Croissants. Fromage. Attitude. There are some things you expect when you think of Paris, yet with the fashion collections the word that sticks every time is “unexpected.” This season didn’t disappoint.
Karl Lagerfeld loves a grand statement. For Chanel’s Fall 2018 runway, he decided to blow Autumn in BIG at the Grand Palais. So many leaves covered the space you could just hear the shudders of plucked clean trees shivering naked in the Tuileries. Branches creaked out over moss-covered trunks with two mirrors reflecting the spaces to feel expansive and not just a little like the dark, intimidating forests of a Brothers Grimm tale. That sense of folkloric dread wove its way through the signatures of the house of Chanel: tweeds in pitch with gold Lurex glints like the stars of the night sky, dark feather trims à la Charlize Theron’s wicked queen, boucles piled up in scarves and hoods to keep out the piercing wind — this is Hansel and Gretel if they passed by Rodeo Drive along the way to the witch’s house.
Editors, stylists and the rest of the fashion flock fell hard for Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s Spring 2018 debut at Chloé, and the pressure mounted for a possible sophomore slump. Luckily that was not the case. Wide satin lapels, deep v-necks, printed blouses, jodhpurs, plissé chiffon, bucket bags, center parts — clearly Ramsay-Levi is fixated on the 70’s. She cited iconic actresses from that era (Anjelica Houston, Stéphane Audran, Isabelle Huppert, etc) who gave powerful performances on-screen as well as with their choice of dress. This influence was apparent on the runway, as the models embodied women who, while clearly celebrating femininity, are just as comfortable in a role of assertion. Layers were full of frou and fringe, sometimes feeling a little too heavy-handed, but mostly masterfully balanced. Almost every look was finished off with long pendant necklaces and metal cuffs placed at the upper arms, jewelry styles not seen so in vogue since Faye Dunaway won her Oscar for Network. Of course, trends of 2018 were still inferred (Chloé logo socks just screamed street style blogger bait), but the question remains: how will a modern stylish woman mix these pieces that feel so incredibly informed by vintage?
Alexander McQueen spent many years developing the codes of his house. Even back when he was designing for Givenchy, you knew you were getting fantasy and myth rendered through a stoic prism. Sarah Burton has carried that torch with pride, reimagining a Gothic / Edwardian romance for seasons since. For Fall Burton conjured up a progressive wardrobe every girl will want, despite her tribe. This is a McQueen interested in separates as well as ornate dresses designed for day or dancing. Of course, one doesn’t examine the now to only abandon history: on-brand leather bodices and corseted belts felt ready for couture Corsairs, Monarch butterfly wing prints were magnified to borderline grotesque detail, and ink blots butted up against Victorian lace. It was all there, but so was smart tailoring, utilitarian puffers, fresh fringe, and some YSL-esque over-the-top satin explorations. This is a new chapter, and most of it felt boldly modern.