At Paris Haute Couture, Designers Double Down on Heritage, But Lack a Sense of Purpose | BoF Professional, Opinion

At Paris Haute Couture, Designers Double Down on Heritage, But Lack a Sense of Purpose | BoF Professional, Opinion

The notion of heritage — whatever that means — is vital in contemporary fashion and even more so in haute couture. Indeed, the Paris couture collections which closed on Thursday revolved largely around la patrimonie.

Gaultier Paris, a relatively young maison, still has its own signatures: conical bras, riffs on the masculine and the feminine, pinstripes and bustles, breton stripes and tartan. Some of these elements already feature in the repertoire of Chitose Abe, founder and creative director of Sacai who collaborated with Jean Paul Gaultier to reinterpret his distinctive iconography, the first in a series of planned collaborations since the French designer closed his label.

The fusion worked: the two identities — true to Sacai’s proclivity for angular collage — came together jaggedly, so that one could see Gaultier codes scissored and taken apart, and then put back together the Sacai way. There was a fierce edge to the proceedings, and it was charming to see the familiar become slightly non familiar. But at times it felt like a style exercise. The cool factor was undoubtedly high, but also begged the question: for what purpose?

Martin Margiela’s heritage and patrimony has long turned into a pale ghost chez Maison Margiela. Although loyal to the deconstructivist approach of the founder, creative director John Galliano edges closer and closer to his own highly romantic, English eccentric sensibility with each season, drenched in an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history and unbridled flights of fancy. This season the Gallianioisation of Maison Margiela reached a peak as alchemy turned into a sartorial and enzymatic process that allowed the transfiguration of pieces into something else. It was a visual and technical feast, but also a bit of l’art pour l’art.

Viktor & Rolf’s exploration of royalty, complete with crowns and humorous sashes, was another exercise in hilarity and volume that, despite being perfectly apropos given our obsessions with royal families and gossip, felt like it was happening in the designers’ own bubble. One wonders what these creations are meant to be, and who they are designed for. Creating clothes that are mere concepts to display in museums or photos lacks a sense of purpose.

In his second outing for the revered house of Fendi, Kim Jones focused on Roma, the Eternal City, which has been core to the brand’s DNA since the very beginning. The brand was conceived as a catwalk show, with metaphysical architecture representing the coexistence of past and present in Roma. But that was mere storytelling. The collection bore no sign of Pasolini’s harsh pictorialism, nor of his emotional fondness for the suburbs. Instead, it was all about the marbles, the statues and the intarsia of Rome — reproduced as prints, embroideries and jacquards. So much so, in fact, that the dresses looked set in stone more than made of fabrics. This rigidity killed the grandness and made the cast of goddesses of all ages, led by Kate Moss, look more static than divine.

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