Underpants and a sombre summer at Paris Fashion Week

By Eric RANDOLPH

From wearing your underwear in the street to very muted colour schemes, some trends stood out from the spring-summer 2024 womenswear collections at Paris Fashion Week, which ends on Tuesday, as did mounting concerns over the industry’s environmental impact.

Here are some highs and lows from the French capital, the climax of a hectic month of fashion weeks in London, New York and Milan.

– Underwear is outerwear –

Get used to walking around in your underpants if you want to stay trendy next spring.

Already a popular look for celebs like Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner, it was everywhere in Paris this week.

Stella McCartney’s billowing silk tops were worn over crystal-encrusted undies, Victoria Beckham had outfits that were little more than nightdresses, or swimsuits and socks, while Dries Van Noten had leopard-skin swimsuits under trench coats.

– Environmental activists –

French YouTube star Jeremstar was briefly arrested outside Louis Vuitton’s show for dressing like a “dismembered snake” to protest against the brand’s use of animal skin.

Activists spray-painted LV’s nearby boutique and said the fashion house had climate deaths on its conscience.

Stella McCartney offered a more positive example, setting up market stalls alongside her runway to showcase “cruelty-free” innovations such as vegan leather and seaweed-based yarn (while her show was partly a homage to her parents’ rock band Wings).

Hermes had one of the prettiest stage designs, with guests nestled in a prairie of wildflowers and tall grasses.

But animal rights group PETA was unimpressed and briefly interrupted the show, objecting to its use of crocodile skin.

– Sombre summer –

A lot of designers were keen to drain the colour from spring and summer.

Christian Dior, Saint Laurent, Victoria Beckham, Mugler and hyped newcomer Peter Do were among the many brands with muted, often monochrome palettes.

Some observers were dismayed and also felt there was a lack of innovation.

“Where are your colours? Where are your ideas, except those that come from archives?” chided veteran fashion watcher Cathy Horyn, now of New York Magazine’s The Cut.

– Balmain’s flowery recovery –

Balmain bucked the colourless trend with a shiny and exuberant show that it managed to pull together despite a dramatic robbery — dozens of its outfits were stolen on their way from the airport just 10 days earlier.

There were lots of roses. A woman seemingly lost in an entire red bush of them, another with a swoosh of golden feathers with roses on the tips, and a range of rose-print tops, dresses and mini-skirts.

There were also some ultra-bling, glittering flower concoctions that verged on haute couture extravagance.

“Florals for spring? Groundbreaking…” designer Olivier Rousteing wrote with apparent irony on Instagram.

– Balenciaga unpolished –

Balenciaga’s Demna was humbled last year after the fashion house produced highly controversial ads that appeared to reference child abuse.

But after one low-key show earlier this year, he was back to his rebellious ways this week with surreal looks such as giant-shouldered suits and dresses made from retro tablecloths.

“March was very polished and I realised that I don’t like it when it’s polished. I like it when it’s rough,” Demna told Vogue.

It was also a very personal show, featuring his mother, husband and members of his staff as models.

“It was about me. It was about my story. I needed to do it… because I had a horrible year,” he said.

– Bye-byes –

Naomi Campbell was the star of the catwalk in a shimmering silver dress at Alexander McQueen, where Sarah Burton gave her final show as creative director after more than a decade in charge.

Business of Fashion called it a “typically fearless final flourish from Burton”, leaving a tall order for her yet-to-be-named successor to meet.

It was also the last hurrah for designer Gabriella Hearst at Chloe.

Her sustainability agenda brought acclaim but apparently not enough sales to keep her at the fabled French house and she is leaving after less than three years. — Agence France-Presse

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