A sneak preview into the past might be an excellent description of the overall energy of Paris Fashion Week spring/summer 2024. While many designers and creative directors delved into the rich history of the houses they belong to, it sometimes felt like a lack of new ideas. But a future that has roots in fashion’s past doesn’t have to be bad at all, though.
Cover image: courtesy of Balmain
Paris Fashion Week spring/summer 2024
It is October 3rd, marking the end of Paris Fashion Week spring/summer 2024. It has been quite a week, unlike others. Where Copenhagen, New York, London, and Milan Fashion Week were marked by newness, extravagance, and peeks into the future of fashion, Paris seemed stuck in the past.
The past, present… and the future?
Past and current trends and iconic designs were mainly used as the primary source of inspiration for every show at Paris Fashion Week spring/summer 2024. At Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri reinterpreted a 1948 archival design by Christian Dior as a centerpiece of her collection. She also referred to Paris’ icons: from the Eiffel Tower to old city maps – but they did not withhold her from creating a collection with Victorian-inspired dresses taking the lead.
Anthony Vaccarello’s collection for Saint Laurent was similar. Strap away the chic styling; the house’s spring/summer collection mainly consisted of jumpsuits. They were beautifully made, though. Peter Do’s collection for his eponymous brand was one of his best work so far, yet it was simple and chic, just as he once started. At Balenciaga, Demna focused on the clothes instead of the dirt, loud music, and other dystopic elements. For Balenciaga, that might be nothing new, yet for Balenciaga under the helm of Demna, it was anything but typical. Of course, he had to, due to his recent significant missteps, still etched in memory. After a year of feeling “very alone,” the creative director dedicated his collection to all who have been there for him. As a result, his mother opened the show, and his husband closed it as a quintessential Balenciaga bride. What Demna does differently than his peer creative directors is creating “bottom-up” instead of “top-down” regarding luxury. His last show—marking his comeback after months of commotion—was too polished to his taste, so he opted for a more grunge Balenciaga like we’ve seen from him in previous seasons.
Above, from left to right: courtesy of Dior, Balmain, Balenciaga, and Peter Do
Furthermore, Daniel Roseberry borrowed his designs from Elsa Schiaparelli’s rich history, with a Paris Fashion Week spring/summer 2024 ready-to-wear collection shown at Paris Fashion Week. “And so we have Schiaparelli ready to wear. Is it for the every day, and should it be, dare I say, ‘easy’? Yes. But does it also need to cause a sensation, inspire someone to walk across a room, and be an extraordinary echo of some of our best work in the couture? Yes. Elsa did it first. We are doing it all over again,” the show notes read.
Two stand-out moments
One of the few brands that engaged in newness, though, was Acne Studios. The Swedish fashion house recently faced significant backlash when announcing Kylie Jenner as the brand’s new face, but it helped them receive massive media coverage nonetheless. Founder Jonny Johansson used his passion for denim (which made the brand thrive in its early days) as his primary source of inspiration. “It comes from the idea of a construction site: things are unfinished, a work in progress. I wanted to convey that beauty,” he explained in the show notes. He made gender norms blur and created a uniform for the modern human being instead, unlike any other collection he has created for the house. The collaboration with Jenner and Acne Studios’ new collection dictates a new direction for the brand, one that is more mature, concretizing its well-earned spot at Paris Fashion Week—a peek into the brand’s future.
At Alexander McQueen, an emotional goodbye by Sarah Burton marked the show’s energy (meanwhile, Kering appointed Seán McGirr as Burton’s successor at McQueen). Even Naomi Campbell couldn’t suppress a tear when closing the show. Burton paid homage to Lee Alexander McQueen, “whose wish was always to empower women,” she declared pre-show. Furthermore, the show notes read she created her final collection for the house based on “female anatomy, Queen Elizabeth I, the blood red rose, and Magdalena Abakanowicz, a transgressive and powerfully creative artist who refused ever to compromise her vision.” It may reference a departure at the house against her will, but that truth will remain in the middle. Burton leaving Alexander McQueen, owned by fashion conglomerate Kering (also owner of Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Balenciaga, and Saint Laurent), seems to be a part of Kering’s new direction for its fashion houses to stay relevant and compete with LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Givenchy). The family-owned Kering founder, François-Henri Pinault, recently bought stakes in Creative Artists Agency—a Hollywood talent agency representing celebrities like Brad Pitt and Salma Hayek (Pinault’s wife).
Stuck in the middle
Overall, the Paris Fashion Week spring/summer 2024 shows and collections may set the tone for a new way for renowned fashion houses. Balenciaga’s fall down has marked the strength of cancel culture. Conversely, it shows fashion’s (and celebrities’) willingness to forgive. Can Demna have complete freedom in expressing his creativity at Balenciaga? Most certainly not, and he probably won’t during the upcoming years. Balenciaga’s missteps have had an apparent trickle-down effect on the rest of the industry, leading to safe choices and clothes we’ve already seen in the past. There were times when Saint Laurent made a fuss with its “Le Smoking,” and Dior developed the headline-worthy Bar Jacket. Those days may be gone as celebrities swap designers or due to the fear of being canceled that comes with novel ideas. Out with the new, in with the old may be a good thing for sustainability, but the picture doesn’t hold when the loyal clientele keeps buying new each season – and gets rewarded with front-row seats during fashion week.