Pin It
GmbH SS23 womenswear
Photography Cris Fragkou

Paris Fashion Week SS23, these were your best bits

From the rich bitches of Saint Laurent, to The Row, Noir, and Stella McCartney’s saucy ode to the 00s, these are the Paris shows worth remembering

At this point, Paris Fashion Week has been going on for a hundred years, opening with Vaquera’s mad fanfiction show – in what now feels like 1822 – and closing with Louis Vuitton’s supersized carnival. The city played host to blockbuster brands like Balenciaga, Rick Owens, and Chanel, flanked by emerging designers such as Ottolinger, Ludovic de Saint Sernin and Botter – whose models travelled across the Atlantic in a condom

A lot happened. There was Coperni’s spray-on dress, which ignited discussion on the true value of a fashion gimmick and more understated statements of silliness at The Row and Yohji Yamamoto. And then there was Kanye West, who completely soured the season with his corrosive YZY collection and abhorrent response to the valid criticism that ensued. But fashion, as so many other designers have proven this season, can be edifying and genuinely enriching in a way that West will never be. Below, we round-up the most memorable collections from the SS23 edition of Paris Fashion Week.


Maria Grazia Chiuri may not be the most subversive designer on the Paris Fashion Week schedule, but Dior achieved record levels of profitability this year – proving that not every collection needs to be a table-shaking proposal in order to resonate with the public. Throughout her tenure at the label, Chiuri’s stolid take on dressmaking has resurrected the kind of future-facing women that have traditionally been relegated to the margins of history; this time travelling back over the life of Catherine de Medici with 16th century hooped cages, corsets, and pannier hips styled with an air of déshabillé. As models navigated a cavernous set made up of cardboard stalagmites and contemporary dancers, the designer showed raffia-woven tops and jackets; cotton trench coats and dungarees printed with an archival map of Paris; nylon skirts cinched into bulb-like silhouettes; and plenty of airy, bucolic broderie anglaise dresses. 


Things The Row woman loves: Annie Ernaux, the word “summering”, Le Corbusier, Shaker furniture, FirstDibs, and figs – which were actually handed out to guests in sweet little handkerchiefs ahead of the Olsens’ SS23 show. Following on from last season, where models walked with droopy sleeves trailing beside their knees, the twin designers leaned further into odd little accents – which felt less austere, more fun than usual. There were tailored bermuda shorts, a blazer with an extra pair of sleeves tied around its front, big circular doilies on broderie anglaise columns, and a duvet-like Japanese robe that recalled Ashley Olsen storming through a trail path with a machete in one hand, beer in another. The bulk of the collection was made up of elegant shirt dresses, LBDs with slight volume at the hips, graceful, frame-skimming suits, and off-hued trench coats held in place with a knowing, Miuccia Prada clasp. 


Things the Balmain woman loves: Instagram, blow dries, blazers shrugged over shoulders, salad and french fries, yachts, and Cher… given that she closed Olivier Rousteing’s SS23 show with the embattled vocals of “Strong Enough” booming around a stadium. The third iteration of the Balmain festival, Rousteing’s bonanza counted 1,000 VIP guests, 6,000 members of the public, and 98 looks, which ran the gamut of menswear, womenswear, and couture. Backstage, the designer spoke of climate anxieties, which were articulated on the runway in flame-engulfing prints. Otherwise, the collection was segmented into a series of distinct chapters, with old timer safari looks bleeding into renaissance-inspired corsetry, Gaultier-esque trompe l'oeils, and exoskeletal alien warrior costumes made from paper, banana, wicker, and Evian water bottles. 


Just before Givenchy debuted its SS23 collection, fashion Twitter feasted on a juicy profile that the New York Times had run on Matthew Williams. The writer questioned whether the designer’s tenure at the house was “on the line”, given that his alleged three-year contract was coming to an end. So, for many, this collection felt as though it was coming from a more urgent place than usual. As editors were handed umbrellas and sat down on rain-drenched blocks of cork wiped down with backstage dressing gowns – glam! – the designer set out to codify both his and Givenchy’s staples. A series of ruched, peak-shouldered dresses set the tone for a newfound femininity, which in turn yielded sheer, ruffle-collared crop tops, slinky slit-legged columns, and clean-cut dresses fastened at the back with a flutter of bows. All that in tandem with Williams’ streetwear roots, which could be traced on all the bruised denim bralettes, distressed cargo pants, slashed hoodies, draped leather LBDs, and beaded bombers. 


