The figure of the fashion designer who projects his fantasy of the ideal woman on the catwalk has long dominated fashion. But what happens when women design for women? Celebrating femininity at its true value, with a dose of pragmatism that does not taint creativity, a handful of designers expressed their personal vision during this fall-winter 2023-2024 season, which takes place in Paris until 7 March.
At Chloé, the attention paid to women concerns both substance and form. Designer Gabriela Hearst has imagined a collection around Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the very rare female painters of the Renaissance, who transformed the atrocities of her life (a rape followed by a humiliating trial, the loss of three of her children) in exceptional paintings. The painter also allows him to tackle the subject that obsesses him, global warming: “Women have a great capacity to overcome hardships, to find solutions: they are the key to success in getting out of the environmental crisis”, assures Gabriela Hearst.
For this collection, she focused in particular on the canvas Esther and Ahasuerus – where Esther asks the Persian king to spare the Jewish people – which she transposed into naive-style embroidery on a multicolored patchwork dress or on black leather zipped jackets. The Renaissance inspiration also shines through in coats with tricolor stripes reminiscent of the ceremonial male outfits of the time, small bags in the shape of a purse, sleeves with XXL volume. But the wardrobe remains very pragmatic, intended to dress a woman on a daily basis. “I could wear anything this season! »enthuses the designer about the beautiful dresses in thick or frayed knits, cozy shearling coats, suits with very chic square shoulders.
A state of mind that we also find in Victoria Beckham. “Each of my collections starts with what I want to wear. And I try everything! My teams have a lot of fun seeing me half-naked in the studio putting on clothes. » And this season, the designer wanted a soft eccentricity, inspired by the film Gray Gardens (2009), with actress Drew Barrymore, who reprized her role by posing on the invitation card. This biographical film chronicles the lives of Edith Bouvier and her mother, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, cousin and aunt of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, who lived secluded in their ruined house in the Hamptons during the 1960s and 1970s.
We find their fantasy on dresses and long flowing and pleated skirts, from which feathers protrude. There is a little disguise side to this wardrobe, like little girls who take over their mother’s wardrobe. The combinations of materials and colors sometimes evoke this childish game, just like these amazing croc-style cracked leather pants that form a pair of boots in the extension of the leg, or the locks of acrylic hair wrapped around pumps or shaped like necklaces.
Hair, it is also a question at Hermès. Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski – who cut hers squared – makes it the backbone of this collection. “Hair is a strong feminine attribute, loaded with symbols. Historically, they have often been linked to the idea of power, seduction, magic., explains the designer. The capillary allusion extends to the colors of the collection, in tones mainly auburn, strawberry blond, jet black, which adorn the monochrome silhouettes. But also in the detail of the clothes: topstitching undulates on fitted knit sweaters, a smooth calfskin bag is decorated with silky horsehair, bracelets tighten, like rubber bands, the jackets behind the models’ backs…
The allusions are discreet, and what emerges from the outfits is rather an impression of happy sensuality. A supple leather jumpsuit caresses the skin, a hammered and pleated metallic silk skirt undulates with the movement of walking, a woolen wrap-over wraps voluptuously around the waist, while thigh-high boots in stretch calfskin hug the curve of the leg up to the thigh. “It is time to appropriate these codes of femininity, but to treat them in a more intuitive way, with empathy for the body”, says Nadège, who succeeds in her bet to dress a woman “powerful, sensual, but not constrained”.
Exaggerated shoulders and openwork dresses
The Isabel Marant wardrobe is also a celebration of the woman anchored in her daily life but seductive. “It’s a pretty soft and very wintry wardrobe”, assures the creator and director of the studio, Kim Bekker. Jackets with exaggerated shoulders impose their pace, woolen coats and trench coats envelop the silhouettes, large soft leather boots lengthen the legs. “It all looks wise at first glance, but it’s pretty teasing. The lines are sometimes graphic and draw angles like the shoulders of coats, the knit outlines openings that reveal the skin”explains Kim Bekker.
There are indeed small dresses in openwork and twisted knits, worn by sexy twists – cutouts on the hips and on the busts. On the casting side, the designer called on the stars of the catwalks of the years 2000-2010: Julia Stegner, Karmen Pedaru, Sasha Pivovarova, Caroline Trentini and Jessica Stam. “We wanted to work again with these girls that we adored. Youthism at all costs is not for us. We want to show real life, with women of all ages. »
At Alexander McQueen, among the fifty-five looks presented, fifteen are worn by artists, dancers, actresses, long-time collaborators… Women (and also some men) who illustrate a refreshing diversity of bodies in this very standardized fashion week . “Of course, fashion is a dream. But the world is such a mess right now that it’s important to have your feet on the ground,” explains Sarah Burton. In this perspective of giving meaning to her work, the designer returned to the initial inspirations of the founder Alexander McQueen, from whom she took over after his death in 2010.
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“His work is still relevant today”, she rightly remarks. Like him, she dissected the tailor. The jackets are transformed into corsets tied in the back, she takes off their shoulders to reduce them to bustiers, makes side or back cutouts to reveal the skin. The architectural dimension of his very masterful work is also found on flamboyant dresses, whether lacerated mesh dresses, or those as if molded on the body, welcoming vines that wrap around the shoulders and arms. , in reference to the orchid. “Incredibly beautiful and adaptable, this flower is both predator and prey, and also a symbol of love”, summarizes Sarah Burton.
Love is at the heart of Ester Manas’ collection, which projected itself into her future nuptials with her partner and working partner, Balthazar Delepierre. “We imagined the wedding that we will not do for us, in church, with all the clichés we see in the movies”, laughs the designer, whose clothes have the particularity of adapting to all body shapes, especially those of curvy women. “We also liked the idea of the wedding, because it is a very inclusive moment where all bodies are represented”, continues Balthazar Delepierre.
The couple imagined (recycled) lace dresses laden with fused tulle and rib knit, trains like Italian curtains, flamenco ruffles, worn by slender, small, fat, beefy women… Even layered, the often transparent and cut fabrics reveal the flesh and the delicate lingerie (signed Chantelle). “There wasn’t really a ready-to-wear offer for wedding dresses apart from the standard sizes, we rushed into this niche”, legitimate Ester Manas. Decidedly, women think of everything.