From Comme des Garçons and Saint Laurent to Miu Miu and Loewe, here’s your lowdown on the AW23 shows in Paris
With the final pit stop of the fashion season upon us, a chink of light has begun to splinter through a very dark and incredibly long tunnel. To kick things off, Vaquera’s models thundered along the long road to freedom wearing bright red knickers and nail-studded bras, illuminating the passage for Saint Laurent, Comme des Garçons, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel to follow suit. There will be some big moments at the AW23 edition of Paris Fashion Week – Róisín Pierce’s debut presentation, Ludovic de Saint Sernin’s inaugural Ann Demeulemeester collection, and Balenciaga’s first show since its controversial campaign – not to mention Miu Miu, Ester Manas, Rick Owens, and Loewe.
Below, we round up the best in show from the Paris collections. Keep an eye on Dazed’s Instagram and TikTok accounts for all the breaking news and weird moments that are bound to surface…
Dior’s AW23 collection took place beneath a constellation of pendulous LED-encrusted tonsils designed by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. Garlanded with all kinds of homespun textiles, the behemoth structure gave heft to the kind of craftsmanship that’s traditionally been associated with women. It felt imposing and formidable, much like Catherine Dior, Juliette Gréco, and Édith Piaf, whose lives Maria Grazia Chiuri had combed over for this season’s inspiration. Avatars of post-war courage, the designer recreated their spirit with kicky A-line skirts, holster harnesses, and Harrington jackets with bolshy wrap-around lapels. All-over leopard print and abstracted flowers (perhaps a reference to Catherine’s flower stand in Paris’ Les Halles market in 1957) figured on strapless gowns and wasp-waisted skirt sets, their more ladylike accents tempered with croc-embossed aviator jackets and overstuffed bombers.
Some of the fashion industry’s most influential figures – Jean Paul Gaultier, Nicolas Ghesquière, and Pierre Hardy – gathered at Paco Rabanne’s AW23 show to pay their respects to the brand’s founder (Francisco Cuervo) who passed away at 88 years of age last month. Known for twisting unconventional materials into new and previously unexplored forms, Julien Dossena’s collection compounded Cuervo’s unusual approach with full-body textures. There were pannier-hipped gowns in gold and silver tinsel, feathered metal columns, and glass-beaded skirts. The collection also included an homage to Dalí (one of Cuervo’s collaborators in the 60s and 70s) with the artist’s surrealist paintings figuring on cut-out eveningwear. The whole thing came to a climax when Dossena sent out five of Cuervo’s original chain-link dresses, jangling down the runway like archive ASMR.
Acne Studios yassified the Garden of Eden for AW23, with models emerging from beneath roped diamanté vines in strategically placed fig leaves, peeling biker jackets, and barely-there (almost Neolithic) dresses strung together from matted pelts of fleece. The set-up reimagined Jonny Johansson’s childhood in northern Sweden, where woodlands reach into the horizon. Everything was threadbare and weathered: crocheted slips were studded with flowers, dresses were patchworked from silk-chiffon leaves, and crinkled skirt sets featured trailing fairie sleeves. According to the designer, these organic accents were a deliberate rejection of social media’s lean into digital fashion. It was about touching grass without all the frumpish hemp and Vibram sandals beloved by naturists.
Where showgoers have previously been handed a couple of prunes and candied figs on arrival to The Row, this season’s guests were greeted with a plate of wax-dipped pears – which are precisely the kind of foodstuffs that a Bougie London Literary Woman might consider a decadent Christmas treat for their local cobbler or something. The Olsens aren’t interested in glutinous gestures, either. Their work is indulgent but subdued and sophisticated, untethered to trends, celebrity, and TikTok. Their woman walks with a pair of scarlet gloves clutched to the chest of a sloping trench coat, a slack-lined blazer, or an oversized cashmere roll neck. There are quirks, of course, but even these felt wise – camel coats with sumptuous scarf-like sashes, tuxedo gowns with sleeves wrapped around their waists, and strapless dresses surfaced in pale green ribbons. All this is to say: they’ll probably give out radishes next season.
