Boost for power dressing during muted Paris Fashion Week

As Russian troops invaded Ukraine last week, fashion designer Lili Litkovskaya reluctantly left Kyiv with her two-year-old daughter. After nine hours on the road to Poland and 12 hours of waiting at a crowded border, she made it through. She traveled to Milan, then to Paris, to fashion week.

She says many of her colleagues are still in Ukraine, “volunteering and baking bread to take to the metro station and shelters, each helping their neighbours.” She is trying to organize the production of military clothing in her home country.

Before the war broke out, she planned to show Litkovskaya’s latest collection. Instead, she erected the Ukrainian flag in her space at the Tranoi showcase at the Palais Brongniart, pinned with flowers, and displaying the Instagram handles QR codes of 45 fellow Ukrainian creatives on a large chalkboard alongside.

She says, “My collections, my new season, it doesn’t matter. The main mission for me is to speak loud and clear about Ukraine, to speak loud and clear to fashion influencers who have to show their followers what is happening in our country. Our message is to stop the war and support Ukraine.

There was a worried atmosphere at shows and a sense of anticipation as to how brands would respond to the crisis and whether they would go far enough. As the week progressed, luxury houses began to take various measures: LVMH donated 5 million euros to the International Red Cross, while Hermès and Chanel went further by announcing that they were closing temporarily their stores in Russia and suspended all business activities in the country.

A look by Ukrainian designer Lilia Litkovskaya fall/winter 22 collection © Andrew Gray

Paul Smith’s signature colorful fit has been softened with half-moon shoulder pads

A few of the usual cocktail and candlelight events, including a dinner hosted by Victoria Beckham and another with beauty brand Augustinus Bader, have been canceled. Hungarian brand Nanushka, which has also stopped selling in Russia, played the Ukrainian national anthem during its fall/winter 2022 collection, but as of Friday few presentations have been changed to reflect the situation. The result was that some offered a short, surreal illusion in which life seemed normal, and others argued.

Gabriela Hearst of Chloé showed recycled cashmere skirts and sweaters in intarsia. . . © Photo: Filippo Fior / Gorunway.com

. . . and a rich palette of earthy shades of rust, stone and sand © Photo: Filippo Fior / Gorunway.com

Several designers said they did not want to let down employees who had worked hard on the collections. Gabriela Hearst of Chloé said in a preview that she struggled with “the awkwardness of doing a show when there’s all-out war three hours away by plane.” . . then I realized it wasn’t about you. It is about the collective work of the teams and not about profits. And the message we’re sending on this track is that we need women’s empowerment, we need women in politics.

For her third full season release at Chloé, Hearst delivered another desirable collection of clean, or as she put it, “monastic” lines mixed with rich textures in earthy, desert tones of rust, stone and sand. . Leather tunic dresses and aprons were layered over sheer knitwear and trousers, while leather trench coats and puff-sleeved dresses were paired with chunky whip-stitched leather boots. Hearst said she prioritizes “understated luxury where you feel it’s well made and built. I want my clothes to make people feel strong.

Hearst also strives to make her collections eco-friendly and this season she drew inspiration from relining and relining expert Isabella Tree. She said her recycled cashmere midi skirts and sweaters intarsia with parched land damaged by climate change on the front, and fertile pastures and polar bears on glaciers on the back, are meant to show what it might look like “climate success”.

At Balmain, the models recalled the warriors of science fiction with motocross and combat pants. . . © Filippo Fior / Gorunway.com

. . . and white and silver bibs worn over tops and mini dresses © Filippo Fior / Gorunway.com

Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri focused on body protection, with multicolored puffer jackets. . . © Frederique Dumoulin

. . . and reinvents Bar jackets with the addition of heat-regulating and cushioning technology © Frédérique Dumoulin

The collections were conceived months ago, but some themes seemed strangely and at times uncomfortably prescient. At Balmain, designer Olivier Rousteing’s models looked like sci-fi warriors in futuristic armor. All-white mini-dresses, tube skirts, and motocross or combat pants were paired with white and silver breastplates and body armor. Mugler-esque dresses that evoked red carpet robots with prom skirts and articulated bodices strayed into costume territory. Rousteing said the theme of protection stemmed from the anxiety social media had caused him and was “not intended as a direct response to the recent horrific invasion from our neighbours.”

