If you were following the most recent round of fashion shows in Paris, you've likely already marvelled at Chanel's transformation of the Grand Palais into a fully stocked supermarket or felt refreshed by Nicolas Ghesquière's understated debut as the designer for Louis Vuitton. More than a week after the last runway was rolled up, the novelty of those moments – and of the laundry list of fall trends, including shaggy outerwear, lots of crocodile and more flat footwear – gives way to one consideration: What did we see that nudges fashion forward?
The Chanel show offered literal food for thought. On the heels of last season's rarefied art-gallery-themed spectacle, designer Karl Lagerfeld, a master of recontextualization, set up a much more egalitarian milieu: a grocery store. His, though, was stocked with products that riffed on the brand's signatures, including Coco Choco cereal and a leg of Jambon Cambon prosciutto. There was even a staged spill near the bath soaps, which prompted the obvious joke: "Cleanup in aisle five."
As for the clothes, the man who once said "sweatpants are a sign of defeat" showed a range of colourful tweed leggings and knit sweatshirts alongside corseted jackets and full skirts, conceding that dressing down to pick up a tin of double-C-shaped pretzels can be as chic as dressing up for the opera. But then, isn't that what Mademoiselle Chanel figured out nearly a century ago, minus the Grand Épicerie set?
The backdrop for Ghesquière's return to the runway following his split with Balenciaga in 2012 felt particularly symbolic. His predecessor at Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, had always constructed imaginative follies within the Cour Carrée of the Louvre. The venue remained unchanged last Wednesday, except this time guests entered a streamlined, modernist box.
The collection expressed a newness that had nothing to do with shape-shifting proportions and everything to do with leveraging Vuitton's in-house craftsmanship. A floral-printed leather skirt was studded with bag hardware and coats were moulded from striated leather. Vintage trunks inspired new trunklette purses that will no doubt qualify for It-bag status.
At Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton constructed a more conceptual scene and populated it with women in lushly ornamented, folkloric dresses. Some seemed anthropomorphic, channelling skunks and swans, while others oozed regality. It was vintage McQueen, minus the macabre, and echoed the voluminous, enveloping shapes spotted on the catwalks of Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons and Sacai.
The silhouette at Hermès, on the other hand, was languid and conveyed a purity of form. Designer Christophe Lemaire's show took place in the Palais Brongniart, the former stock exchange, where models weaved through a labyrinth of cushioned banquettes in structured coats and fluid skirts. A leather tracksuit was a perfect example of a dressed-down staple given the luxe treatment.
As a fitting follow-up to Rick Owens's step-dancer spectacle last season, his fall collection was modelled by a group of friends and staff who circled his venue, allowing the audience to better see jackets sporting panels of leather pleating and exaggerated tubular sleeves. Gareth Pugh plugged into the same futuristic sophistication as Owens. His collection culminated in a tiered gown assembled from plastic sheeting.
Given Dries Van Noten's involvement in a new exhibition based on his inspirations at Les Arts Décoratifs, the designer was likely tempted to produce a greatesthits collection this season. Instead, he energized his pieces by clashing op-arty textiles with fluorescent lilies draped over the models' shoulders, while still keeping coats familiarly mannish and hemlines on the longer side. Sporty bomber jackets and shimmery skirts emphasized Van Noten's aesthetic wanderlust.
Hussein Chalayan, meanwhile, has mostly grown out of attempting rigid, conceptual clothing experiments to focus on creating wearable pieces that move and breathe. He still leans, though, toward the eccentric side of the style spectrum, as exemplified by long silk tunics fronted with a mosaic made out of artificial nails.
While that was an idea you could easily overthink, it was, simply, one of the kookiest flourishes in a season of kooky gestures.