In six months, humanity will be divided into two camps: the beige addicts on one side, and the gray monomaniacs on the other. Unless they are the same people. This is, in essence, the verdict of Paris Fashion Week, which ended on Tuesday evening. A particularly conservative autumn-winter 2023 season. After the hubris of the rediscovered party, the avalanches of sequins and the rhinestone mini-dresses, the designers take refuge in a citadel of wool, cashmere or alpaca in neutral tones. We move about in silence, the body wrapped up in perfectly cut pieces, discretion as a standard. This new sartorial order was already palpable around the parades, where a camel-colored coat (or mouse hair, depending) was enough to hysterize photographers of street style frozen in the cold.
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In early January, however, Pantone announced that the 2023 shade would be Viva Magenta, a vibrant red “whose exuberance promotes a joyful and optimistic celebration”. America’s color chart experts may be spending too much time in the metaverse, and not enough ‘IRL’ [in real life ou «dans la vraie vie»], where war and natural disasters, social struggles and inflation rage. When the ground opens under our feet, dear Pantone, when we are lucky enough to have a roof and money to spend, we cling to sure values and we are silent.
The big French houses have understood this well. At Dior, artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri summons the France of the 1950s, but to thwart its macho tradition. Here, no desperate housewife glued to the stove, but heroines inspired by Edith Piaf, Juliette Gréco or Monsieur Dior’s sister, Catherine. Their non-conformist spirit is embodied in a realistic collection devoid of any grand ball spirit, a tropism of the brand. Not even the shadow of a Bar jacket, whose marked waist symbolizes post-war bourgeois elegance.
Instead, a committed femininity, capable of assuming fabrics intertwined with metallic threads for a more abstract body. The color palette is dark, peppered with vintage florals and tartan. Disruptive? Certainly not. But easy to read and wear. In this complex time, what else would we need?
Same observation at Louis Vuitton, where Nicolas Ghesquière questions the essence of French style. Contrary to the futuristic experiments dear to the designer, far from the usual allusions to science fiction, the silhouette is more refined. Complex but simple to integrate. Beige and gray dominate, as if to anchor the clothes in timelessness.
Meanwhile, at Chanel, we talk about the eternity of the camellia, Coco’s favorite flower. It is around her that Virginie Viard has built a collection extremely rich in stylistic proposals and in detail, to the point that it is difficult to understand everything. One thing is certain: once isolated in store, each piece will not fail to seduce customers looking for softness and fluidity.
That’s right: once the spectacle of the fashion shows is over, it’s in the privacy of a fitting room (or at home) that fashion encounters take place. At that moment, we attach as much to a silhouette as to a feeling. This goes through the material, its tiny details. A connection that Dries Van Noten perfectly transcribed. In this season of austerity, the Fleming relies solely on the power of clothing, brilliantly mixing the rigor of tailoring with the fragility of blur, chalk or tennis stripes with floral prints. Extreme poetry: gold leaves placed on the waist of a coat in the style of kintsugithe Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics.
At Chloé, Gabriela Hearst also impresses with a pure wardrobe, imbued with innovative and eco-responsible techniques: a down jacket-cape with ruffles in recycled nylon, a dress in faux fur made from cashmere and silk, or fabulous pants in hand braided and ribbed leather.
But the prize for discreet luxury goes to Hermès. Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski signs a collection in keeping with the times but out of fashion, drawing on the know-how of the house. Here, a Fortuny pleated silk dress evokes the bark of trees. There, a knit scarf twisted with leather and sequins adorns a leather jumpsuit, while sections of silk and wool jersey lengthen the silhouette of a coat. Exceptional piece: a “Falun red” dress embroidered by hand with some 16,500 pearls. The designer’s greatest tour de force? Give this complexity an air of evidence.
In search of redemption
For some, discretion is a moral necessity. Three months after being accused of child pornography in the context of advertising campaigns, Demna, the artistic director of Balenciaga, has made a clean sweep of its show shows, its logos and ready-made accessories. In an ultra-minimalist setting, he presented a collection dedicated to the interaction between clothing and the body. How the first transform the second. How an air-filled biker leather jacket can change a posture, how jackets and skirts from dormant stocks of black pants can redefine a look and gait.
A beautiful redemption by the chisel and the needle. Enough to redeem a man’s reputation? The future will tell. In the meantime, only Rick Owens articulates any real political commentary. Faced with the war in Ukraine, writes the designer in his parade note, “a respectful formality and a certain sobriety are essential”. Result, clothes reduced to essential shapes, capes, long black dresses with train worn on simple panties, donuts filled with down as a giant bolero. By their delicacy, the matte sequins in muted tones and the denim jackets with a tangy gradient recall what violence brings into play every day.
In the ranks of the parades, some people are worried: is the announced reign of gray coats, sweaters and cashmere pants a reactionary reflex that will kill creation? Hard to say. But some creators like Harris Reed clash. For his debut as artistic director at Nina Ricci, the British designer delivers an explosive collection intended for the red carpets, between haute couture volumes, garish colors and vertiginous heels. Cheerful but frankly caricatural. The truly inclusive cast, the only one of the season, saves the point.
Presented a few days later, at the end of Fashion Week, the Miu Miu show will remain one of the most relevant: riding the wave of gray and beige, Miuccia Prada presents a deviant version of the sexy secretary with glasses: she waddles in a cardigan, a small elbow-length handbag, a rebellious lock… and simple rhinestone panties. Stylish, wearable, quirky and funny. Or how to be chic without ever taking yourself seriously. After all, it’s just fashion.
At Paris Fashion Week, 500 shades of gray, and more if you like