The Best of Paris Fashion Week, in Pictures

The spring 2020 shows have come to a close in Paris. Here, our favorite images of the week and notes on the collections — and don’t forget to check out our recaps from New York, London and Milan.

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Louis Vuitton closed Paris Fashion Week with a show at the Louvre. It opened with a video projection of the contemporary Scottish musician and artist Sophie singing against a sunset backdrop, but Nicolas Ghesquière’s collection riffed on Paris in the Belle Époque, with prints borrowed from Art Nouveau paintings. In contrast to previous seasons, the set was relatively simple, built with wood sourced entirely from sustainably managed forests in the Landes region of France that will subsequently be recycled. The show marked the end of a week in which French fashion houses had addressed the need for more environmentally conscious production practices and drawn heavily on the heritage of the French capital.

The Miu Miu show seemed to continue Miuccia Prada’s exploration, begun at Prada in Milan, of the value of clothes at a time when fashion is facing up to its environmental impact. The designer presented a collection that had simplicity at its core. There were satin jackets with brooch-like buttons and woolly cardigans worn with pinafore dresses. The show closed with a procession of white muslin dresses with subtly frayed edges. “Something raw, simple, naïve, not a big deal,” was how Prada described the collection. She was “suggesting a way of dressing, and after, they’re free to do their own thing.” There was a sense of women customizing their garments — whether with paint-splattered floral patterns or panels of smocked fabric sewn onto coats and skirts.

“The roofs of Paris remind me of the atmosphere of the Nouvelle Vague,” Virginie Viard explained of the setting for her Chanel show. The Grand Palais was transformed into a cityscape of quintessential Parisian zinc rooftops, across which models strode in beatnik-inspired outfits such as Breton T-shirts tucked into jeans or blouses and little bloomers worn over black tights. “I thought about Kristen Stewart playing Jean Seberg and all the actresses Gabrielle Chanel dressed at that time,” added Viard, who followed in the footsteps of the late Karl Lagerfeld. Whereas her predecessor was known for his novel themes and abundant accessories, Viard’s vision for the collection was more stripped back; hair was naturally tousled, faces were bare and shoes were mostly flat.

This season, Sarah Burton was contemplating the slowing down of time. “There’s so much noise in the world,” she said backstage at Alexander McQueen. Her show opened with the sound of the ocean before the London Contemporary Orchestra played a piece of original music as models walked in dramatic leather tailoring and romantic Irish linen dresses with leg-of-mutton sleeves. Though she said she wanted to strip back embellishment in this collection, there were embroideries of endangered flowers and illustrative prints made at student classes that the brand had organized at its London store.

Giambattista Valli’s show at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, which took place on a runway lined with bouquets of wildflowers, was devoted to florals of all varieties and the idea of his many muses in their springtime gardens — a theme that also informed Dior’s show earlier in the week. Here were frothy confections of dresses (though none of the giant tulle creations Valli is known for) with black velvet bows and gardening hats made from Chantilly lace.

Clare Waight Keller said that her latest collection for Givenchy was about reimagining the grittiness of New York in the ’90s through the lens of Parisian elegance. Hence there was a focus on opposites: distressed jeans and sculpted tailoring, prim blouses and wide culottes, intricate floral lace and tough leather bustiers. All of the denim in the show was upcycled from pieces that the designer sourced from just outside Paris. It was transformed into refined skirts and coats, as well as frayed and worn-in culottes, similar to the ones the designer herself wore backstage. “We are always talking about how fashion can be more conscious,” she explained of the pieces. “They are all unique and there is a rarity to that, but also an authenticity to them. It’s a garment that has lived another life.

Shocking pink, neon yellow, scarlet — Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli has become known for his use of luxurious color as much as for his extravagantly voluminous silhouettes. But this season, the designer offered a palate cleanser of sorts: The first section of his collection was created entirely in white, a monochromatic procession of crisp shirt dresses and ruffled blouses that made the fluorescent shades that followed seem all the brighter. Those vibrant hues were washed over puff-sleeve mini dresses, jungle-patterned sheaths and the occasional cape. For the finale, a series of sheer white gowns again took up the opening refrain but this time were flecked with subtle notes of color — a citrine feather here, a fuchsia appliqué petal there.

