Paris Fashion Week: from Paco Rabanne to Pierre Balmain, in the name of fathers


Paco Rabanne.

Have your own brand, or bring someone else’s to life? The dilemma arises for all fashion designers, often torn between the desire for independence and the prestige conferred by a famous, historic, sometimes revolutionary surname. For those who choose to create under a label that is not theirs, the place of the founder in their work varies. For this fall-winter 2023-2024 women’s ready-to-wear season, presented from February 27 to March 7 in Paris, four designers have chosen to really make reference to the person who laid the foundations of the brand.

Even if Paco Rabanne withdrew from his brand in the 2000s and then stayed away from fashion, his personality and his innovative aesthetics marked the spirits so much that he remained very associated with the house. . His death, on February 3, obviously opened the way to a tribute, which the artistic director, Julien Dossena, chose to formulate by scrolling through six metallic dresses taken from the archives. Since his arrival in 2013, his work is part of the preservation of the spirit of Paco Rabanne, that is to say “create a new vision, a new vocabulary, through creative research that must be exceptional”. This season, he was inspired by the founder’s friendship with the painter Salvador Dali: “They were doing performance art together in the mid-1970s, with Amanda Lear, who landed in the middle in a metallic dress”relates Julien Dossena, who contacted the Dali Foundation to be able to reproduce four paintings that he transformed into dresses.

Like Paco Rabanne in his time, he also covered the bodies of “strange materials”coats in long camel hair, dresses with pieces of silverware, very shiny satin, overlays of mesh and transparent veils creating fabrics “surrealist drapes” organized around reissued Dali jewelry. “I want to make a very radical proposal, which elevates women, makes them powerful, like Paco Rabanne did”, says the artistic director. At the end of the parade, the Spaniard’s voice resounded in the Museum of Modern Art in Paris: “Women have become warriors, so I dress them in armor to gain independence from men. It is a reflection of our time. “Thank you Mr. Rabanne, you were one of those who change our vision of the world”wrote Mr. Dossena on a small cardboard installed on the seat of each guest.


It was another voice from beyond the grave, that of Pierre Balmain, which resonated during the brand’s parade. We can hear the man who founded the label in 1945 talk about “the atmosphere of the immediate post-war period” or his meeting with Cecil Beaton. Excerpts from interviews that Olivier Rousteing, artistic director since 2011, listened to attentively for an exercise of homage executed without trembling, with artisanal silhouettes of undeniable sharpness. Against the great uproar of previous seasons, in the form of parades-festivals open to more than 8,000 people massed on the bleachers, it opposes an intimate parade, limited to 200 guests, legs crossed on soft sofas. “I wanted to remind people that if I am witness to a present steeped in pop culture, I am also obsessed with the history of the house. And, by doing so, also point out that I am not just an Instagram account”explains Mr. Rousteing.

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Rigorous jackets in black velvet or with a marked waist and embellished with satin bows, corolla skirts studded with crystals, suits in polka dot velvet, mini evening dresses spread out like a fan or knit ensemble covered with pearls cross mules with bows or pumps glittery. Even if we recognize certain gimmicks by Olivier Rousteing (the taste for “legs of eph”, the disproportionately long sleeves…), everything unfolds in a couture spirit which in the 1950s made the heyday of the “triangle Parisian d’or. To support the founder’s convocation, certain hats of his own are reproduced by Stephen Jones Millinery, a big name in the discipline, while his Labyrinth monogram from 1970 is revived in trunks, bags… and even toolboxes.

Frayed skirt over strappy pants

At Givenchy, the spirit of the founder is back. The American artistic director Matthew M. Williams, who has long sought his place in this house with a somewhat vague DNA, torn between, on the one hand, the classicism of an Audrey Hepburn in a pearl necklace and a little black dress and , on the other hand, the gothic streetwear fashioned by former designer Riccardo Tisci… and his own culture as a thirty-something Californian immersed in the world of hip-hop. Tottering since his appointment in 2020, the American finally seems to have taken sides, and he has succeeded: in a large white box set up at the Military School, he relied on the archives of the 1970s and 1980s of Hubert de Givenchy, from which he has retained a taste for elegance, black and white, majestic drapes.


The collection is rich in tailored jackets twisted by their singular drape (a button offset on the hip, creating volutes of fabric), satin coats with marked shoulders fashioned by haute couture workshops, long black dresses with slits. Matthew M. William also picked up seventies and eighties prints that he arranged in his own way: a floral motif is printed on metal dresses, enhanced with black satin bows. Gray fish circulate on a little white dress with an asymmetrical collar, from which escapes a long transparent black veil floating behind the mannequin. Here and there he adds his Californian touch, a few “baggy” silhouettes where he superimposes a frayed skirt on strappy pants, shirts on shirts under a sweater under a coat… “Matthew, you’re a genius! », commented his compatriot Jared Leto, guest at the parade, about the collection. Who should find his audience.

For its part, the haute couture house Schiaparelli showed its first ready-to-wear fashion show, a sign of its renewed vitality. No one would have imagined such a scenario five years ago, as the label seemed so outdated and without direction. The arrival of Texan Daniel Roseberry as artistic director in 2019 changed everything: by dint of well-designed and well-cut dresses, with just the right amount of extravagance and drama, he succeeded in seducing the stars of the red carpets and pop culture. “Sewing is my megaphone that ensures the buzz. Ready-to-wear is not intended to break the Internet: it is about dressing women on a daily basis”, explains the designer. He has thought up a tight but very complete collection, from the white shirt to the cocktail dress, with which he hopes to fill a gap in the luxury market: clothing of excellent quality but not classic.


“In the current offer, the more a product is expensive, the less it is creative, believes Roseberry. We are going to maintain Elsa Schiaparelli’s fantasy and sense of humor on clothes and accessories as precise as couture. » And it’s true that its ready-to-wear collection very faithfully reflects the spirit of haute couture: the cuts and volumes of the suits, coats or pants fall perfectly, drawing graphic silhouettes, most of the time black. Signature “Schiap” (as Roseberry says) is found in disconcerting shapes (a strapless dress with pointed edges, sleeves inflated like a balloon, etc.), surprising materials (a hair-effect goat hair plastron), jeweled gold buttons in the shape of a ear, padlock or nipple… “I want to honor the codes of the house without reducing them to a logo”, says Roseberry. What he has perfectly succeeded his bet. It remains to be seen whether this ultra-luxurious ready-to-wear will appeal beyond the circle of couture clients.

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