brave new world
On the last day of the autumn/winter 16 season, Louis Vuitton and Miu Miu summed up a season that’s been defined by revolution and our new approach to fashion.
As the autumn/winter 16 season draws to a close, we're looking back at the hundred-plus shows that defined it, trying to decipher trends and moods. Not long ago, fashion was meant for the future. What were designers going to put us in next season? Now, a transformation to the fashion system is upon us: a restructuring of the seasonal cycle fronted by Vetements, Burberry and Tom Ford, who will soon be making their collections available immediately after their shows. And so, we no longer ask ourselves what we'll be wearing next season, but rather what we want to wear right now.
The answer to that question was reflected in the two major shows that closed the fashion week circus on Wednesday in Paris. At Louis Vuitton and Miu Miu, it was about the individual piece above all. It was about the character of a shimmery floral dress, a biker leather trouser, or a metallic army boot (Louis Vuitton), or the personality of a brocade coat, a military breech, or a denim jacket with insignia (Miu Miu).
You could split the collections into what PRs like to call "stories" - trend segments, that is - but the truth is these pieces had little do with one another. It's a shopping mentality that's sieved into the entire season, and created a massive rift between the designers who practise it and those who don't, preferring instead to present more fluid collections where one piece relies on the other. Neither approach is more correct, but it has generated a climate where editors and buyers now discuss fashion in terms of specific garments rather than overall collections.
More than anything, it's a spirit that seems to be rooted in a desire to instil life and history into clothes and accessories and defeat our own over-consumption and 'more-more-more' mentality. The decadence embodied by the collections of Gucci, Dries Van Noten and Maison Margiela this season reflected that as much as Miu Miu did when Miuccia Prada rang out the shows with her 'vintage collection' of Old World and New World garments, mixed and matched and mismatched so they all stood out equally, creating that sense of character for the individual piece.
It's indicative of a new fashion world where perhaps it isn't very cool to buy several coats every season or wear a new dress to every party. Instead, we are moving towards an haute couture idea - echoed at Chanel on Tuesday where Karl Lagerfeld recreated the salon shows of yesteryear - where a single cherished garment means more than ten of them would. At Louis Vuitton, Nicholas Ghesquière didn't put on one of the themed shows of his past at Balenciaga—rather, it was the opposite: the anti-theme, where the customer and editor and buyer are forced to look at each piece of clothing instead of dealing with the collection on the whole.
Balenciaga's new designer, Demna Gvasalia, did the same on Sunday, reflecting the concept he's pioneered at his other brand, Vetements, whose influence on fashion and the industry over the past year has been essential. The changes to the system, which we've talked about endlessly over the past four weeks of shows - and the haute couture and menswear shows in January - have created one of the most exciting show season in years. The big news is no longer about the musical chairs of designers and which person is going to which house, but rather about who is revolutionising the way we approach fashion and how they're doing it. Vive la révolution!
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Mitchell Sams