Daniel Roseberry showcased his first ready-to-wear offering this season, distilling his madcap couture into an everyday wardrobe. Soundtracked to Sade, the show took place in Schiaparelli’s HQ on Place Vendôme, where the designer presented an opulent, 80s-infused collection of velvet tuxedos, duvet puffers, and draped eveningwear. It didn’t stray too far from Roseberry’s approach to couture – there were still conical bras, body horror hardware, moulded breastplates, toe-capped heels, and leopard-print coats (without the faux-taxidermy heads) – but it all felt a little easier to slip into. That being said, the people who buy Schiaparelli aren’t going to spend too much time on the street – probably attending a gala or some expensive dinner in aqueous jersey dresses and scallop shell corsetry.
If Sarah Burton’s AW23 collection for Alexander McQueen reminded you of Tár, then give yourself a slap on the back and call yourself Suzy Menkes, because the long and boring film was a source of inspiration for the tailoring in the show; namely, the super-strict black suits, white shirts and black ties that appeared on the runway – first modelled by Naomi Campbell. Apparently, it was “that part where you see the tailors making their chalk marks on the cloth” which particularly inspired the designer. Overall, the show explored the idea of anatomy: “human anatomy, the anatomy of clothing, the anatomy of flowers”, specifically the orchid, “a symbol of love”, which appeared as a motif throughout the collection. There were also bumsters! In reverse. Reverse bumster. Sounds rude, but it actually means something quite elegant – heeled trousers that elongated the leg. Elsewhere, dresses were slashed and sliced, waists were nipped and narrow, and shoulders were strong and powerful – like Tess McGill in Working Girl, only more like Cate Blancett in Tár.
Pierpaolo Piccioli recently found his 17-year-old daughter rifling through his wardrobe. She was looking for a shirt and tie, not because she had got a new job in the silver service but because she was going for a night out with friends and wanted to experiment with a new look. Valentino’s AW23 collection followed suit: recontextualising the role of formal attire when even some of the most conservative institutions have now begun to tolerate hoodies and sneakers. All 73 looks in Piccioli’s collection featured some kind of collar detail, figuring on suits, dresses, and ball gowns. Shift dresses were held up by halter-necked ties, shirts distended into groin-slit gowns, and waistcoats were cut into swimsuit silhouettes. In subverting the traditional black-tie dress code with face jewellery, neo-punk makeup, and chequerboard creepers, Piccioli challenged what it means to look “respectable”, dressing boys in tailored mini skirts and slicing blazers into belly-baring crop tops.
COMME DES GARÇONS
This season, an increasing number of designers are raking over their past: among them Demna, Andreas Kronthaler, Jonathan Anderson, and Rei Kawakubo, who described her AW23 collection for Comme des Garçons as a “return to the source”. Models progressed through a spot-lit aisle in the American Cathedral in Paris wearing gargantuan structures composed of lining materials, padding, and scrap fabrics – all of which form the foundations of an atelier – while headpieces were made out of old bits of paper and pipe cleaners. “Working with free patterns. Using basic materials,” as the designer wrote in the accompanying show notes. “A feeling of wanting to go back to the starting point.” This wasn’t so much a return to how Kawakubo did things in the 70s, but a return to the beginning of time itself – emerging from the primordial soup in faux fur dresses with orb-like hems, sleeveless cocoons festooned in rosette whorls, behemoth pillow cases bursting with tulle, and hooped-cages in plump velvet.
