Runway Season Endgame

  • Text: Theo Mohamed
  • Photo by Vogue
  • Paris Fashion Week serves as a strong anchor to close out the Fall/Winter 2019 presentations with strong shows from some of our favourite brands.


    The first word many would use to describe the Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2018 collection is large. Totalling over 100 looks it is the biggest show presented by creative director Demna Gvasalia to date. With that said, it is also one of his strongest. Since his appointment as creative director of the European house, Gvasalia has often been criticized for doing a poor job of upholding the brand DNA, which is rooted in architectural form expressed through fashion. Outerwear was accented by unusual textile contortions throughout the collection such as, forward facing shoulder pleats on several overcoats and exaggeratedly puffed shoulders on parkas. The models, who were impeccably cast to accent the eccentricities of the clothing, marched upon freshly paved asphalt whose strong odour filled the space. The collection itself, was stated by Gvasalia to be “an ode to shopping” which comes as no shock when considering the models who walked with hands full of Balenciaga “shopping” bags. It would appear that Gvasalia is moving away from the irony that coloured certain of his previous collections at Balenciaga and has decided on a new direction rooted very high caliber technical designs. To many more collections to come.


    Rei Kawakubo’s ethos has always been rooted in innovation. For the Fall/Winter 2019 collection Kawakubo explored the darkness that is so prevalent in the globe today. The set lit the models harshly from above, accenting the shadows on the grotesque shapes that covered their bodies. Accompanied by an electronic score produced by the London based musician “DJ Parma Ham” the collection felt truly modern though there were several details ripped from history. The Japanese brand has often explored ways of distorting the body and masking its shape through highly structured garments which was perfectly exemplified in this collection. There also appeared to be an interesting exploration of materials at play with several looks constructed of rubber panels and other containing accents that looked like blackened bubble wrap. Kawakubo called this show “a gathering of shadows” which has a first ominous tone but the addendum to such a statement is “Many small shadows come together to make one powerful thing.” The theme then, reflects that of the menswear presented in February through a similarly harsh series of visuals presented with a defiant attitude.


    As with his menswear collection presented in January, Owens chose to depart from his usual solemn, bleak outlook in favor of something more celebratory. Turning again to Larry LeGaspi for inspiration, he drew upon the glammed-up costumes he designed during the 1970’s. Owens, who bears a strong personal connection to the no-holds-barred design approach, sees a parallel between the gender bending teens of the 70’s and the body modification obsessed teens of today. The unsettling alien like makeup that adorned many of the models faces was designed by an 18-year-old named Salvia, a makeup, body modification, and sculpture artist whose Instagram (@salvjiia) is equally intriguing as it is off-putting. In place of the highly sculptural garments that we have been accustomed to from Owens in recent seasons, we saw designs that seemed far more wearable gracing the runway this year. Perhaps this decision works in tandem with Owens yearning for celebration and is meant to encourage more widespread wear of the collection. The latter half of the show was largely comprised of intricately draped jersey gowns that evoked a sense of ease and comfort which was heavily contrasted by the garishness of the makeup. Perhaps Fall/Winter 2019 marks a turning point for the Rick Owens brand and will be the start of a new era - an era of excitement and, more importantly, festivity.


    For Fall/Winter 2019, Yang Li opted out of the traditional fashion show. Instead, he called upon his close friends to present the clothing in a more modern way - Instagram. Li sent out the entire collection to a set of carefully selected “influencers” for them to promote the new items of clothing on their accounts simultaneously presenting them to his loyal following and crowd sourcing his lookbook. It is interesting to see a designer make a decision such as this and it brings back memories of Helmut Lang’s internet streamed show from the early 2000’s. At a time when the utility of fashion week has become more and more questioned it is refreshing to see a designer take a new approach and present a collection for the first and only time through social media. It is fascinating because it also allows the influencer in question to take liberties in the way they present the piece of clothing both in terms of styling and composition. Each image is not necessarily clear which generates a sense of curiosity that is so important in the current consumer climate. We can only hope that more designers begin to follow suit and explore new ways of presenting clothing to their customers.


    For creative director Jonathan Anderson, there is a distinct separation between menswear and womenswear. While the Loewe men’s show, presented about a month ago in Paris, was a maximal, technicolour fever dream, the womenswear collection is far more austere. There remained a sense of Spanish grandeur but it did not eclipse the strong lines of Anderson’s designs. With Phoebe Philo now departed from Celine, the chic city woman may have a replacement for strong, feminine tailoring. Though there are certain looks, like a blue sweater eclipsed by a fringed yellow boa, that scream the classic Anderson style, there are also plenty of beautifully cut, easy to wear garments. The now established designer maintains a sense of continuity through an, at times, eclectic seeming collection thanks to his strong ideologies and understanding of design. Accented by the stark set of black tiles, the collection evokes a sense of power for the modern woman, power that she can wear on her sleeve and flaunt to her compatriots.


    The austerity of Yohji Yamamoto's designs has never been clearer. Where last fall saw deeper necklines and more sculpted silhouettes, 2019 appears to be a year of conservatism. The show was split into several distinct sections with one in particular bearing a strong resemblance to Yamamoto’s early work presented in the 1980’s in Paris. The looks were defined by swathes of black wool consuming the models who walked the runway with unfinished edges and exposed seams - the characteristics that shocked and awed audiences in Paris when Yamamoto first emerged. Later in the collection, the models emerged wearing skirts and draped hoods covering most of their faces - reminiscent of a hijab - only to later remove them in an act of powerful presentation. Complimented by a few looks in all white, Yamamoto’s signature all-black pallet continues to resonate with fashion observers as it has for so many decades. In addition, the largely unembellished collection was accented by a few heavily decorated looks. Yet another stunningly beautiful collection from the mind of a Japanese master dressmaker.

  • Text: Theo Mohamed
  • Photo by Vogue