In seasons past, some of our favorite creatives regularly explored the idea of doom, the notion of the apocalypse, with an awareness of the darker forces at play in the universe. But now, with everything from political chaos, to terrorism and most importantly, the disastrous effects of global warming creating a very real end-of-days mood, they've lightened up. In the same vein, many others tapped into themes of nature, botanicals and water - the source of life. Here are some of the collections at Paris Fashion Week SS18 that tied into this underlying tension.
Rick Owens' 'Dirt'
"Instead of morbidly romanticizing our socio-ecological peril, which I have so gleefully indulged in the past, I feel I need to propose experimental grace and form as a gesture of turning away from threat; not really as escapism, but as rejection" stated Owens in the press release.
Eschewing last season’s earthy color palette in favour of a predominantly white collection peppered with life-evoking greens, Owens delivered a presentation that embraced hope. Staged in the courtyard of the Palais de Tokyo, the site of last season’s memorable menswear show, the setting also reflected this new mood, the stark architectural backdrop softened by spouting fountains.
The familiar twisted forms that circled the models bodies were crafted largely from canvas, this rather modest fabric seen by Owens as representing a fresh start. And just as an artist would transform this humble base, here it had also been treated, elevated by laquer, rubber and beading, and in doing so, according to Owens, realizing its potential, thus tapping into the overriding notion of survival.
With a soundtrack that featured Michèle Lamy’s new band Lavascar, the show closed with the designer’s wife cackling through the speakers, a disquieting sound that to some appeared to mock the current socio-ecological situation as being of our own making. However, to Owens it represented communication, “Hard not to join in,” he told the Business of Fashion’s Tim Blanks, and indeed, it's this spirit of coming together that is seen by many as the only way to offer hope in these somewhat dark times.
Haider Ackermann's Pacifist Vision
A stark seasonal contrast was also in evidence at Haider Ackermann this season. Spring/Summer 2017’s vivid yellows, neon pinks and dramatic prints were superseded by an edited palette of classic colors with a clear focus on silhouette. And although the designer’s signature tailoring remained front and center, the often anarchic undertones gave way to a slightly pacifist vision.
Exposed skin added interest across the collection, jackets featuring razor-like cuts, shoulder-baring tops and several mid-riff-revealing designs infusing the collection with an element of sensuality. Delicately draped knits, blouson-style tops and elegant mid-length cover-ups with flyaway hems also added to the feeling of lightness.
By exploring a softer silhouette, Haider Ackermann relinquished none of the drama associated with his designs, the predominantly black, red and white collection ensuring a bold statement on the spring runway.
Alexander McQueen's English Garden
“It was about Britishness, being in the garden, and the healing power of nature,” said Sarah Burton of her Spring/Summer 2018 collection for Alexander McQueen. Inspired by a visit to Great Dixter, the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd in the East Sussex countryside, the designer’s latest looks were strewn with flowers, the models soaking wet hair evoking the aftermath of a downpour during a typical English summer.
This rather imperfect picture continued with deconstructed raincoats, tiers of distressed tulle and oversize cardigans alluding to the aged clothes worn by British aristocrats, but in the hands of Burton and her team, crafted exquisitely of course.
Despite the otherworldliness of the collection, familiar McQueen signatures, such as leather and combat-style boots, added a sense of realism. However, even this toughness was tempered this season, earthy brown rather than black leather and flower-filled heels playing to the natural theme.
Chanel's Ode to Gorges Du Verdon
Famed for its often-fantastical sets, the backdrop to Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection at the Grand Palais was inspired by the Gorges du Verdon, a river canyon of outstanding natural beauty in central Provence. You know what there is plenty of at the Gorges? Water. The models paraded in front of a craggy rock face and cascading waterfall, surrounded by lush green foliage, with the distinct utopian setting giving the collection an otherworldly feel.
“I liked the idea of water, of lightness,” the designer explained backstage, the transparent capes, headwear and heeled boots that appeared throughout the collection shielding their wearers from the constant spray which glistened in the sunlight. And this natural sparkle was matched by Lagerfeld's shimmering lurex-threaded tweeds, sequins and glinting crystal jewels.
Elie Saab's Amazonia
Inspired by the Amazon, Elie Saab’s new season collection was, according to the show notes, “a celebration of mother nature’s botanic masterpiece”, like a living, breathing forest-in-motion.
The collection was fluid, and laden with natural elements such a standout story of long silk pieces, printed with an alluring palm leaf pattern. The rest of the collection strongly fed into the theme with silky fringes that swing like a dynamic dance of jungle vines, python prints and a palette of warm yellow, hibiscus pink, orchid pink, and waterfall blue.
Water and culture are strongly interlinked. Water, whether it's in excess or scarcity, as many nations are experiencing now as a result of the recent hurricanes and earthquakes, greatly determines a person’s quality of life. In forming their collections around the themes of botanicals, unspoiled natural beauty, and for Owens and Ackermann, a reversal on the darkness that often imbues their clothes, designers this season communicated that to avoid an all-too-possible impending doom, we have to value life.