Paris Fashion Week Day 3: Rethinking the armor at Balmain and Rick Owens

The finale of the spring/summer 2017 Balmain runway show presented on Thursday during Paris Fashion Week.
The finale of the spring/summer 2017 Balmain runway show presented on Thursday during Paris Fashion Week.
(Bertrand Guay / AFP/Getty Images)
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Though there hasn’t been a single unifying theme to coalesce out of Paris Fashion Week (yet), the third day did serve up a pair of shows that put texture and fabrication center stage: Balmain and Rick Owens.


Balmain’s spring/summer 2017 collection, presented at the Hôtel Potocki in the 8th arrondissement, began with an intriguing pronouncement in the show notes from creative director Olivier Rousteing that began: “My Balmain army has shed its armor.” The notes cited as inspiration “the unique strength of those strong women that I am so lucky to know … like them, today’s runway has stripped back all the nonessential armor, allowing for a clear focus on a beautiful lightness and ease.”


But kicking the armor to the curb didn’t mean the Balmain woman was about to be left vulnerable and exposed (well, a little bit exposed, but more in a minute), since it was replaced with something more akin to chain mail; acres of metallic mesh gowns, sparkly, body-hugging knits and a snakeskin print that found its way onto cape/caftan hybrids, wide leather belts, not-quite-skintight trousers, voluminous peak lapel trench coats and sleeveless, full-length gowns with double leg slits that ran nearly to the navel. (And, if you really think about it, what is a snake’s set of scales but a kind of articulated armor?)

The snakeskin pattern was far from the only one in the mix either; some of the clingy knits were served up in zigzag patterns, others a surfeit of stripes — vertical, horizontal and both on the same dress.

Looks from the spring/summer 2017 Balmain women's runway collection.
Looks from the spring/summer 2017 Balmain women’s runway collection.
(Bertrand Guay / AFP/Getty Images left, Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images center and right )

There were plenty of pieces perfect for the pattern-adverse as well — dresses in bright red, dusty orange or olive drab with strategic, skin-baring cutouts or peek-a-boo strips of flesh. Several dresses, miniskirts and suede capes sported chunky cargo pockets, heightening the safari/jungle adventure vibe created by the snakeskin prints displayed against a backdrop of lush greenery.

The show notes ended with the observation: “Today, we believe that we can clearly show that in addition to pleasing our core audience of loyal customers, we can confidently open up the house to a wider audience.” If by that Rousteing means women in a range of body types (the notes don’t elaborate further) then the spring/summer collection of free-flowing caftans, capes and dresses can be considered a good starting point.

Rick Owens


Rick Owens who was another of this season’s designers opting to swap out the armor traditionally associated with his band of warrior women. His spring/summer 2017 collection was full of gray tulle, immense mesh bubbles, what seemed to be yards of gauzy muslin and sprays of pale purple ostrich feathers.

Looks from the spring/summer 2017 Rick Owens women's runway collection during Paris Fashion Week.
Looks from the spring/summer 2017 Rick Owens women’s runway collection during Paris Fashion Week.
(Francois Guillot / AFP/Getty Images )

At first blush it seemed as if Owens’ silhouettes had gone as soft as a soap bubble, but then a curious thing happened. As the models wearing his confections hit a certain point on the runway (in his traditional venue in the basement of the Palais de Tokyo) the backlighting gave substance and weight to the gossamer and smoke — the fashion equivalent of hardening whisps of egg white and sugar into a hard-shelled meringue.

Though hardly a follower of trends, Owens’ delectable collection did manage to key into one of the prevailing color trends we’ve noticed emerging from the shows: shades of yellow from muted gold and dusty mustard to sunshine and citrus shades. Other labels boarding the yellow so far this season include Dries Van Noten, Chloé and Gauchère Paris.

For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me @ARTschorn.



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