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Paris Fashion Week SS21 Maison Margiela
Courtesy of Maison Margiela

Your ongoing guide to what’s going down at Paris Fashion Week

Spoiler: there’s as much to see as ever

Paris Fashion Week is upon us once more, and while it might look extremely different this season, there’s still plenty to see. From Marine Serre’s vision of the future and Wales Bonner’s celebration of Jamaica’s blossoming dancehall scene circa the mid-1980s, to Kenzo’s chic beekeepers and Acne Studios’ dive into the supernatural c/o artist Ben Quinn, we’ve put together a rolling list of everything going down at PFW SS21. Make sure to check back for more from Rick Owens, Maison Margiela, Y/Project, and Givenchy in the coming days.  


Not entirely convinced Marine Serre can’t see into the future tbh, given she’s been creating clothes for the predicament we’re currently in since she landed on the fashion scene – and for SS21, in a new short film entitled AMOR FATI, the Parisian designer offers up more of the same. Led by iconic musician Sevdaliza, who shows up in a fully protective hood with perspex face guard (before transitioning into a utilitarian second-skin harnessed look that wouldn’t look out of place on a particularly chic Resident Evil character), the short follows a mysterious figure as they progress from lab experiment to fully signed-up member of Serre’s clan. Unsurprisingly, crescent moon-covered bodysuits, balaclavas, and capes feature heavily alongside deconstructed tailoring, statement pieces crafted from carpet offcuts, and a couple of trippy looks indebted to Gaultier’s 1995 cyber collection. 


After taking over a community hall to celebrate the Caribbean community of South London for AW20, Grace Wales Bonner was back with part two of a triptych of three collections this season. With Lovers Rock rooted in the 70s, SS21 collection Essence picked up in the 80s, drawing inspiration from the burgeoning dancehall scene and cult Jamaican crime movie The Harder They Come (which is credited with bringing ‘reggae to the world’ FYI). Introduced by way of beautiful short film Thinkin Home, the London designer’s signature refined tailoring is juxtaposed against sporty shorts and collaborative adidas tracksuits in jewel tones, cute crochet tunics, and knitted sweater vests and cardigans. 


Where Nicolas Cage may have memorably screamed “NOT THE BEES” circa his appearance in 2006’s brilliantly shit remake of The Wickerman, Kenzo creative director Felipe Oliveira Baptista seemingly has a slightly differing opinion – debuting a series of chic beekeeper-esque looks for SS21. Drawing inspiration from 2019 doc Honeyland, which tells the story of a Macedonian beekeeper who watches as the neighbours from hell decimate her bees’ resources and (spoiler!) end up killing them, the protective headgear – ideal for running the gauntlet that is the Tesco snack aisle circa 2020 – was paired with summer dresses bearing archival florals, delicate lace coats, louche, layered tailoring, deconstructed knitted playsuits, and more. 


Like countless other creatives debuting new collections in these UnPrECEdEnTEd TiMeS, Maria Grazia Chiuri was considering ‘the new normal’ when it came to her SS21 collection for Dior. Taking heavy structuring out of the equation by dismantling the label’s signature tailoring and turning it into louche, comfortable wrap-around jackets and flower-embellished housecoats, also on the line-up were diaphanous, flowing gowns overlaid with the kind of dip-dyed hoodies you’d find being peddled at Glastonbury, updated with the house’s logo to the chest. Sending her new offering down the runway at a socially-distanced show held in a church, sound designer Michel Gaubert enlisted a choir called Roseblood to sing a mesmerising if slightly jarring 19th century song about the freedom offered to them after their husbands are sent to prison. So there you go. 