As Ludovic de Saint Sernin breaks down one binary, he inevitably buttresses another. Men may have been styled in flouncy mini skirts and diamanté halter necks, but each and every one of them was sexualised for their smooth chests and boyish frames. It was hard to see past this during his SS23 collection, which wasn’t so much about the clothes themselves, but the kind of person who might wear them: rakish, vaguely muscular, and young. In drawing on all the aesthetic tropes of the 00s, the designer seems to have inherited the era’s corrosive body standards, too. To a certain kind of gay man, this sort of thing reads as fun and frivolous – all micro-minis, Mapplethorpe references, baby doll dresses, and shrunken vests so tight that they seem airbrushed onto the torso – but for a designer that’s built a name on dismantling staid notions of masculinity, he still seems trapped within its confines.


With the designer volleying between covers of Lou Reed and CSNY sung in Japanese, it was Yohji Yamamoto’s voice on this season’s soundtrack. It gave a sombre, but nonetheless playful, tone to his SS23 collection, which was full of contemplative repetitions of his all-black suiting – a doubled and then tripled lapel here, a knotted back there, perhaps a corset-laced front, or a cascade of collars. As models ambled down a platformed runway, chandeliers hung from the ceiling and glimmered in wall-to-wall mirrors. All that masterful tailoring made its way into sliced and draped dresses, which flapped and fell off the bone in intricate folds and ruffles, before making a modest climax in silky gowns and veiled boaters, printed with inkey, Japanese calligraphy. Meditative and without rush, the whole thing provided a real release from the industry’s increasingly SEO-driven showcases. 


At the Saint Laurent show, models walked with purpose, postures pushed back into power shoulders, bodies lengthened by clingy columns and vertiginous stilettos. For SS23, Anthony Vaccerello called on Yves Saint Laurent’s cabal of rich bitches, who twisted the economic boom of the 1980s into languid, hooded dresses, and clunking gold jewellery. It couldn’t have been further from the current state of the global economy, but with Paris twinkling in the background and the Eiffel Tower serving as a backdrop, it almost didn't matter. The models – always slender, which was a real shame – were swamped in fur jackets, bulky trench coats, and blouson jackets. Between the featherweight sheer columns and the heft of a leather, floor skimming overcoat, there seemed a conversation between what was revealed and what was concealed – not by the midriff or hip cut-outs which have dominated this season, but something more internalised. The same could be said for the ruched, draped, and knotted details which appeared across jumpsuits, bralettes, and pyjama two pieces. 


Was this the season Stella McCartney regained her Y2K mojo? SS23 seemed to resuscitate many of the flirty – even saucy – designs that the designer made her calling card during her tenure at Chloé in the early 00s. With models pounding along an open-air runway at the Centre Pompidou, McCartney reissued the signature gold chain tops, overblown blazers, cropped vests, and crystal-encrusted low-rise trousers that first gained her notoriety. Much of these pieces had been made from regenerated cotton, which bolstered the designer’s sustainable approach in a newly-bio-diverse feedback loop; 87 per cent of the materials used were eco-conscious, making this her most sustainable collection yet. As the designer travelled back over her own archives, that future-facing approach was underpinned by a slew of knitted pieces bearing the words “Change the History” – a mantra pilfered from the Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara. 


In a botanic reference I never thought I would need to know, the Louis Vuitton venue was made to look like an anthurium flower, plucked from the same bouquet as Loewe and Ludovic de Saint Sernin. Designed by artist Philippe Parreno, the structure’s overblown, carnavalesque proportions could be mapped across Nicolas Ghesquière SS23 offering – monogrammed wallets become majorly-oversized clutch bags, mammoth zippers hung from jackets, and uber-wide belts consumed the stomach. It was about twisting the traditionally sweet and saccharine elements of womenswear into something that felt imposing; threatening, even. Pieces were still a mishmash of shapes, prints, and historical references – all sporty pannier hips, 3D utility pockets, and bouncy hems – but the silhouettes were a little more legible this season, with details scaled-up and zoomed-in to give the impression that the wearer had been shrunken whole. 


On the final day of fashion season, a black and white film starring Kirsten Stewart opened the Chanel show. In it, the actor walks about the streets of Paris, flitting in and out of cinemas and metro carriages, before climbing the Rue Cambon Chanel staircase – disaffected, insouciant, and dressed in Virginie Viard’s SS23 collection. Despite the occasional appearance of a pistachio dungaree, an off-peach column, or a tweed suit embroidered with sparkly threads of magenta, the majority of the offering was rendered in a monochromatic palette, inspired by the films of the Nouvelle Vague. Alain Resnais’ 1961 feature, Last Year at Marienbad, served as the starting point. Outfitted by Gabrielle Chanel, the protagonist’s sheer, square-necked chiffon dresses were reimagined as shirt-dresses and tiered skirts, the feathers on a floor-length cape emerged on fit-and-flare blazers, and boxy round-neck jackets were reproduced like for a like in a metallic jacquard. Breezy, elegant, and very Chanel. 


