At Paris Fashion Week, a ghost season

dodano: 4 marca 2016 przez redblog

In the mythology of fashion month, Paris is considered the crowning jewel: the city where creativity meets history and is blended into vision, which then gets translated into the clothes we all wear. It is the place where all absurdity is forgiven in the name of fashion, and the ridiculous can become the really cool overnight.

Or so it has been. But this season, Paris represents something else entirely: limbo.

Two brands, Christian Dior and Lanvin, are without creative directors. Their collections are being produced by design teams led by No. 2s (at Dior, Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux; at Lanvin, Chemena Kamali), but it is unclear whether these arrangements are tryouts for the No. 1 jobs or stopgap measures.

A third, Saint Laurent, is widely expected to soon part ways with its creative director (Hedi Slimane), which means his show on Monday will be seen, by many on the front lines, through a scrim of nostalgia.

It also means a fourth, Anthony Vaccarello, was viewed on Tuesday not only on its own merits but also as a tryout for Saint Laurent, since Vaccarello was name-checked by Women’s Wear Daily to be in the running for the not-yet-officially-empty job.

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And a fifth, Celine, has been so surrounded by rumours suggesting that its designer, Phoebe Philo, was about to leave that it was forced to deny any departure internally. (Externally, it has remained silent, which has not helped matters.)

The brand she was rumoured to be joining, Azzedine Alaia, made a public statement refuting any change to the “creative direction” of the house. Yet somehow, there is still suspicion, a sense that where there was so much smoke, there must be fire, and who knows what really is going on? It seems silly: They’ve denied it; move on. Except that it is indicative of the level of unease and distrust in the industry at the moment.

The unease is only exacerbated by the sense that the whole show system is teetering. Ralph Toledano, the president of the Federation Francaise de la Couture, stated publicly that the members of the French fashion organization’s executive board and the board of governors (from brands like Hermes, Dior, Balenciaga, Kenzo and Lanvin) had voted unanimously against the idea recently mooted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the British Fashion Council to consider changing the calendar so that shows were held right before the clothes on view were sold.

“The status quo is not stupid,” Toledano said, setting up a potential us-against-them scenario. He may be right, but the status quo is also not entirely the status quo.

Normally the buzz going into a fashion week has to do with excitement around a new designer at a heritage house — see Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga, the big debut of the week — and the thrill of possibility it represents. But even that is overshadowed this season by the giant hovering question marks. In Milan, whenever the subject of Paris came up in the pauses between shows, the slow, shuffling exits, the members of the fashionverse would shake their heads and say, “It’s going to be so weird.”

There have been so many rumours, and so many have been left to fester, that no one believes anything. Or conversely, they believe everything, no matter how thinly supported.

It has created a voyeuristic atmosphere more akin to the rubbernecking that accompanies disasters than the usual shrieks of “genius” (no matter how exaggerated those seem to outsiders) that accompany fashion shows.

And it is entirely distracting from the real business of the week, which has to do with clothes, and what they say about the state and identity of the women who wear them.

Or at least it should have to do with clothes. But when the houses that have variously set the agenda for fashion — Dior, where Raf Simons yanked costume drama into the digital age; Lanvin, where Alber Elbaz made generosity an aesthetic value; Saint Laurent, where Slimane breaks all the rules; and Celine, where Philo has reinvented minimalism — are surrounded by a nimbus of uncertainty, it’s hard to discuss their products with any real conviction.

They could all be different by next season if a new designer comes in and upends the aesthetic the way, say, Alessandro Michele has done at Gucci.

There are other brands to get excited about, houses that have designers with big, driving ideas: Valentino, Givenchy, Comme des Garcons, Chanel, Undercover, Louis Vuitton, to name a few. Paris Fashion Week is a crowded nine days. But it may be the first time that the conversation is being framed not by what is or what could be, but by what is not.

Which matters not just in the lint-picking world of fashion but also outside of it. That creates a real problem for buyers, many of whom scratched their heads when asked how they were approaching Paris, and acknowledged a reluctance to commit too much of their budgets to labels, even famous ones, in a holding pattern.

And it creates a problem for those at a show and those on social media, who don’t know whether to buy into what they are seeing or shrug and wait patiently for the next season.

They may not know the names of the designers behind the brands, but they know when a dress or a skirt or a coat is a facsimile of something they saw before or a facsimile of a facsimile. The lines of definition, of what makes a garment different and hence desirable, are increasingly blurred.

What does it add up to? A ghost season. Boo.

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