” he said. “I’ve always lived just near here, between the Third and the 11th arrondissements. It’s a really diverse area, with people coming from everywhere, and expressing their individuality. I wanted to work some local realness. It’s what I’ve been really happy to get back to after confinement.” Recent controversies in France have made Dossena all the more convinced that he wants to stick up for young women’s rights to dress as they please: “I wanted to show a generous, affirmative sensuality. I was really noticing women in the street who were brave enough to embrace their femininity. Wearing super-short skirts, décolleté, and being proud of it.” Without even knowing what informed that underlying subtext some of the contrasts between last season, which was staged in the grand surroundings of the medieval Conciergerie, and this one, are refreshingly apparent. There’s the new emphasis on long-line jackets and midiskirts, a mix-up of sequins and stripes, lace and lingerie tops, and the suggestion that, actually, the glittery glamour of Paco Rabanne can go just as well with jeans. “And a kind of ironic flea market feeling,” he added. Many of the women walking in his show were friends: actresses, writers, interns, junior designers, students. Most definitely, everyone who was French in the house would have been conscious of the relevance of Dossena’s crop tops and the fact that he’d very visibly implanted bra cups into his complicated lace slip dresses. Since schools returned in September, a national row broke out when teenage girls were turned away from schools for wearing cropped tops and short skirts. The girls – protesting against being gaslighted for indecency and provoking boys – started a hashtag calling for all high school students to turn up to school on September 14 wearing something provocative. “It’s just so old-fashioned, these attitudes in France,” Dossena says. “These girls were really rioting. I’m so impressed by them.” Most definitely in the grown-up and otherworldly zone was the procession of all over pailletted, helmeted women who ended Dossena’s show – feminist guardian warriors, if you will. “If you look, some of the triangle paillettes are like knives, like a weapon. It’s quite a tough realness,” Dossena smiled. “We are definitely not about doing comfy bourgeois collections here.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.