Debuting a digital show in which models made their way through a stripped-back, minimalist space, Jonny Johansson’s latest Acne Studios collection was all about ‘optimism, positivity, and light’. In a largely muted palette of pinks, beiges, and nudes, punctuated with bolder flashes of oxblood red and juicy oranges and lemons, the label’s SS21 collection was made up of ecclesiastical, WFH-appropriate gowns and billowing floor-length skirts, chiffon and mesh dresses overlaid with pearlised or iridescent panelled tunics, distressed knitted two-pieces incorporating cropped tops with trailing sleeves and wide flares, and a series of the oversized tailored blazers Acne made its name on. Aptly, given today marks the first day of ‘Spooky Season’ and the lead up to the best day of the year (do not @ me), there was also a collab with Los Angeles-based artist Ben Quinn, whose work draws inspiration from his experiences of the supernatural – as seen via patchwork printed panels across dresses and cotton voile tops. V into it tbh.


Where Raf Simons took almost 30 years to launch a women’s line, one designer was a little quicker off the mark. Step in Boramy Viguier, who utilised his time in lockdown to instate a new arm of his namesake label. With his esoteric menswear collections built on utilitarian garments and silhouettes infused with spiritual iconography and details (see: sweatshirts bearing pockets for your tarot cards), the designer’s adventure into womenswear sees him debut bulky Berghain-appropriate bomber jackets, long tailored coats with exaggerated shoulders, and a series of slick raincoats layered over fitted leather waistcoats, floral dresses, and oversized hoodies bearing mystical imagery. Naturally, the whole thing was launched via a trippy, tongue-in-cheek film also made in quarantine.


As longtime purveyors of sexy, sci-fi clothing designed for the impending apocalypse, Ottolinger’s Cosima Gadient and Christa Bösch were surely in their element this season. Working from their Berlin studio during lockdown, the pair put together a collection made up of the label’s signatures – think tight mesh cropped-top and flared trouser sets, cut-out floor length dresses and tunics, and dynamic tailoring designed to allow its wearer to put their own stamp on it depending on how they feel on any given day. Debuted via a short, AR-heavy video, particularly great was this season’s casting, with Gadient and Bösch enlisting a brilliantly diverse line-up of models of all different sizes to shimmy into their SS21 offering: long may it continue.


Drawing inspiration from the IRL female spies that worked for the South African government during the country’s apartheid era, Thebe Magugu debuted his latest collection via a short, surveillance-style film styled by Ib Kamara and shot by Kristin-Lee Moolman. If you’re thinking spy-wear equates to the kind of clothing that allows its wearer to blend into the background, however, you’d be wrong. With the designer citing the idea of hiding in plain sight as something on his mind when he was putting it together circa lockdown, the line-up features mid-length dresses with polka dots which, on closer inspection, reveal themselves to be fingerprints, raincoats bearing polygraph prints, and a series of jewel-hued tailored jackets, trousers, and shorts overlaid with harnesses and sashes.


Jonathan Anderson’s show-in-a-box presentations are fast becoming a highlight of the new fashion normal we find ourselves living in (at least for now) – and this season was no different. SS21’s quite frankly enormous arrival was filled with a series of chic wallpapering utensils, including a Loewe-embossed brush, scissors, paste, and a cute canvas tool bag to keep them all in, as well as an artists portfolio filled with huge bus-stop sized posters of the designer’s new collection. In case you didn’t see where this was going, those receiving the portfolio were encouraged to use its contents to create their own, almost life-size fashion show on their walls, using a roll of wallpaper created by British artist Anthea Hamilton to finish the whole thing off (and yes, if you’re wondering, I am currently cursing the fact I live in an extremely small rented flat with dreary magnolia walls). When it came to the clothes themselves, Anderson presented a theatrical offering of XXL dresses and gowns bearing wide, almost pannier-style hips, oversized blouses with ballooning, pintucked sleeves that looked like the underside of the mushrooms he stamps across his stationary, and blown-up dramatic tailoring overlaid with diaphanous chiffon, with looks finished with signature Puzzle bags, logo-emblazoned sneakers, and even a couple of skateboards.


