The world of fashion, especially the luxury sector, took a sharp hit with the pandemic and global lockdowns. With ease of restrictions, open markets and low covid-19 cases across globe, fashion industry has been predicted to make a full recovery to pre-covid levels by 2023-2024. Keeping this in mind, fashion week’s globally are an essential component to keep the sales churning, induce new trends, styles and influence buying behavior while showcasing a designer’s talent, designs and craftsmanship.
Not only the fashion weeks represent the industry, but some of the largest fashion weeks, including Paris Fashion Week, are seen as an industry in themselves and bring to their cities an important economic impact. Even during the backdrop of a full-scale crisis ( War on Ukraine) in Europe, it is vital to understand how fashion weeks bring in revenue to the city and its people, especially after a series of global lockdowns.
In an article by Vivian Hendriksz for Fashion United, they noted the following figures that Paris Fashion week generated pre-covid:
- Unique visitors: 30,000
- Total Income: 64.5 million euros
- City Income: 11.5 million euros
- Business Income: 53 million euros
- Venue Income: 10 million euros
- Restaurant Income: 18.5 million euros
- Retail Income: 25.5 million euros
- Accommodation Income: 10.5 million euros
- Average Expenditure per Visitor: 1.823 euros
These figures offer us a clear picture on the impact of 5-7 days of fashion week, and an understanding on how deep the impact of one fashion week is in boosting the earnings of the city and the people.
The French capital is known to be home for all things fashion and luxury. This Autumn-Winter 2022 fashion week at Paris amid the backdrop of a war saw not only return of the celebration for the fashion world after two straight years of pandemic led disruption, but also symbolic gestures, reflective and quieter moments and pledges of support ( financial and otherwise) from a number of design houses.
Right before the commencement of the fashion week, the optimistic mood of the revival of the fashion world shifted. While the world watched in disbelief, Russia launched a brutal and inhumane attack on Ukraine. A country that is a 3 hour flight away from Paris. The president of Paris Fashion Week’s organizing body was noted saying how he was conflicted throughout the week with one side showcasing celebration of the revival of fashion week while on the other a country being attacked.. And people suffering and dying. He urged the community to ‘experience the shows of the coming days with solemnity, and in reflection of these dark hours. In simple terms, the glitz of the shows, celebrity cameos, parties and the glamorous was seen to be at complete odds with a war in the continent raging.
Here is a look into how some of the leading fashion houses reflected on the on-going war and showcased their fine work of months during Paris Fashion Week 2022.
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Balenciaga’s – Fashion with a message
‘’Fashion feels like some sort of absurdity’’, Demna – the creative director of Balenciaga wrote to his guests for fashion week adding how he also had given considerable thought to canceling the show all together. The war on Ukraine triggered for him the pain of past trauma when the same thing happened to his home country Georgia and led him to become a forever refugee.
While the collection was designed and produced much before the war broke out, the show went on with strong symbolic gestures virtually as well as live. From draping the Ukrainian flag on seats for guests, a poem recital in Ukrainian to sending broken I-phones as guest invites and whipping their instagram feed of images, the brand leveraged its privilege to stand in solidarity with Ukraine. The designers decided to not give in or surrender to the evil that has already caused the designer hurt for a number of years. Demna Gvasalia, also penned a personal message for this audience at Paris Fashion week along with an oversized T-shirt with Ukrainian flag. His note concluded with a strong dedication to the fearlessness, resistance and the victory of love and peace.
Balenciagia’s fashion presentation was titled ‘360 degree show’, an airport transformed into a post-apocalyptic snow storm. Barriers separating the guests and models, the latter battling against treacherous wind. While some models walked the ramp dressed in fur coats to high heels, dragging over sized stuffed bin bags made in leather, other models were seen brazing the heavy wind in sneakers and underwear, reflecting as if they were caught off guard.
The show was designed keeping in mind the climate change, its devastating impact globally however with the backdrop of war, the show seemed to have given an entirely different message. The flashes of white light and the struggles of models reflecting the suffering in a war. A noticeably symbolic, uncomfortable to watch and thought-provoking show.
Balenciaga was one of the leading design houses to take a strong stand during fashion week and showcase its support to Ukraine during the war.
Louis Vuitton’s nostalgic adolescence tale
Nicloas Ghesquiere, creative director at LV, showcased his A/W 2022 collection at Paris fashion week paying his homage to adolescence and all things that accompany it, from wonder, naiveness, optimism to introspection, friendships and more. Taking inspiration and borrowing early images from the photographer David Sims, known to be shooting big campaigns for LV, Nicolas made ideal use of Sims’ photographs of model Ash Lewis, Tom Bowen and Emma Balfour. Their images were used on t-shirts that were seen on models during the show and the images appeared to evaporate at the edges.
LV’s show saw the subtle use of Nicolas’s famous nautical button-front and jock-fly front ( leather) for their slouchy trousers. Shirts were styled with floral neckties, oversized double breasted overcoats and exaggerated shawl-collar jackets. First ever fashion-show to be held at Musee d’Orsay, LV kept the art direction of the place to minimal and let its clothes take the overall attention. The collection was powerful, confident and direct.
It should be noted that LVMH ( the luxury brand with 14 luxury houses under its portfolio, including LV and Loewe) decided to shut down operations throughout Russia and also announced donation of 5 million euros to the International Committee of the Red Cross, this donation would go in support of direct and indirect victims of the conflict.
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Chanel: Tweed-land fables
Tweeds lead the ramp walk for the creative designer of Chanel, Virginie Viard. Viard’s inspiration came from Coco Chanel’s collection of purple moss and minty bracken, which Viard would use as color cards for inspiration. The A/W 2022 collection brimmed with vibrant colors and came across as a strong tribute to tweed. Her collection in her own words has been about honoring the native textile of the Scottish highlands.
