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The Kids Are Alright

Teen volatility at Vuitton, bare midriffs at Miu Miu, tweedy Chelsea Girls at Chanel… what a time to be young and in fashion!
A look from Nicolas Ghesquière's Autumn/Winter 2022 collection for Louis Vuitton
A look from Nicolas Ghesquière's Autumn/Winter 2022 collection for Louis Vuitton (Louis Vuitton)

PARIS — There was a peculiar atmosphere in Paris during the shows, and not only because there was a war raging a few hours to the East. Every major venue and some of the big hotels were swamped by feverish crowds, screaming at the merest glimpse of their favourite TikToker or K-Popper. Fashion week has always been something of a spectator sport in Paris, especially with the rise of the street style circus, but this was a level of fandom that took me back to my salad days touring Australia with the Bay City Rollers in the Seventies. The reaction to Jisoo from Blackpink’s arrival at Dior was almost enough to overshadow Rihanna and her formidable baby bump.

When Nicolas Ghesquière spoke of “the impermanence and beautiful volatility of adolescence” in his notes for Louis Vuitton, he had hundreds of living examples swarming outside the Musée d’Orsay, where he staged the show. He put a few dozen on his catwalk, too, where a couple of young male beauties appeared as photo prints. A nod to idol culture? No, they were Ashley Lewis and Tom Bowen, whom David Sims originally streetcast in the Nineties and shot for magazines like The Face.

These days, if my thoughts turn to “the beautiful volatility of adolescence,” it’s most likely Zendaya and Co’s “Euphoria,” where teenage turbulence can be lethal, that comes to mind. Ghesquière’s vision was, by comparison, relatively restrained, like a schoolgirl jumper dress, innocent even if it was slathered with sequins and equipped with pannier-size pockets. He likes to insinuate such references into his clothes, texturing his designs with arcane hints of other times and places (those Sims boys being a golden example). The “evening” looks demanded a similar read, perhaps red carpet ground with grunge: huge rugby shirts over long chiffon dresses, with sweaters belting waists and woven hightops on feet. The vintage inflection of the collar-tie-and-baggy-pants outfits, draped in oversized jackets, confirmed just how magpie Ghesquière’s m.o. was this time. Was the jumble shorthand for volatility?

For Miu Miu, we sat in deckchairs. How could you sit in deckchairs right now and not think about rearranging them on the deck of the Titanic? The ship is sinking! But Miuccia Prada was obviously nursing a germ of optimism. I can’t remember another season when she has so gleefully revisited the story she told last time. Judging by the dozens of people in the audience sporting the season’s pelmet skirt with bare midriff, Spring has clearly struck a resounding chord. For Winter, Miuccia initially offered a slightly more decorous version, in pure tennis whites. Later, the pelmet turned into short shorts, in double-belted leather. Paired with an argyle sweater, an oversize leather coat and woollen knee socks tucked into ballet slippers, it was a consummate Miu Miu look, somewhere between uncompromising and incongruous.

The casting had strong non-binary representation, which suited the often uncategorisable nature of this collection. Here, a gilded organza shift was matched with a shearling and bike boots, a solid python skirt suit was accessorised with one of those cropped tops, a sheer beaded flapper dress was preceded by a leather jacket and matching pants (with the requisite couple of inches of stomach on show between waistband and hem). Was Miuccia teasing the long-awaited return of the Miu Miu Man with this last look? Or was it an acknowledgement of the moveable feast that youth has become for the fashion industry?

Karl Lagerfeld was on top of that years ago, when he offered his Chanel audience the jeunesse dorée of the moment. Tuesday’s show had a scale which was quite the match of Lagerfeld’s. It was a paean to Coco’s cherished Scottish tweed, so the walls, seating and floor of the massive venue were covered with the material.

Virginie Viard has brought her own pop sensibility to Chanel. It’s more measured and evolutionary than Karl’s multifarious approach. Here, for instance, she mentioned “England in the 1960s, and very colourful record covers” as references. (The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” closed the show.) Sure enough, I could see quintessential Chelsea girl Julie Christie in one of Viard’s shorts suits with cross-body purse, kitten-heeled slingbacks and — the clincher — tweedy woollen stockings. Later, there were denim shorts, woollen thigh-highs and rubber Wellies which evoked Kate Moss, a successor to Christie as pop princess of her day, at Glasto.

Viard spun a story of Chanel’s own experiences in Scotland: tweeds whose colours reflected the heathery shades of the landscape, scatterings of sequins like the reflections of sun on the River Tweed, oversize jackets and coats like the ones Chanel borrowed from her lover the Duke of Westminster. Plus, all those looks inspired by fishing and hiking in the Highlands, right down to the rubber waders. The collection was a lot! Just look at Anok Yai in a tweed herringbone coat over an ombré-ed cardigan jacket over a hot pink tweed skirt with a hem of fringed wool over those stockings. But Viard has the knack of making it look easy and comfortable. Call it a woman’s intuition.

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