A hulking fur coat, itty-bitty shorts in wipe-clean vinyl, and, erm… five-finger shoes made in collaboration with Scholl. The GmbH designers were clearly looking beyond sexuality this season, with the collection emerging as a “fragmented, personal celebration of South Asian beauty and culture.” Cyrillic calligraphy came swirled across spaghetti-strapped slips, etched onto denim hot pants, and oversized, deep-necked tunics made in collaboration with Berlin-based Syrian artist Abdelrazak Shaballot. Those words read “safe from harm,” “wisdom,” and “knowledge”, mantras which Benjamin Husbey and Serhat Isik have often returned to – their show notes, for example, open with a reminder on the horrific floods currently tearing through Pakistan. Elsewhere, the brand’s signature criss-crossed lapels were applied to swimwear – a first for GmbH – and sinuous sarong dresses. 


After sending a collection entitled The Hunters down the runway last season – all shredded hems and distressed finishes – it makes sense that, for SS23, the Dutch designer had The Gatherers on her mind. This time around, the sharp edges made way for spherical blooms that exploded from the hems of pinafore tops and pencil skirts, as Langestraat looked to poisonous and savagely carnivorous plants for inspiration. New-season prints were once more pulled from the pages of XXX-rated vintage porno mags, with silky blouses and shirts even featuring the designer’s own telephone number (“There are so many numbers printed on the pieces I thought it was only fair to include my own,” she explained of her rationale behind the move. “Call me baby!”). Though cohesive with past offerings, SS23 felt like a big leap forward for the Amsterdam-based brand.


Three years into his tenure at the top of the house that Elsa built, and you’d think that Daniel Roseberry would be running out of weird and wonderful ideas, right? Wrong! The Canadian tuxedo-favouring Texan designer is still as inspired (and inspiring) as ever, debuting a wild new ready-to-wear Schiap collection on the sunny top floor of the house’s Parisian atelier once more.On the line-up this season was a plethora of crisp indigo and washed-out denim looks, with slinky pencil skirts bearing gold sequined bum prints, as if the wearer had just sat in sand, tailored jackets bearing lock-and-key and eyeball fastenings, and more than a few cocktail dresses with glitzy trompe-l’oeil embellishments that traced the outlines of the body. Excitingly there was more of Roseberry’s masterful swimwear, with an asymmetric costume with gold strap detailing a big standout for the season. Roseberry, it seems, is just getting started.


With the house’s legendary founder passing away a little over six weeks ago, it made sense that the opening section of Issey Miyake SS23 would pay tribute to him – taking over a cavernous warehouse on the outskirts of Paris, portraits of the designer were projected onto the walls alongside notable quotes and ruminations. If you think this made for a sombre affair, however, you’d be wrong. Instead, creative director Satoshi Kondo sent out a collection imbued with lightness and hope, worn by both models and dancers who flung themselves around the two behemoth, glowing structures at the centre of the floor. Collection-wise, it was Issey Miyake business as usual, with lightweight pleats just as likely to cascade out across louche tailoring as they were floor-sweeping gowns. Innovation was also key, as the house joined forces with Toray Industries to craft a fossil fuel-free polyester material. Miyake himself may have pioneered a whole new way of dressing, but his legacy, in Kondo’s hands, will not end there.


It’s been almost three years since upstart CdG signee Noir last showed at Paris Fashion Week, so expectations were high as editors settled into their pews ahead of kick-off. Coming close to the end of the season, tempers were frayed and minds and bodies exhausted, but as the lights went up and the designer’s SS23 offering began filtering down the runway, all that was forgotten. A balm for the weary fashion soul, this season, he’d been thinking about otherworldly, supernatural beings. As such, the models swept down the runway in borderline mystical looks that referenced rare flora – the final look resembling a huge, bouncing, almost extraterrestrial dandelion head. Good fashion should make you feel something, and, of all the collections on offer at PFW this season, Noir’s was the only one that brought me close to tears. A beautiful comeback.


Always one of the standouts on the Paris Fashion Week schedule, this season’s Comme des Garçons show was no exception – pushing at the margins of “fashion versus art”. Dresses emerged as huge, ruched rubber rings, models’ bodies were swallowed whole in bulb-like silhouettes, while lumps and bumps made up a host of amorphous shapes in chintzy floral fabrics. Rei Kawakubo described the collection as “a lamentation for the sorrow in the world today/ And a feeling of wanting to stand together.” Whereas last season, these kinds of fascinations were projected outwards, with refugee models trundling through wartorn snowglobes, the Japanese designer forced our gaze inwards. Chilling and funny, Kawakubo twisted everyday pieces – leather jackets and breezy frocks – into blown-up and warped assemblages, with trailing sleeves and tyre-shaped inserts that seemed to both exorcise and protect us from our anxieties.