Virginie draws in 1960s England and plus in her rainbow and psychedelic vision of youthfulness.The show’s invitations went out in squares of pink tweed, guests sitting on upholstered tweed seats to view a non-stop tweed wonder world. This French fashion house and their trademark skirt and jacket ensembles, boxy neat suits and jacket dresses worn with wellington boots, shimmery dresses and belted overcoats in rainbow tweeds were not to be missed. A show that consumed its audience and brought a smile on the faces of the by-watchers.
Chanel was also noted to shut down its operations from Russia following LVMH, Hermes and Cartier.
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Valentino’s radical Pink dialogue
Pierpaolo Piccioli, the creative director of Valentino is known as the undisputed master of shape and colour. Many have called him an artist at work with his complex use of multiple shades together in an aesthetic form. His knack is to design looks, not costumes that are monochromatic and feel vibrant, elegant and relevant. Designers most recent collection showcase at Paris Fashion Week reflected an optimistic, cheerful and artful construction of a strong dose of pink. Piccoli was noted to declare the collection a ‘radical gesture’. His singular use of the colour pink was also noted to be added to the pantone’s official roster under the name PINK PP, also the title of the show at Paris Fashion Week.
Pink minis shift dresses, sharp crafted overcoats, clavicle-revealing gowns crafted and cut to perfection and an exaggerated styling with platform shoes that aided to give the perfect vision of the collection being elevated and grounded.
Invites to the show were made by Douglas Coupland, a known writer and artist for his post modern take on life. He made a collectible boxed invite as well as an artist pink-on-pink text tiles that were also seen to take over the design house’s social media with phrases reflecting Douglas art through and through. Some of the phrases included, ‘I miss my pre-internet brain’ and ‘Modernity is eternal’.
Why Pink? The brand quoted that pink represents ‘Love, community, energy and freedom’.
Just before the Valentio Pink PP showcase began, the room was filled with Piccioli’s voice, reading a statement to the audience ‘It was a hard week, it is a hard moment. We reacted the only way we know — by working. We reacted by not feeling paralyzed by war, trying to remember that the privilege of our freedom is now bigger than ever. Our thoughts go to those who are suffering, we see you, we feel you, we love you.” In conclusion, he left the audience with “love is the answer, always.”
Valentino has also donated half a million euros to UNHCR to support the Ukraine refugees situation.
Moments that stood out
While some brands spend a considerable amount of money on the art direction of the show, there are others who quietly steal away the attention with their craft, design, concept and gestures. With a war next door, here is a look at some noteworthy showcases that stood out and felt aligned better with the overarching mood.
- Chloé’s creative director Gabriela Hearst is known to be one of the most dedicated climate activists in the fashion industry. She presented her collection in a giant greenhouse look alike structure. The brand used earthy tones in their collection and also made a strong signature move of releasing a fact sheet with detailed information on where materials are sourced from and how it is produced. For example, this season 56% of the collection was made using “low impact materials” including recycled cashmere.
- Peter Petrov, a Vienna-based designer born in Ukraine, showcased his collection that is filled with timeless staples crafted to last, not affected by the changing trends. His approach was more realistic and relevant, clothing that can be worn more than once, repeated as often as needed and also reflects a quiet way of dressing. He believes that people became used to wearing comfort clothing during the pandemic and do not wish to compromise on comfort any longer with dressing up, even with high fashion pieces.
- First time showcase by designer Cecilie Bahnsen was a fresh poetic take on layering. Soothing to the eyes and to the ears, the Danish designers’ show opened with a poetic reading of Tove Ditlevsens, Night Wandering, translated to English by Micheal Favla Goldman for the first time. The poet’s enchanting voice and symmetry of this with the ensembles in light monochromes, fitted shirts with puffy sleeves and trousers hit the right chord for the audience.
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Solidarity with Ukraine
With the world judging the need of a fashion week amid a full raging war less than 3 hours flight away, the designers – established or new faces, made quite as well as loud symbolic gestures and brought to light the plight of Ukraine while showing their solidarity with Ukraine’s people. Here are a few signs of solidarity with Ukraine that were showcased at Paris Fashion Week:
- Debut designer Cecilie Bahnsen, choreographed a moment of pause at the end of the show as a quiet moment of togetherness wherein models stood shoulder to shoulder. A quiet moment to push the message of solidarity with Ukraine.
- Petrov, originally from Ukraine and now based in Vienna also sent across a message to his audience that 10% of the profits from online order will be donated to the UN Refugee Agency and Caritas. He also quoted ‘We are not politicians’, urging the message that there is only so much designers and independent houses can do to help. The world needs a collective effort.
- Mica Arganaraz and Gigi Hadid, supermodels, also pledged to donate their entire earnings from the fashion month to relief efforts in Ukraine.
- Right at the closing moment of Nanushka’s collection presentation, three models stood up on a pedestal with shut eyes revealing blue and yellow eye makeup and a string quartet playing the Ukrainian national anthem.
- Sandra Sandor, an Hungarian designer also released a statement regarding donation of their revenue from its online sales towards relief efforts in Ukraine. Their spokesperson also confirmed the shutting down operation in Russia for the moment.
In an interview with fashion director of Vogue Ukraine, Vena Brykalin, he mentioned examples of Coperni and Balenciaga shows who took the early initiatives towards solidarity with Ukraine setting a tone and standard for other brands to follow. Brykalin believes while these will not change the world, they are necessary moments and important messages that silence is not acceptable. He emphasizes on how fashion is no more just an escapism but a reflection of our own reality and lives.
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