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Paris Fashion Week: What You Need to Know

The unveiling of Karl Lagerfeld’s final Chanel collection and Lanvin’s return to the Paris runways are among the most highly anticipated events of the week.
Chanel 2019 Spring/Summer couture show at the Grand Palais in Paris | Source: Getty
By
  • Laure Guilbault

PARIS, France — Karl Lagerfeld didn't want an official tribute. And after the world's most famous fashion designer died last Tuesday, in Paris, at the age of 85, in accordance with his wishes, there were no plans for a public funeral like the French establishment's grand-scale farewell for Yves Saint Laurent in 2008, which was attended by the country's president, included military honours and was the biggest fashion funeral since the death of Christian Dior in 1957.

Instead, on Friday, close friends and associates held a small, private funeral for the designer. And although the house of Chanel, where Lagerfeld was creative director for over thirty-five years, is planning a wider ceremony to commemorate the designer, its upcoming ready-to-wear show, featuring Lagerfeld's final collection for the house, now under the direction of long-serving studio director Virginie Viard, is sure to double as a farewell from the industry he shaped so powerfully, making it one of the most anticipated events at Paris Fashion Week.

Hedi Slimane's Celine is also sure to be centre-stage this week, though the reaction to his Autumn-Winter 2019 collection, to be shown on Friday, is likely to be more subdued than the firestorm that greeted his debut for the house, which LVMH chairman and chief executive Bernard Arnault aims to scale to "at least €2 billion to €3 billion, and perhaps more, within five years." Kering, too, while largely focused on Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, has set ambitious new growth targets for Alexander McQueen, which is set to show on Monday.

Paris has cemented its position as the world's true global fashion capital with a potent mix of megabrands and emerging labels.

Another much-anticipated show is Lanvin's return to the Paris runways on Wednesday February 27. The storied but long-ailing French house, now owned by Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, named former Loewe menswear designer Bruno Sialelli its creative director in January (its fourth designer in less than four years) and Lanvin's Autumn-Winter 2019 collection will be his first for the world's oldest continuously running fashion house, which has suffered since the ouster of Alber Elbaz back in 2015 after 14 years in the job.

Meanwhile, Lacoste also has a new creative director: ex-Joseph designer Louise Trotter. Can she move Lacoste beyond its famous crocodile-logo polo shirts and make a real push into fashion? That remains to be seen. Puig-owned Nina Ricci is also one to watch, now helmed by general manager Charlotte Tasset and Dutch duo Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh, who took up the position vacated by Guillaume Henry in March of last year, only months after winning the Première Vision Grand Prize at the International Festival of Fashion and Photography in Hyères.

And who could forget Tommy Hilfiger? Actually, this is precisely the test facing the American mid-market brand, which is staging its next "see now, buy now" mega-show on Saturday at Paris Fashion Week, a stage far grander and more competitive than New York, Los Angeles or London, where the label has showed in recent seasons.

Paris Fashion Week hasn't always offered a platform for emerging talent, but that's changed dramatically in recent years. And rising stars to watch this week include Rok Hwang, the South Korean designer behind the London-based label Rokh, which is showing on Monday. As for fast-growing French labels, designers like Jacquemus, Marine Serre and Atlein are bringing the same energy to Paris that the likes of Christopher Kane, Jonathan Anderson and Mary Katrantzou brought to London a decade ago when they first emerged.

Some, like public relation wiz Lucien Pages, praise the local Fédération de la haute couture et de la Mode's "clever work, mixing emerging brands and big houses" for this. "We feel strongly about creating a framework that allows diversity in the calendar," says Pascal Morand executive president of the Fédération.

Certainly, Paris has cemented its position as the world’s true global fashion capital with a potent mix of megabrands and emerging labels. The Paris schedule draws about 5,100 visitors — 84 percent of who come from abroad — to see the shows, conduct business and network.

The negative impact of the yellow vests movement on luxury purchases was a mere drop in the bucket.

Some of them may face trouble getting around on Saturday as the next round of “yellow vest” protests against French president Emmanuel Macron and his economic policies are set to take place, continuing some of the worst civil unrest France has seen in more than decade. During men’s fashion week in January, Dior was forced to reschedule its show due to fear of disruption from protestors and resulting road blocks and checkpoints.

Morand says local authorities are “paying very special attention to security during Paris Fashion Week” and that “preventive measures are taken to smooth out complex situations.” And, for the time being, there are no changes to the show schedule for Saturday March 2nd.

The impact on luxury retail has, so far, been minimal, despite the images of burning luxury cars and shuttered stores on some of Paris’ most glitzy avenues circulating in the media. “The negative impact of the yellow vests movement on luxury purchases was a mere drop in the bucket with France representing only 5 percent of the global luxury market,” said Thomas Chauvet, head of luxury goods equity research at Citi. “Luxury groups are proving to be resilient despite the current macro-economic environment marked by the China-US trade war, the weak renminbi, social unrest in France and the Brexit uncertainty.” Indeed, LVMH and Kering, the French conglomerates that dominate the industry have continued to post strong results.

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