With world-wide tension growing as war in Ukraine continues, the conflict is at the forefront of every industry’s headlines, including the fashion industry. Already a brand in the limelight, Balenciaga rightfully stole much of the media’s attention during Paris Fashion Week.
As a refugee himself, Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s creative director, personally understands the trauma and hardships that war has on a country. He used this year’s fashion exhibition to highlight the intensity and importance of the current situation in Ukraine. It was political, personal and of course, incredibly stunning.
Guests sat around a curricular tank which contained a blistering white snow storm. Models walked the cyclical runway through intense winds, with their clothes blowing against their skin and flowing behind them. Some held sacs reminiscent of garbage bags with thick rimmed sunglasses. Each piece in the collection was contrasted by the cloudy atmosphere. As one of the more daring shows to pull off, Balenciaga did not come up short in producing a memorable and unique display.
Balmain’s autumn/winter collection also commented on the happenings in Ukraine, though with a completely different approach. Balmain’s creative director Oliver Rousteing explained to reporters that the show was meant to work against “lies, hate and aggression” specifically noting the “anxiety-inducing headlines of the past week.”
He used symbolism to represent honesty and peace using mostly monochromatic looks. The models wore almost exclusively white clothing, a contrast to the silhouettes of the clothing which resembled quintessential warrior suits. Geometric, segmented tops were a major theme. One of the models wore gold plates atop her white jacket, not so subtly representing armor. Juxtapositions were present at every level of Rousteing’s display, openly in the major theme and subtly just as strong in each outfit’s details.
Louis Vuitton’s show was more classic, leaving commentary and social critique to its competitors. With the passing of Virgil Abloh, one of the brand’s most influential and forward thinking designers, the runway presentation marked a notable shift for the brand.
Though less avant garde, Louis Vuitton found a way to stay on the top of the fashion industry by staging their fall/winter 2022-2023 collection in the Musée d’Orsay, the first time a shoe has ever been done at the location. Models walked in neutral tones, many with accents of bright patterns in the form of a loose necktie. Nicolas Ghesquière, native French designer and Louis Vuitton creative director, considered the collection an ode to adolescence. Wearable and safe, all of the looks set before France’s historic timepiece radiated sophistication.
Christian Dior’s Fall 2022 collection offered social commentary in a more understated manner than the previously discussed competitors’ shows. As the vision of Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s first female creative director, the show would be considered female empowerment regardless of the theme, yet Chiuri nodded to the influence directly. With the theme being “The Next Era,” the Italian female designer clued viewers into her future vision where women take over world leadership for the betterment of society.
The collection featured strong, dark, neutrals set against a burgundy backdrop, adorned with massive gold framed black and white photos of female figures. In collaboration with D-Air Lab, an Italian technical specialist company, there was a focus on ensuring all clothes were functional for all facets of life. Outfit details revealed the sci-fi influences: exposed fluorescent stitching and tall padded gloves to note a few.
It’s no surprise that the Paris Fashion Week was filled with grandeur and spectacle, as it closes out the industry’s Fall/Winter 2022 Fashion week lineup. With an emphasis on social commentary and raw, personal narratives from designers, there’s certainly more to unpack here, as well as room for expansion when Copenhagen Fashion Week kicks off the Spring/Summer 2023 displays on August 9.