Presenting his second created-in-lockdown collection via the same means as his last – namely, a ‘How To Wear It’ instructional video which shows off the range and versatility of each dynamic item – Glenn Martens explained he had a ‘less serious’ vision of fashion in mind. What was on the line-up? For those looking to switch their sweatpants out for some actual clothes, the designer dropped a series of panelled petal-like skirts in muted florals that were paired with adjustable ruched bodies and signature twisted tailored shirts. Elsewhere, the kind of statement coats that would definitely take a while to work out if it were not for the label’s DIY video were seen layered over wide trousers with stegosaurus-like spines up the leg, with the whole thing finished off with a series of Martens’ subverted denim styles – with a cute structured all-in-one and Britney-esque acid-washed coat among them. 


Launching his fashion label via a GoFundMe page, it’s hard to believe Kenneth Ize has only been on the scene for three years – given the rising Nigerian designer has already produced a capsule collection for Karl Lagerfeld, established a 30-employee-strong weaving factory in his home country, and shown at both Lagos and Paris Fashion Week (casual). This season, by way of a simple lookbook, Ize debuted a refined collection of striped tailoring, with short-sleeved 80s-style jackets matched with relaxed shorts, flared trousers with fringed hems, and form-fitting waistcoats all on the line-up. Elsewhere, lightweight tunics and languid knitted dresses were seen alongside apple-printed pieces (“The soil in Nigeria doesn’t grow apples” he told Vogue, but this was about showing off a mix of cultures and celebrating community, as well as a nod to his upbringing in Austria). One final surprise came via a new jewellery collection created by friends Nicolo Taliani and Dazed 100-er Adesuwa Aighewi – who, in case you missed it, also just shut down the Savage x Fenty runway.


Rick Owens decided not to do Paris Fashion Week this season: instead, the designer went to Venice, two hours from his Italian factory. It was here, in the piazza in front of a 1930s palazzo, that he showed his SS21 collection – which saw models in thigh-high platform boots and face masks swagger out to a dark remix of Donna Summer’s disco classic “I Feel Love” that Owens described as like “falling into a k-hole”. With models with expressive shoulders, net-like layers worn over washed-out hazard yellow jersey, and the occasional pink sequin, the collection felt like a resilient, gorgeous idea of the apocalypse, or like how it might be to survive one. Or as Owens put it while talking about the cut of a some jackets, it was “an exaggerated middle finger to doom”.


TB to Balenciaga’s AW20 show back in February, and you might recall Demna Gvasalia giving us a terrifying glimpse of the apocalypse, as his runway was engulfed by flames and flooded with water, presumably in reference to the rising sea levels and frequent wildfires we’re facing as a result of climate change. Cut to the designer’s SS21 PFW ‘show’ and, despite living through a global pandemic along with the rest of us, he’s clearly feeling a little more hopeful about the future. Sending a bunch of models out onto the streets of Paris as part of a music video for a reworked version of iconic bop “Sunglasses at Night”, Gvasalia’s latest collection was all about looking forward to the days when we emerge from the dark days of 2020 and can enjoy the city fully again – importantly, while wearing head-to-toe Balenciaga lewks. With oversized coats with XXL shoulders, ultra-wide stonewashed denim dad jeans, retro-futuristic wraparound sunglasses, and statement shoes which this season took the form of logo-emblazoned heeled hotel slippers all on the agenda, there was also good news on the label’s efforts towards becoming more sustainable, with 93.5 per cent of plain materials used certified sustainable or upcycled.


In an incredibly highly anticipated debut, Alyx designer Matthew M Williams unveiled his first collection for Parisian house Givenchy via a series of images shot by artist Heji Shin. Styled by Lotta Volkova, the collection looked back to the brand’s history – the horn motif used by Alexander McQueen, the street-savviness brought in by Riccardo Tisci – and presented something totally new and totally Matthew Williams. “The women and men should be powerful and effortless, equal and joyful, a reflection of who they really are – only more so. It’s about finding the humanity in luxury,” the designer said. Edgy and chic in equal measure, the collection’s most viral moment came in the form of some three-toed socks and sandals – head to @dazedfashion to read peoples’ reactions.


