The war was particularly poignant for Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia, whose home country, Georgia, has also been attacked by Russia. Balmain’s battalion-themed collection coincidentally dovetailed with current events, featuring armour and chest plates as key features of its designs.
Streetwear powerhouse Off-White presented its first posthumous show after founder Virgil Abloh’s death last year. His last collection featured the brand’s signature play on street culture and hip hop but also included 28 haute couture dresses, which was a first for Abloh.
Despite the tragedies that transpired over the course of Paris Fashion Week, this season had no shortage of viral moments, the first being Valentino’s almost entirely pink collection, shown in an entirely pink set. There was Balenciaga’s giant fashion snow globe, which took the Autumn/Winter aspect of the season literally. Kim Kardashian also made waves when she showed up at the show completely wrapped from head to toe with the brand’s boxing tape, bondage-style.
After seeing the Y2K trend reigning the runways of New York, London and Milan, the French opted to go down an edgier route – taking inspiration from the punk and grunge movement.
Graphic T-shirts with bold, goth-inspired typography were the basis of most of the looks seen at Givenchy. Helmed by Matthew M. Williams, his vision was to design everyday wear with a haute couture approach.
“It’s about treating things that are ‘every day’, like a piece of denim or a graphic T-shirt, in the same kind of way we would a couture dress. Givenchy has a heritage of graphic T-shirts and I wanted to embrace that, so all of those graphic jersey pieces were built on the body last week, and they’re all a singular piece, not styled,” Williams explained in an interview with Hypebeast backstage.
Aside from T-shirts, the collection also featured a number of jersey dresses and denim looks. Williams’ love for utility combined with the brand’s savoir faire produced a collection that was both formal and informal, practical but layered with ornamental elements.
The angsty vibes continued at Louis Vuitton, where Screen Actors Guild Award-winner and brand ambassador Jung HoYeon opened the show. Inspired by David Sims photography from the ’90s, Louis Vuitton’s latest offering served androgynous silhouettes, chequered sweater dresses and ties.
Also informed by creative director Nicolas Ghesquière’s adolescence, the collection paid tribute to experimentation and the spirit of DIY. Ghesquière infused the thrifted feeling into the pieces by mish mashing different patterns and purposely creating an oversized fit for the jackets and trousers.
The humble tank top
Although you would never consider a basic tank top to be a specific trend, Paris Fashion Week would beg to differ. Tank tops were seen at Acne studios, Chloé, Loewe, Off-White, Sacai, and more.
The classic ribbed white tank top was among the key looks Chloé paired with brown leather trousers and again with a pair of orange trousers. In line with the brand’s mission to minimise climate change, all the materials used in the collection were sourced sustainably, including all of the leather pieces.
A sheer version of the tank top appeared twice at Loewe and also at Sacai. Off-White paired its graphic, glitter tank top, sporting a text that said “No Snitching”, with a massive skirt as part of its haute couture looks.
Tank tops were also one of the biggest trends to come out of Milan Fashion Week, as they featured heavily at Prada, Bottega Veneta, Diesel, and Gucci.
On the defence
In response to the personal tragedy of the fire incident at Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing’s home, his latest collection was focused on protecting the body.
Shimmering gold body armour, chest plates, shields and stiff gilets contrasted against pure white pieces inspired by the bandaging Rousteing had to wear while recovering from his burns. Many of the dresses were made of a thick, padded material that could be likened to a fencer’s uniform.
Some of the same aesthetics were echoed at Christian Dior. For this season, Maria Grazia Chiuri included various padded panels to add a utility element to an otherwise incredibly feminine collection.
Side panels were attached to the brand’s signature bar jacket, while shoulder pads and chest plates were styled with delicate lace dresses. The use of the protective gear allowed Chiuri to play with shapes, further emphasising the waist by adding obvious panels by the hips or broadening the shoulders
This season will mark the second time chest plates and utility vests will be on trend, after initially emerging among streetwear enthusiasts a few years ago.
For its Autumn/Winter collection, Valentino unveiled a new shade of hot pink that will soon be a signature colour for the brand. The star-studded show was presented at the Carreau du Temple, which had also been redecorated to be completely pink.
Taking a ‘less is more’ approach, nearly 50 looks were presented in the same shade of pink, as per Pierpaolo Piccioli’s request to remove all distractions and allow the audience to focus on the silhouette and design details. Midway through the collection, the colour palette suddenly swapped to all black outfits, forcing the eye to adapt again.
Saint Laurent had a similar strategy with its collection. From slim suits to turtleneck dresses and even a massive faux fur coat, the brand explored various shapes and silhouettes while sticking to a conservative colour palette. With a focus on ’90s chic, minimalist designs, the colour selection was reduced to mainly black and white.
Tragedy steals the spotlight
The fashion industry tried its best to navigate embracing the frivolous nature of fashion week amidst the war between Ukraine and Russia, but none of the brands was able to shake it off completely. Many designer brands pledged to make large donations to help escaping refugees, throughout the Autumn/Winter 2022 season. Some brands even pledged a portion of their sales.
In light of the new sanctions against Russia, many European brands such as Chanel, Hermès and all Kering and LVMH brands have ceased operations in the country. LVMH, parent company to Louis Vuitton and Dior, announced it would be closing 124 boutiques and suspending all online activities across the country but would continue to pay the salaries for its 3,500 employees. These designer brands will join other major Western corporations also pulling out of Russia.
The economic impact of this boycott has yet to be determined. Russia is home to some of the wealthiest consumers in the world. Investment bank Jefferies states that Russians account for about US$9 billion ($12.4 billion) in annual luxury sales.
However, according to a recent Reuters article, industry experts say that despite rich Russians’ loyalty to luxury brands, the proportion of luxury sales generated from the country “is small compared to the industry’s main growth engines, China and the United States”.