At Dior too, there were themes of wrapping and protecting the body. Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri worked with D-Air Lab to add temperature-regulating and shock-absorbing technology to classics like the Bar Jacket and a bodysuit criss-crossed with artery-shaped glow tubes. She said: “I’m obsessed with the idea that fashion is about our bodies, so we have to create something that’s pretty but also comfortable.”

Easy wear was also key at Paul Smith, who showed off his designs in his light-filled Paris offices. He said “for anyone who’s been sitting around for two years in sweatpants and a hoodie, these are still going to be comfortable.” The signature tailoring in raspberry, royal blue, lilac and an art house-inspired abstract print also incorporated details such as a new half-moon epaulette that creates a defined shoulder while “respecting the shape feminine”. Meanwhile, at Rick Owens, exaggerated pointy shoulders added to the pleasantly sinister underworld vibe.

The New York label The Row presented oversized jackets, long knit dresses. . .

. . . and wide-necked shirts under cropped sweaters

At Saint Laurent, feminine long dresses were balanced by masculine coats. . .

. . . and polo neck column dresses were worn with stacks of silver bracelets

Looser, more minimalist cuts were seen at The Row, the New York brand founded by former child stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, via an extremely chic collection of wide-leg pants, oversized jackets and long knit dresses worn with flat moccasins, pillboxes. and structured handbags. Their aesthetic is indebted to ’90s minimalism, but has its own modern, luxe patina that makes them a fashion front-row favorite.

In front of a front row featuring Donatella Versace and Demi Moore, Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello showed off figure-hugging maxi dresses and masculine Paletot coats with exaggerated shoulders. These were often worn together in a powerful play on masculine and feminine: black wool or leather overcoats were paired with white satin dresses. Polo-neck column dresses worn with stacks of silver bracelets exuded an evocative simplicity, and very convincing faux furs evoked an ’80s glamazon.

Like Dior, the brand had a typically impressive setting: the sides of the custom-built cube with its plush cream carpets lifted to reveal the Eiffel Tower shimmering against the night sky. This view never loses its sparkle and Saint Laurent has delivered similar Parisian magic.

Victoria Beckham’s presentation featured flowing dresses enriched with sequins. . .

. . . alongside monogrammed and couture catsuits

Monastic forms took center stage at Rick Owens with long black skirts, jackets with exaggerated shoulders. . . © Valerio Mezzanotti

. . . and long jersey cape dresses with hood © Valerio Mezzanotti

There was a play of soft, structured pieces at Victoria Beckham’s presentation, which included a monogrammed catsuit and trench coat alongside flowy suits and dresses. A dress with a wool skirt had a camisole top with sequins layered under sheer silk to tone down the bling.

More than a soup of opulence was on display at Dries Van Noten, where instead of a show, mannequins had been positioned around a grand but slightly dilapidated mansion in the 7th arrondissement like guests at a mysterious party. The air of intrigue and affluence was heightened by the delicious scents of her new fragrance collection, displayed for guests to sample.

Few designers can match Van Noten’s dreamy ability to layer patterns and textures without excess, and here white leather trousers printed with a blue porcelain pattern have been successfully paired with an oversized black blazer and a shimmering black knit. . A hologram silver sequin trench coat with feather collar was paired with faded jeans.

Backstage, Van Noten said, “The vibe is for women who are very strong but use their femininity and aren’t afraid of anything erotic.” He added, “as [the late Italian actor] Marcello Mastroianni said, to dream is to stay young forever, and in the times we live in, maybe we need that.

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