Paris Fashion Week makes it official: You need a cape for fall 2020

Capes on the Balmain AW20 runway
Capes on the runway, shown here at Balmain, one of the many labels to explore the trend at Paris Fashion Week, which ran from Feb. 24 through March 3.
(Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)
Share via

The fashion message was clear: Capes aren’t just for magicians anymore. If you don’t think you can rock one with all the confidence of a runway model or Billy Porter or even Count von Count, you’ve got about six months to practice throwing one over your shoulders with calculated nonchalance.

That’s because the trend, one of the major takeaways of New York Fashion Week last month, gained major traction on the catwalks here. Another mini-trend we noticed coming out of New York, novel knitwear, caught its stride here as well, making for some of the coziest clothes we’ve seen in a long time.

Here you’ll find a look at those fall and winter 2020 trends — and a few others that caught our attention — that designers and labels hope you’ll stock your wardrobe with in advance of next autumn.


A flapping of capes

Because we’ll spend a lot of time with the cape next fall, let’s start with the basics. A cape is a long, sleeveless outer garment that covers the back and fastens at the neck. (Sometimes a longer one is called a cloak, but here we’ll use cape to refer to both versions.)

Rick Owens AW20
A statement puffer cape on the Rick Owens fall and winter 2020 runway.
(Francois Guillot / AFP/Getty Images)

Its pop culture association with vaudeville magicians, superheroes and Count Dracula not withstanding, the cape, in the right hands, can telegraph power and afford a measure of protection from the elements at the same time.

Two of those right hands belong to Rick Owens, whose fall and winter women’s runway collection repurposed duvets from a Moncler collaboration into immense puffer capes that fastened at the neck with a metal chain clasp connected to two grommets, quilted into a spiderweb-like pattern in the back and served up in black, smoke gray and sky blue.

If you’re looking for an après-ski cape, this is the one.

Olivier Rousteing references his Bordelaise upbringing with equestrian motifs, luxe leather and a cadre of capes.

Feb. 29, 2020

There’s probably not a collective noun for a group of capes gathered together in one place, but if there were (might we suggest a “flapping” of capes?), it would have come in handy at Balmain where creative director Olivier Rousteing included many a cape in the collection.

Rousteing referenced the bourgeois codes of his Bordelaise childhood from beige, leather-trimmed, diamond-quilted capes that evoked horse blankets to navy blue capes heavy with metallic embroidery to billowing Champagne-colored silk.

Givenchy AW20
A cape dress from the fall and winter 2020/2021 Givenchy women’s ready-to-wear collection, presented on March 1 during Paris Fashion Week.
(Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

Clare Waight Keller’s Givenchy collection took inspiration from the powerful heroines of French art-house cinema. There were both CEO-worthy pagoda-shoulder cape dresses and opera-worthy cherry red cape dresses that draped almost poncho-like across the front.

Purple reign

Compared to the vibrant sea of color coming out of New York, the Paris palette was muted, and some of the week’s most memorable collections were grounded in black and white with only the barest pops of accent color. (Valentino and Chanel, we’re looking at you.)

In a collection very much her own, Virginie Viard pays homage to the late Karl Lagerfeld.

March 3, 2020

However, the hues designers couldn’t seem to refuse came from the purple family and ranged from deep, near-maroon wines, cognacs and eggplants to bright lilacs and grapes. Examples could be seen at Elie Saab, Givenchy, Redemption and Altuzarra, to name several.

But, if you’re considering adding a pop of purple to your fall and winter wardrobe, there are two collections that should be at the top of your list.


One is Celine, where Hedi Slimane, perhaps inspired by the amethyst pieces in the house’s new crystal-focused line of jewelry that could be seen accessorizing many of the looks, sprinkled the hue liberally throughout his unisex collection.

In the collection, shades of deep purple could be found in rich velvet varsity jackets, shawl-collar tuxedos and blazers, blouses, skinny polka-dotted scarves and a shimmery, silver-flecked dress.

The other designer at the top of the purple pile was Dries Van Noten, whose Nocturnal Glamour collection centered around the idea of a mysterious party girl (underscored by the delightfully haunting earworm of a song “Party Girl” by Michelle Gurevich on the soundtrack) cloaked in the flamboyant shades of nighttime.

The party girl’s wardrobe included a purple shearling biker’s jacket, billowy purple satin trousers, a dress and pants in an exploded purple iris floral print and sparkly jacket with purple flower-petal paillettes. (Try saying that five times fast.)