In lieu of a runway show, this season, Andreas Kronthaler debuted a short, DIY film in which longtime Westwood muse Sara Stockbridge, model Vita Leandra, and Viv herself read a series of historical poems centred around the onset of spring (no prizes for guessing the analogy with that one). Naturally, all three were dripping in pieces from Kronthaler’s small, stripped-back collection – buy less, buy better being the message – with classic house Union Jack motifs emblazoned across strapless dresses, pale green corsets and bustle skirts bearing irregular marbled detailing, twisted tea dresses dotted with sprigs of delicate flowers, and oversized shirts and twisted tailoring all on the line-up. 


For SS21, Issey Miyake artistic director Satoshi Kondo set about capturing the joy of receiving something new, unwrapping it, and seeing it for the first time, turning his hand to making a collection so compact it could fit into a singular shipping box. This meant lightweight folded, twisted, and rolled items that transformed when you shook them out, with garments that come as flat pattern pieces that can be strung or zipped together in myriad ways to create a whole look, coats and trousers that become their own garment bags, and pieces made of sponge that stretch out to become simple tops and pencil skirts (basically, think those tiny face cloth cubes that expanded when you put them in water, but make it fashion).


Prada’s rebellious kid sister brand is well-known for giving rising stars their runway debut, and this season was no different. Opening the show for SS21 was none other than former Dazed cover girl Lila Moss, who you may know as Kate’s teenage daughter. Stepping out in front of an audience beamed in by live TV link, the model made her way round the space in a classic oversized blazer, a point-collar button-down, and some glitzy, gem-encrusted mules we’d do bad things to have in our lives, before the rest of Miuccia’s gang followed in sporty tennis dresses, zip-up tracksuit tops, and cute, boxy coats. We think it’s pretty safe to say you can expect to see her on the catwalk a lot more from here on out.


Taking over the empty halls of Paris’s light-filled, multi-level La Rotonde building just across the street from LV HQ, Nicolas Ghesquière staged an IRL show for SS21. With Wim Wenders’ cult classic “Wings of Desire” playing across screens throughout the building – which, in case you’re not familiar, fittingly tells the story of two angels consoling lonely Berliners who are estranged from those they love – models made their way around the space in fluid, sized-up coats, extra-wide-legged trousers, minis emblazoned with graffiti-like prints, clompy clogs, and oversized tees calling on onlookers to ‘VOTE’. The collection itself might not drop until long after the US election, but we suggest you heed the designer’s words now and get out there on November 3.


John Galliano is famed for spinning a flamboyant, engrossing yarn, which, if you’ve been listening to his ...The Memory Of Maison Margiela podcasts the last few seasons, you’ll be fully aware of. For SS21, however, the iconoclastic designer took it to the next level, presenting a short film: S.W.A.L.K. II. Following on from the first chapter, which debuted earlier this summer, the short tells the darkly fantastical story of two doomed lovers, as told through the medium of Tango and shot by Nick Knight. With Galliano filling Knight and friends in on the collection in intimate snippets throughout, the film culminates in a climactic underwater wedding, where the two lovers are joined in matrimony before heading off to eternal damnation.

Naturally, the collection’s theme dips into traditional ceremonial dress, with the unhappy couple wearing a Margiela-fied wedding dress and white tux respectively, and their equally doomed guests head-to-toe in upcycled looks created as part of the Maison’s recently founded Recicla line, including gothic black lace gowns, twisted tailored suits, and chiffon face coverings. Clocking in at just under 40 minutes long, the whole thing is truly imaginative and engrossing (but then, what were you expecting from Margiela?), climaxing with models descending into a fight. Standard wedding stuff where I’m from, tbh.