Thom Browne designed a collection inspired by 18th-century French gardens as only he could: Seersucker blazers and ties were paired with short crinoline cages; skirts swung from the hips, suspended from tricolor ribbons; robes à la polonaise appeared to be made from piles of other garments, or completely trompe l’oeil; veils covered Marie Antoinette worthy-wigs. But Browne’s most Instagrammed creations had to be his impossibly tall dolphin-shaped shoes — worn by a quartet of models who didn’t dare stroll down the runway.

This season, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski took inspiration from the pocketed aprons worn by the craftspeople at the Hermès headquarters in Pantin, a suburb just outside of Paris. Accordingly, the beautifully made leather and suede coats throughout the collection had a utilitarian feel that was quietly amplified by a distinctly classic color palette of khaki, brown, beige, white and oxblood. The clothes — which ranged from neat outerwear to pared-back tailoring — were also loaded with discretely luxurious details borrowed from the house’s equestrian heritage. Equally elegant and practical were the simple leather sandals that grounded each look.

The Comme des Garçons show was a theatrical procession that explored Rei Kawakubo’s ongoing project with the Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth. In December, Neuwirth’s opera “Orlando,” based on the 1928 novel by Virginia Woolf, will open at the Vienna State Opera. It is the first opera by a female composer commissioned by the institution, and Kawakubo will design the costumes. This collection, which referenced four time periods — the Elizabethan era, the 18th and 19th centuries, the modern age and the future — was the second act in Kawakubos’ trilogy of “Orlando”-inspired collections: The first was her men’s wear show in June, and the third will be her creations for the opera itself.

Junya Watanabe insisted that his collection didn’t have a theme, but rather had a focus on creating “strong garments by maximizing techniques to their fullest.” As a maestro pattern-cutter, Watanabe’s skill lies in the complex construction of his clothes. This season, his collection riffed on a single item, the trench coat, which was reimagined in myriad ways: as dresses, full-length skirts and sculptural jackets. To create contrast with the quintessential beige of the trench, Watanabe mixed in neon-hued leggings and sportswear, some of which were made in collaboration with artists Bicicleta Sem Freio and Demsky J.

This season, Hedi Slimane continued his exploration of Celine’s heritage as an outfitter for the French bourgeoisie. Colored by references to the ’60s and ’70s — both decades are lodestones for the designer — the collection was heavy on boot-cut denim, pussy-bow blouses, tweeds and suedes in classically tasteful, neutral hues. Models resembled students of the era, but with a put-together polish. By contrast, the set was a distinctly futuristic structure, also designed by Slimane himself.

Balmain’s show began with a parade of geometric, monochromatic evening wear with the kind of skin-flashing, form-fitting constructions that creative director Olivier Rousteing has made his name with. But what followed next was less expected: a suite of colorful denim. The 34-year-old designer explained that the collection was devoted to the pop stars of his childhood, such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Destiny’s Child.

The ’60s and ’70s have reigned on the runways this week but for his latest Loewe collection, Jonathan Anderson took a path less traveled — all the way back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The clothes represented the designer’s continuing fascination with handcraft. Back then, he explained, “craft was in the tiniest thing … you had to rely on precision.” Accordingly, his collection was full of intricate laces that gave a lightness to voluminous historical silhouettes.

Despite the absence of Virgil Abloh — the Chicago-born designer is taking a sabbatical from fashion — his Off-White show went ahead as normal (this season at the Centre Pompidou), and, as usual, there were crowds of fans outside hoping to catch a glimpse. The model Adut Akech opened the show in a neat button-down dress, while a recording of the voice of Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel into space, played in the background. Elsewhere, there were black leather pants and pared-back shirts with cutout holes — a nod to the Cheesehead hats and helmets traditionally worn by fans at sports events in Wisconsin, America’s so-called Dairyland and the home of Abloh’s alma mater.

