PARIS — Monumental light-bulb encrusted letters spelling CHANEL sparkled over the runway at the Grand Palais on the last day of Paris Fashion Week prefacing a collection celebrating the cinema industry. It brought a pang of nostalgia for better times during this reduced virus-hit season that has been notable for its lack of star power.
Like Milan before it, Paris has undertaken an unusual fashion season for Spring-Summer 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The nine-day calendar was a mix of ready-to-wear runway collections with masked guests in seated rows, in-person presentations and completely digital shows streamed online with promotional videos.
Here are some highlights from Tuesday:
The American actors who usually attend Chanel, the highlight of Paris Fashion Week, stayed away. But designer Virginie Viard dreamed of more glamorous times. She produced an optimistic collection channeling the Hollywood or Cannes movie star machine and its media circus, appropriately placing French Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard on the front row.
"I was thinking about actresses at the photocall, coming off the red carpet: their faces a little distracted, their attitude a little out of sync with the outfits they're wearing ... this very lively side to cinema that happens beyond cinema," Viard said.
It produced a diverse display of high-class glamour that mingled with the casual -- in a collection notable for its shoulder shapes that were exaggeratedly round and wide, or diagonal and flat.
For the high-class, there were ecru and black tweed skirt suits -- the house signature. The best was a stiff knit black number with giant round shoulders, uber-cinched waist, giant tubular arms and large white visible shirt cuffs and collar. It cut a beautiful silhouette against the pure-white illuminated runway.
Some of the casual looks, however let the collection down. Large prints in vibrant color, such as a turtle-neck and cross-over dress, featured blown-up letters spelling the house name to evoke neon lights. But the colors clashed and it sometimes seemed as if the designer was trying too hard to be hip.
That said, there were plenty of stand-out moments. A shoulderless black mini dress was the definition of chic, with a sheer silk black overskirt that fluttered gently to the ankles to sensually reveal the legs. A loose black silk top had dramatic swooshes of white feathers across it like a sash.
On a note of nostalgia, this could be one of the last Chanel shows in the Grand Palais for years. The venue has said it is closing from December 2020 to March 2023 for renovations, to reopen before the Paris Olympics of 2024.
This season's mission for powerhouse Louis Vuitton was to dissolve masculine and feminine in fashion.
"(To explore) a sensitive zone that erases gender and promises exponential creative possibilities. What does an in-between garment look like?" the house asked.
Designer Nicolas Ghesquiere used that as a cue for a diverse and colorful collection on models that often had androgynous looks and hairstyles. Fashion, as an industry, has been moving towards co-ed styles for some seasons now, and it is a pivotal moment when a house as powerful as Vuitton chooses to explore this theme so explicitly in clothes.
The collection mixed a sporty edge with flashes of menswear. While a cross-over wool coat in peach yellow with an angular T-shaped silhouette was probably for a woman, many other garments for spring-summer successfully delivered on the unisex (and very much on-trend) mission.
The buckled belt of a men's trench coat was a leitmotif, appearing as an oversize version in tan, striped, black, white and laurel green, and its loose end was styled to hang down the leg.
A biker jacket was both oversize and cropped like a bolero. One standout piece was a V-neck sleeveless check knit sweater, with chic sage leather shoulders, that was so gargantuan it had a band fastening the bottom half to fit the model. It was likely a tongue-in-cheek reference to women who sometimes don their boyfriend's sweater, and it was very cool.
Actresses Alicia Vikander and Lea Seydoux applauded vigorously from the front row.
VUITTON'S PENCHANT FOR THE CAMERAS
Fashion defines itself as an industry that is constantly changing. This is normally a positive thing, because moving forward to new ideas and ways of presenting fashion is how a trend is created, and that is the industry's blood life.
Increasingly, houses stream their collections on Instagram and other outlets to democratize their products, something that is admirable and forward-looking. It helps make fashion relevant by opening it up beyond the 200 guests who are invited to a physical show.
But Louis Vuitton is one house that seems to have gone a little too trigger-happy in its bid to record and project its show digitally and that can distract from the viewing of the collection by editors, which is one of the show's prime functions.
This phenomenon predates the coronavirus pandemic by several years.
At Tuesday's show, some guests struggled to see the collection because of the over-100 cameras obstacles set up on poles in the Louis Vuitton runway. There were two camera poles next to almost every guest in the main runway hall.
When the collection started, large cameras on rollers moved up and down throughout.
MIU MIU DAZZLES WITH COLOR
Miuccia Prada's little sister house of Miu Miu is known for its quirky designs with cerebral depths. This season, Prada delved into the sportswear of the 1980s and infused it with eye-popping color.
The collection seemed to have woven every single bright color in the chart into the 53 looks. It could be interpreted as a note of optimism in one of the darker chapters of the fashion industry.
Blood orange dazzled on a retro tracksuit top and sweat pants. Persian blue gleamed on a velvety turtle neck. Satin sheen gold added a contemporary touch on a vintage jacket and sporty split skirt. Elderberry formed the top section of a geometrically striped halterneck with a dark sporty sienna skirt that looked part Piet Mondrian and part Wimbledon.
One skirt was in one of the brightest colors that must surely have ever been seen on the Paris runway: A glowing pure citrine so strong that the silhouette could hardly be made out.