Structured Softness. Gauchere AW21

Marie-Christine Statz filmed her Gauchere autumn-winter 2021 collection in the Centre Pompidou. The bold, colourful postmodernist architecture of the Parisian art mecca fits Gauchere’s style really well. Essentially, the collection is about the way contemporary women dress in life. Statz is an exacting tailor, and her vision of modern female dress hinged on a dropped and deflated shoulder, which gave models a friendly prowess. Navy suits and brushed mohair turtlenecks followed the same line – slightly aggressive, but easy. Statz’s models passed each other in the Pompidou’s corridors and on escalators but did not acknowledge one another. “They are crossing but not interacting,” she said over a video chat with Vogue. “They are locked in and isolated in their own worlds.” However, their clothing has a freeing effect. Even with such a no-fuss attitude, Statz found ways to inject warmth. She cut a swinging tank dress in a spongy, nubbly knit and color-blocked shades of azure and grass within a single spritely look. On their feet, models wore sneakers as part of a collaboration with Li-Ning or Gauchere’s first foray into its own footwear: pillowy slides and pumps that are stuffed to have a cushy, exaggerated effect. “Structure, but with a softness to it,” Statz called it.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Past, Present, Future. Louis Vuitton AW21

Nicolas Ghesquière continues to induldge in his favourite theme: a journey through time. Past, present, future. He made Louis Vuitton‘s autumn-winter 2021 runway of the Louvre’s Denon wing, his models mingling with ancient Roman, Greek, and Etruscan sculptures to the tunes of Daft Punk’s mega-hit “Around the World.” The notoriously hard-to-get duo agreed to lend the song for the show weeks ago, he said, pre-breakup. He also divined a collaboration with the Italian design atelier Fornasetti, and its famous hand-drawn faces of women from antiquity peered out from all manner of clothes and leather goods. “Since we are all in a motionless situation, we have to double our imagination of inventing an extraordinary journey,” Ghesquière told Vogue. That goes for the collection as much as the production values surrounding it. Propelled by the concept of movement, he alternated between blouson jackets and cocooning capes on the one hand and elongated torsos punctuated with skirts that bubbled around the knees on the other. Nearly all the looks were accompanied by wedge-heel boots with a slouchy, swaggering disposition. In general, I found most of the looks too clumsy, even though this collection was a showcase for the LV atelier’s savoir faire: jewel-encrusted tunics peeked from under color-blocked parkas and bombers, and otherwise simple ’60s-ish dresses in A-line or sack shapes were minutely embroidered in graphic patterns and motifs. The closing pair of gladiator dresses were canvases for Fornasetti drawings of ancient statuary. “I wanted something impactful, something that conveys hope and joy for what’s coming next, and for people to have a good time watching,” Ghesquière said. “A moment of fashion.” Well, there were better Ghesquière fashion moments in history, but this will do as the official end of digital fashion month.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Genuine Pleasure. Paco Rabanne AW21

Julien Dossena exits the chainmail comfort zone and re-defines Paco Rabanne in a charming, joyous way for autumn-winter 2021. “The good thing about fashion,” Dossena said, “is that we’re proposing clothes for the next six months. So we hope that in six months’ time, it’s going to be a big party; everyone will be getting out for days and days, nights and nights….”What came out spontaneously was part very Parisian – imagery linked to the hedonistic ’70s and ’80s French Vogue photography of Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton – and part Princess Diana in her Shy Di phase. “Yes, I’ve been watching ‘The Crown‘” says Dossena with a laugh. “And binge-watching the French movies of Chabrol and Buñuel, with all those ladies interacting and having fun with one another.” The maximalist exuberance brought out big white collars on velvet dresses and a Shetland sweater, pie-frill broderie anglaise lace necklines, English-lady tweed coats, and crystal jewelry festooned in abundance across signature Paco Rabanne chainmail. “Really,” the designer concluded, “it’s just about girls enjoying themselves, releasing that vibration of genuine pleasure.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Functional Chic. Peter Do AW21

Peter Do‘s autumn-winter 2021 collection is his best to date. The designer is confidently stepping out of his minimalist comfort zone, offering a chic take on ‘after dark’ style (something many designers are talking about in Paris this season). Those giant feather brooches placed on jacket shoulders clearly say it. Or all the lace inserts used in the tailored pieces. “I felt like it was the right time to dress up, to be seen, to say that we’re here,” the New York-based designer summed up. Twelve months of living more or less like shut-ins has spawned a collective urge for shine, skin, and sexy high heels. This newfound instinct for embellishment aside, Do’s gifts as a designer are of the engineering variety. Anyone can add decorative fringe to a jumpsuit. It takes a clever patternmaker to create pieces like floor-scraping shirts that fold up and over the shoulders in dramatic swoops; the jacket/cape hybrids modeled here by Anh Duong and Maggie Maurer; and the rib-knit halter and shrug sets that he showed with another signature: tailored kilts worn over sharply cut matching trousers. As his business grows, elaborating on these two-in-one concepts will continue to distinguish Do from the rest of the fashion pack.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Coco Neige. Chanel AW21

Karl Lagerfeld once said that “sweatpants are a sign of defeat“. Of course, Lagerfeld said many notorious things, but whenever I wear sweatpants myself, I’ve got these words in the back of my head… so when I saw Chanel-sweatpants in Virginie Viard‘s autumn-winter 2021, I was quite disturbed. Sure, the reason for their appearance on the runway can be justified by living in a one-year-long lockdown, working from home and so on. But still, this just doesn’t feel right. And in general, this wasn’t a great Chanel collection by Viard – simply speaking, it’s quite lazy, both in styling and design. Still, there were some ups. After years of memorable Chanel show spectacles in the vast Grand Palais, now closed for renovations, Viard felt that the time was right for a totally different ambiance to showcase collection. “I wanted to show in a small place, a club,” Viard explained during a Zoom preview with Vogue. “I don’t like big rave venues; I prefer that kind of place that is more intimate. Karl was always telling me about the shows he staged in the ’70s with the girls getting dressed on their own in a restaurant in Paris,” she added.  Viard lighted on the legendary Left Bank nightclub Chez Castel that has been the epitome of cool for generations of party animals since Jean Castel first opened the club in the 1960s. Cozily arranged on different levels in an 18th-century building or two, the dimly lit boîte on the rue Princesse attracted the likes of Françoise Hardy, Françoise Sagan, Amanda Lear, and Mick Jagger at the time, and has never gone out of fashion. “I love Castel because it’s like a house and very English,” said Viard who was amused by the idea of the Chanel girls coming down the club’s famously narrow stairs in their giant après-ski coats and then leaving them in the coatroom to reveal the skimpy little chiffon numbers underneath. The collection is infused with “ski spirit” (the season’s most prominent trend): Norwegian sweaters, furry Moon Boots, quilted salopettes, voluminous puffers, and ski pants worn with short cropped jackets that Viard has styled either with the midriff bared or with the nightclub-friendly flowered black lace camisoles that also crop up under fluid knit suits or paired with a quilted satin miniskirt. The soundtrack, mixed by Michel Gaubert, featured Diana Ross’s “Do You Know Where You’re Going To? – a song that Viard considers singularly apt for this moment. “Your own pajama party?” posited Viard as an answer. “As we can’t do anything else!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.