Halfway through Rick Owens’s show, which took place in the courtyard of the Palais de Tokyo, a procession of figures draped in long black garments emerged and began to create a landscape of bubbles from the central fountain. “Stoic Bauhaus Aztec priestesses in an Art Deco Valhalla filled with bubbles animated by ‘Fantasia’-era Disney,” is how the designer described it. Owens said his show was an exploration of his maternal Mexican Mixtec heritage. There were headpieces inspired by Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 sci-fi film “Metropolis,” sequins that referenced the traditional Mexican embroidered China Poblana skirts that his mother would wear growing up in Puebla and geometric patterns that drew on the work of the Modernist artists Josef and Anni Albers, who explored Mexican archaeological sites after leaving their native Germany in the 1930s. Though Owens is known for his dark brutalism, a sense of opulence and glamour could be felt in the duchess satin bombers, vivid Luis Barragán-inspired colors and the grand pleated-cotton gowns with dramatic Watteau backs.

Dries Van Noten’s latest collection was a surprise collaboration with the French couturier and costumer Christian Lacroix — a secret ultimately revealed at the show’s end. “We wanted to keep it very intimate and focused,” said Lacroix, adding that some of his close personal friends weren’t even aware of the partnership. There were telltale signs of Lacroix’s trademark exuberance throughout the collection, though: polka dot and animal prints (tiger and zebra), electric floral jacquards, satin ball gowns and embellished tops, all grounded by Van Noten’s own sensibility for modern dressing. Basic tank tops gave voluminous skirts — some worn over jeans — a more everyday wearability, for example. “It was important to me that this wasn’t a homage. I wanted it to be living in today,” Van Noten said.

Maison Margiela’s show, which included both men’s and women’s wear, riffed on the idea of uniforms — British school blazers, nurses’ smocks, military capes, sailor suits — imbuing familiar sartorial tropes with a punkish verve. Although the house operates as a collective, the finger prints of its artistic director, John Galliano, could be felt in each of the looks, most notably in the couture volumes and mismatched styling. Coats were a major theme, too. Many of them came with laser-cut polka dots that nod to Margiela’s décortiqué technique, the idea of revealing inner layers by dissecting and deconstructing garments.

Presented against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent collection was a homage to the brand’s legacy. He drew on Yves Saint Laurent’s classic Le Smoking tuxedo suit — though updated with abbreviated short-shorts — as well as his Russian collection from 1976 and the original logo of the house, created by the graphic designer A.M. Cassandre in 1961. While honoring these touchstones, Vaccarello also updated them with frayed denim and slinky cocktail dresses with sculptural busts. Naomi Campbell closed the show in a black sequined tuxedo — a pertinent reminder of Saint Laurent’s heritage.

Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest Dior collection was an ode to Monsieur Dior’s sister, Catherine, who became a celebrated gardener and botanist after World War II. The set was a forest of 164 trees — made in collaboration with the environmentally minded Paris-based design collective Coloco — which will later be replanted in and around Paris. The idea was to underscore the importance of nature in light of the climate crisis, and Chiuri celebrated botanicals and trees throughout her collection, loading tulle gowns with horticultural embellishments and taking cues from outdoorsy staples such as tweed jackets and sun hats. Even the shoes were resolutely earthy: Hiking boots, monogrammed espadrilles and flat pumps grounded the concept.

As one of Paris’s few young designers, Marine Serre is known for staging shows that are a stark contrast to the spectacles of heavyweight brands. This season, her collection was titled Marée Noire — which translates to “oil slick” in English — and the catwalk was coated to give the effect of spilled oil. (Serre works with upcycled fabrics and has been a vocal advocate for sustainability.) If the show’s dark first act could be interpreted as a vision of a post-apocalyptic world — techy black fabrics, severe silhouettes, buckled-in accessories — then the second had a lighter optimism: spliced florals, repurposed lace, macramé handbags and bleached denim.

Reporting by Osman Ahmed and Laura Neilson.

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