As a month-long schedule of both digital and physical shows across four major capitals comes to a close in Paris today, the mood in the fashion world is difficult to gauge. On the one hand, a number of designers have shown that against all odds beauty and creativity can thrive even in the most challenging of contexts. On the other, the industry’s role — at least as it is now — in a world that seems defined by political conflict, and health and climate-related uncertainty — is unclear.
As fashion designer Daniel Roseberry told commentator Tim Blanks in a recent podcast by The Business of Fashion, “There is something very irrelevant about what we bring to the table right now. Fashion shows don’t have to be relevant right now. There (are so) many other things that are more important.”
Choosing not to travel, the CNN Style team watched the four major fashion weeks flicker out from our screens at home, hoping to spot signals for what might lie ahead. Springtime often conjures up ideas of rebirth and new beginnings, but with so much hanging in the balance around the world, many of the new collections presented a reckoning with the past and present instead of a look towards the future.
Here’s what caught our attention from the virtual front row during Paris Fashion Week.
Striking gold jewelery including statement earrings, face moldings and eye pieces made it almost impossible at first to focus on the clothing presented by Schiaparelli’s Texas-born creative director Daniel Roseberry. But on closer inspection, the clothes were alluring, too, thanks to their simplicity and thoughtful tailoring. Roseberry said he wanted the designs to be timeless and “essential.”
“This moment we’re all sharing will end. But these clothes will last,” read a statement. The collection was presented via an off-the-cuff series of photographs taken by Roseberry, and accompanied by a behind-the-scenes video from the shoot which took place on the streets of Paris.
High performance meets commerce
Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 2 presented by Amazon Prime Video. Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Matthew Williams’ Givenchy debut
In an impressive two-month turnaround, Williams released his first ad campaign for the house, swiftly followed by a Spring-Summer 2021 collection which he dubbed a “sampler” for what’s to come. Known for his luxury streetwear aesthetic, his designs — which he revealed via social media — brought a notable edge to the storied couture house.
With the current public health crisis and climate disasters including the wildfires in California, It doesn’t take a fashion expert to unpick the origins of the current trend for performance, or, protective wear, as designers offered various riffs on the protective abilities of garments throughout the week.
Kenzo Spring-Summer 2021. Credit: Peter White/Getty Images
Taking a slightly whimsical approach to the idea of clothes that protect, Kenzo presented a series of beekeeper-inspired looks, while Balenciaga’s oversized outerwear and sunglasses-clad models looked as though they could face just about anything. Meanwhile Rick Owens, who took his show to Venice this season, paired every look with the accessory du jour: face masks.
Chanel harkens back to the silver screen
It’s unlikely that there will be many red carpet moments to dazzle us as awards season approaches and the pandemic wears on, so the label’s creative director Virginie Viard’s ode to classic cinema — which she said was a tribute to the muses of the the fashion house — offered up a welcome dose of glamour. In a short film teased a day before the physical show, renowned photographers Inez & Vinoodh painted a picture of French New Wave, Italian cinema and Hollywood all converging in an imagined landscape filmed from above.
As for the clothes, Viard said she did not want to fall into “vintage citation” and so presented Chanel’s iconic tweed alongside florescent jeans and neon T-shirts. In a statement about her designs Viard wrote that she wanted the collection to be “very joyful, colourful, and very vibrant too,” perhaps offering a last-ditch effort to embrace the fun side of Paris as it shutters its bars tonight due to rising Covid-19 cases.