Although many of the fall/winter 2017 trends that bubbled to the surface at New York Fashion Week last month could be seen on the runways here (velvet fabrics, exquisitely detailed embroidery and the jumpsuit silhouette, to name three), Paris Fashion Week did add a couple of things to the fashion flock’s watch list — most notably in the outerwear arena.
Puffers on parade
The old-school puffer jacket — that cold-weather staple that consists of a nylon shell with quilted sections “puffed” with lightweight insulating material — emerged as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the outerwear offerings in Paris, thanks to the number and range of labels that had high-end puffy pieces in the mix.
One of the most memorable versions came by way of L.A.-based artist and designer Greg Lauren, who decamped to the City of Light to present a limited-edition capsule collection created with Italian outerwear brand (and, based on the observations of the last week, purveyor of many a Parisian’s puffer) Moncler. The limited-edition unisex pieces meld Lauren’s signature repurposed, disheveled, patched and rehabbed aesthetic with Moncler’s signature, shiny-nylon puffers into hybrid frankenjackets. They were as much wearable art as outerwear (a perception only heightened by each piece’s nearly $4,000 price tag).
Another standout assortment of puffed-up pieces came down the runway — well, across the library table, really — at the Fenty Puma by Rihanna show at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, where models strode the tabletops in pieces from the sexed-up “back-to-school” fall/winter 2017 collection, which had multiple riffs on the puffer, including cropped puffers that slouched off one shoulder and sported generous bell sleeves; full-length puffer jackets roomy enough to be unzipped sleeping bags; and plaid-patterned puffer wraps bearing the appliquéd chenille varsity letters “FU” (for Fenty University, of course) with a few puffer-inspired hats thrown in for good measure.
You couldn’t wave a shepherd’s crook at Paris Fashion Week without hitting another one of the biggest fall/winter trends: shearling. The woolgathering began in earnest as early as Saint Laurent on Day One, when Anthony Vaccarello’s sophomore collection for the house that Yves built included shearling-lined versions of the detachable armor-like, single-sleeve sheaths he introduced last season and continued through the denim-colored shearling coats at Louis Vuitton’s show in the sculpture garden at the Musée du Louvre with stops at Balmain (immense, floor-length coats with ragged, wild and woolly lapels) and Alexander McQueen (chunky, black leather jackets trimmed in blood-red shearling) along the way.
The pièces de résistance, though, could be found at Hermés, the Paris-based house that’s been cranking out the highest of high-end leather goods since the Van Buren administration, where the flock of options included motorcycle jacket silhouettes trimmed in white or black wool, hooded parkas and chunky coats bursting with dusty brown or turquoise and a pair of patchworked coats — one short version and one long — in shaggy Béarn shearling that had been dyed to shades of anemone and mauve.
The high-end statement tee, which got some serious traction at New York Fashion Week last month, may have been born at Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior show here last season, but she — and the rest of the designers showing here this season — have moved on, well up, actually, to make hats and headgear the wearable political symbol of the fall/winter 2017 season.
(To be fair, there was at least one political message tee in the mix. Italian label Redemption’s runway show included a punk-style T-shirt bearing President Trump’s face and the words, “God save us from the drama queen.”)
At Dior, the chapeau of choice was the beret, the unofficial cap of radicals and revolutionaries everywhere (think the Black Panthers and Che Guevara), black leather versions of which accessorized each look. At Kenzo, it took the form of the knit balaclava, a ski-mask-like hat with its own rich history of aiding and abetting fomenters of change.
One such activist, Nadya Tolokonnikova of the Russian protest group/punk band Pussy Riot, penned an essay for the Kenzo show notes that explicitly encouraged the embrace of a protest lid.
“Every big movement needs a sign,” she wrote. “Balaclavas, pussy hats, pick whatever you want but just fight against misogyny and racism.”
If Kenzo’s balaclavas could be seen as a symbol of the anti-establishment, the headgear that accessorized Rick Owens’ collection signified the ceremonies and codes that unify us. Faded sweatshirt arms attached to the face became anteater-snout veils or were pulled together with wire to resemble pairs of bat ears. T-shirt fabric was stretched or folded over rectangular or triangular forms to evoke the look of a bishop’s miter or maybe a pagan sun-worshiper’s crown. What they explicitly represented was less important than the silent acknowledgement of everyone in the room that they meant something.
There was one other runway from this round of Paris Fashion Week shows that similarly left everyone scratching their heads and nodding them at the same time: Comme des Garçons’ beautifully baffling “Future of Silhouette” show that instead of accentuating or flattering the female form completely obscured and wildly distorted it using fabrics that weren’t traditional knit or woven fashion fabrics at all but an assortment of cotton batting, crumpled paper and matted, insulation-like material.
The reality, of course, was that, technically speaking, the only thing really separating Rei Kawakubo’s avant-garde, next-level, art-like pieces from fall’s super-trendy posse of puffer jackets was a few millimeters of nylon shell.