“From lanyards to tresses, the clothes come alive, bobbing and flowing with the suppleness of locks of hair.” Hermès’ AW23 show was a collection that represented, in the words of creative director Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, a “tribute to hair, human hair. And the symbolism of it as a feminine attribute.” Apparently, Vanhee-Cybulski took inspiration from hair colour charts – like the ones you might see in Boots by the boxes of Schwarzkopf – and so clothes came in luxuriant shades of “Amaranth red, Falun red, fire red, copper brown, amaretto brown, brass-yellow and blond beige. Rose gold and moonstone.” But the follicle theme came through more literally, too – the opening look featured an almost sculptural bag made from a lock of horse hair cinched with a leather strap. And it was there too in the knits that featured braids down the middle; in the pleats and patterns that spoke of different hair textures; and in the lustre of fabrics reticent of a freshly Pantene Pro V’d mop.
Matthew M Williams’ collection for Givenchy was introduced as “a new elegance. A contemporary study of glamour. A re-contextualisation of archetypes.” What this loosely translated to was a string of black tailoring, followed by some more colourful looks – some in cream, some in green, one or two in lilac and cerise – and a series of dresses that spoke to the brand’s status as a couture house. One of the main takeaways from this collection is that Williams has been spending more time in the archives, marrying his own design sensibilities with that of the house’s founder and his other predecessors. There was a fish print derived from a Hubert de Givenchy drawing from the 70s, a floral print taken from a dress from a similar time – and duly sequinned – and a wrap dress that riffed on a piece created by Alexander McQueen’s tenure in the late 90s and early 00s. Towards the end, there were some especially ornate looks created from a kind of pearlescent chainmail. The whole thing spoke to Parisian chic and American cool or – reading between the lines – Givenchy and Williams, who represent both those things respectively.
Lots of emphases seem to have been put on “gesture” this season. That is, how a model carries themselves and sells the clothes they’re wearing. Haider Ackermann’s collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier played on traditional couture movements, while the models at the AW23 collections have been walking with their hands clasped to the chest à la Miuccia Prada, but with a little more tension. GMBH also riffed on these tropes, enlisting dancers from Berlin’s ballet to channel the froideur of 1950s couture and its reappropriation on the ballroom scene. The collection itself mined the annals of fashion history with references to Yves Saint Laurent and Azzedine Alaïa as well as GmbH’s own signatures – sash-fronts on double-breasted blazers became off-the-shoulder bows; LBDs were trimmed in shaggy pelts of faux fur; and sheer columns had been pinched at the shoulders, ruched at the breast, and slit to the groin.
At Louis Vuitton’s AW23 show, models clattered through the Musée d’Orsay in light-up sunglasses, cake-or-fake camel coats (that were actually leather) with bags shaped like doll’s houses. The whole thing was an abstract take on what French style means to an international audience, and the runway was paved to resemble a Parisian street. Berets and Breton stripes were non-existent but there were references to the Tricolore flag on shoulder bags and leather gloves while cliché pearl necklaces distended into full-blown gowns. Nicolas Ghesquière even gestured to French people’s (so-called) adulterous tendencies with silken bath robes and pyjama tops. And though there were plenty of conceptual takes on French archetypes – blown-up collars, supersized bustiers, and cuboid slips – there were also more stark, square-shouldered jackets and cigarette pants for all those that consider themselves a Jeanne Damas.
The camellia flower – which sprouts from the gift boxes given at Chanel stores and can be spotted up and down Bond Street and Saint-Honoré – took centre stage in Virginie Viard’s AW23 collection. “The camellia is more than a theme, it’s an eternal code of the House,” the designer said. “I find it reassuring and familiar, I like its softness and its strength”. The flower emerged as a motif on pockets, buttons, and prints, embroidered onto leather coats and skirt suits, while Viard conjured its fortitude in Mod-ish blazers and bohemian waistcoats. There were also loads of Bermuda shorts – which not might seem like very a Chanel thing to do – until you see them rendered in tweed with a classic flap swinging by their side. Viard said these were meant to evoke a childlike quality and had been inspired by “the energy of the merry-go-round of wooden horses“ which featured in a film (shot by Inez & Vinoodh) that opened the show.