In a season like no other, Paris responds to the conflict with community and creativity, while showcasing sustainable and social progress for a new era of fashion.
By Anna Ross
With war breaking out next door in Ukraine, the prospect of Paris Fashion Week suddenly seemed a little absurd. A resounding silence pervaded the first few days, industry players wondering what to say, influencers unsure whether to pick up the fanfare, designers worry about how their collection will turn out given the context .
As our feeds were flooded with crisis, how would fashion react?
For some – a bit too slowly. Companies around the world have begun to cut their affiliations with Russia to isolate Putin and push to end the conflict through resolution. Soon, fashion fans took to the comments section of the designers’ Instagram feeds, asking them to do the same, displaying Ukrainian flags and calling for support for its people and to act now. As the industry flew from Milan to Paris, Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, encouraged Paris Fashion Week attendees and attendees to “Live the shows of the days to come with solemnity, and in reflection of these dark hours.”
Fashion is frivolous by nature, especially fashion week, known for its lavish productions, fancy dinners and champagne parties. It’s also a $2.5 trillion industry that ultimately puts food on the table for families around the world.
Those who attend the bi-annual event were there to do a job, much like anyone else walking to their desk and booting up their computer in the morning. The show must therefore continue, although more discreetly.
As the fashion pack landed in Paris, a single image of a Russian citizen on public transport wearing the colors of the Ukrainian flag reminded us of the raison d’être of fashion as a means of expression, be it social , political or environmental. As I wrote in Milan, fashion is a sponge; it is an industry of resilience; it is reactionary; it’s a community – it cares as much as it creates.
Soon, a domino effect of brands mobilized to raise funds, take a stand and more effectively suspend trade in Russia. Among luxury players: Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermès, Prada and Burberry have all announced they are temporarily suspending operations and closing stores while paying their employees in the country. The dark look on Miuccia Prada’s face as she bowed out at yesterday’s Miu Miu show said it all.
There were moments of silence, literal clothing and numerous protests in the city throughout the ten days. Of course, the designers themselves have been planning their collections for six months, so it was impossible to react to the conflict within the construction of the collections themselves.
Some shows take on a poignant new dimension in their staging: at Balmain, Olivier Rousteing’s collection of armored looks takes on a new sense of protection, leading a performance featuring a conflict ending in a kiss resounding. Similar protective tropes have been spotted at Dior, whose integration of technology has shaped a “new look for a new era.” At Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia’s show, first a commentary on the climate crisis, took on a new context in her personal experience as a refugee. In the early 1990s, when he was just 12 years old, his family was forced to flee Georgia after their home was bombed during the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict; “The show came dedicated to fearlessness, resistance and the victory of love and peacehe proclaimed in his show notes.
Visually, too, the show was emotionally compelling; models facing strong headwinds, carrying trash bags as if picking up and fleeing with their belongings in tow. There is power in production.
In turn, Kim Kardashian’s presence in the trademark warning strip felt a little off, resulting in a thousand memes that nearly overshadowed the show’s feel. Paris is a fashion-loving community. Add to that a new wave of Tik Tok stars and celebrities, and you have yourself a recipe for mayhem from the crowds that lined the streets outside the shows, screaming at the top of their lungs in hope. to catch a glimpse of their favorite social media sensation.
Given the circumstances, the mega-fan roars against those protesting the war were shocking in their disposition and juxtaposition. And so, the influencer ecosphere is raging regardless.
Elsewhere, produced with a purpose. Take Bas Timmer and his brand Sheltersuit, whose first Paris release titled “People Helping People,” has put together a 21-piece collection that explores re-innovation, sustainability, reusability, and freedom. Thanks to unused materials (much of it donated by fellow sustainability ambassadors, Chloé,) has found new use in recycled streetwear, some of which can be converted into sleeping bags, alongside her backpacks which can be turned into wearable clothes for the homeless.
Speaking to The Impression backstage at his show, it turned out that this young designer had already shipped a batch of his Sheltersuits to Ukraine and was planning to distribute them to homeless people in Paris. Timmer is a shining star in the making on a mission for social justice.
Big brands weren’t the only ones giving back. Up-and-coming Heliot Emil set up a post-show pre-order model that donated 100% of the proceeds to humanitarian aid for the Ukraine crisis thanks to the work of UNICEF. This young brand’s innovation in sustainability has continued to raise the bar higher and higher. Take, for example, their chunky 3D printed shoes, the result of a collaboration with footwear brand SCRY. The production process for their garments eliminates waste and the final material can be reused to create new shoe designs, making the process completely circular and a first of its kind in the fashion world.
In the same breath, Marine Serre (another brand with a cult crowd circling the place) continues her efforts to make the world more sustainable, with the designer inviting us to witness her meticulous production process, from sorting the corpses of animals at sewing level assembly. . Exceptional result, the young designer has shown a talent well beyond her six years in the business, thus consolidating her place in our Top 10 Paris Fashion Shows.
For new generation designers in particular, sustainability is more than just a fad; it is an essential part of solving another crisis among us by means of ingenuity and responsibility.
This crucial part of the industry’s journey was once associated with a “burlap sack” aesthetic. Not anymore. For example, Germanier’s sparkly designs, using 3D-printed corn plastic and thrown crystals in his work, putting the “Extra” in eco-friendliness. Or the dazzling use of unsold coffee pods in Atlein.
Young people today are shaking up fashion from the ground up, not only in their purchasing power, but also in their new wave of social expectations that they implement throughout their design.
The inclusivity of body, age and gender is high on their expectations and the shows delivered in turn. Ester Manas is a star who continues to shine the torch of inclusive body design with great success, while an array of non-binary models, models in different stages of pregnancy and trans models graced the podium. This was more noticeable when designers weren’t promoting inclusivity than when they were. A sign of the times and something every designer should embrace.
Aesthetically, the tremor of youth continues to disturb even the most classic homes. Take Hermès, whose usually conservative styling was reversed with MOD-style go-go shorts, while Chanel sought to capture some of that Gen-Z spending with mini-hemlines, micro-bags and high-cut rubber boots. the longline. Note: long boots – everywhere. My legs feel really bare leaving town.
The times are changing. And fashion too. Paris Fashion Week demonstrated that this is an industry that goes far beyond clothing. It’s a community that cares and absorbs shock and change systems around the world.
Although frivolous at times, it serves as a means of expression and empathy – an outlet for many, now and in the future.