Leather and latex

There wasn’t just a lot of leather on the Paris runways this season. There was a lot of head-to-toe leather. Oddly, the one label that seemed to dial back on the level of leather was Hermès, a brand that made its name in the leather goods space.


The rapper’s musical ministry event wasn’t the only last-minute addition to the schedule. His Yeezy collaboration with Adidas will be presented in Paris on Monday night.

March 1, 2020

At Dior, the abundance of luxe leather came by way of a black zip-front jumpsuit worn with a dress shirt and necktie (a vision of a Bond girl look if ever there was one). And at Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquière’s lineup included motocross-inspired color-blocked leather skirts and dresses and a handful of pin-striped leather pieces perfect for the banker-by-day/biker-by-night crowd.

Balmain AW20
A model wears a molded-leather bustier on the Balmain fall and winter 2020 runway during Paris Fashion Week.
(Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

Balmain managed to tap into the second-skin trend twice over; once with molded leather bustiers and a second time with a couple of head-to-toe shiny latex looks. Those looks were seen out in the wild just two days later when Kourtney Kardashian and Kim Kardashian West wore them to Kanye West’s surprise Sunday Service in Paris.

Balmain AW20
An on-trend second-skin latex look from the Balmain fall and winter 2020 runway collection.
(Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

Another designer keeping the latex factories working around the clock was Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent, where models were clad in practically painted-on latex leggings.

In a testament to the strength of the trend, it’s worth noting that the concept even made its way — sort of — to the runway of famed vegetarian and friend-of-the-animals Stella McCartney.

Stella McCartney AW20
Stella McCartney’s version of all-leather is an animal- and PVC-free vegan leather that was used on a range of pieces, including this dress with Erté-inspired allover perforations.
(Getty Images)

Her Erté-inspired fall and winter 2020 collection went further with the animal-free (and PVC-free) faux-leather fabrications than in seasons past, and this time included several trench coats, trousers that belted at the ankle and a handful of dresses with perforated circular designs. To underscore the brand’s ramped-up efforts, costumed critters animals (including a rabbit, a cow and an alligator among others) greeted guests before the show, handed out trees to help offset carbon emissions and joined in an enthusiastic runway finale that made the show one of the week’s most memorable.

Checks, please

Yes, autumn and plaids go together like Scotsmen and bagpipes, but you couldn’t swing a lumberjack’s ax in the City of Lights during fashion week without slicing into a collection chock-full of checks and plaids.

Featuring 33 pairs of animals and one scene-stealing giraffe, the fall and winter 2020 show marked Thom Browne’s first-ever coed runway presentation.

March 2, 2020

Some collections served up just a taste (Off-White’s trippy take on the houndstooth check, for example), while others went all in, including Thom Browne (whose Noah’s Ark-themed runway show enthusiastically embraced the Prince of Wales check), Stella McCartney (riffs on the black-and-red lumberjack plaid), Dries Van Noten, Ralph & Russo and Dior.

Ralph & Russo AW20
The fall and winter 2020 Ralph & Russo collection was one of many collections that riffed on plaids and checks.
(Thierry Chesnot / Getty Images)

For Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, the patterns came by way of a love letter to Welsh heritage and included a black and pale lilac chevron-checked blanket coat (inspired by traditional Welsh blankets woven from the black-fleeced sheep), and coats and suits that spliced Prince of Wales checks in with panels of black silk.

Alexander McQueen AW20
A black and lilac chevron-checked blanket coat in double-face wool cashmere from the fall and winter 2020 Alexander McQueen collection.
(Francois Guillot / AFP/Getty Images)

Novel knits

Burton’s argyle intarsia rib-knit sweater dresses (made by dicing and splicing two different sweaters into one) put her squarely in step with another of the big trends of the week: novel knitwear. (For those of you keeping score, that, along with an assortment of leather coats, corsets and swallow-tail dresses makes Burton three for five on the season’s major trends list.)

Other designers whose envelope-pushing knits will have you longing for sweater weather included Rick Owens (clingy, curve-hugging cashmere dresses that draped and wrapped fluidly around the female form), Marine Serre (dresses, skirts and balaclavas patchworked together from odds and ends of Fair Isle sweaters), Joseph Altuzarra (rib-knit cardigan and skirt sets) and Elie Saab (an Andalusian bullfighter-inspired cable-knit cape).

At Sacai (whose designer Chitose Abe was announced as the first guest designer of Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Haute Couture concept the day after her fashion-week show), offerings included a belted cable-knit sweater with a diagonal zip utility chest pocket and an assortment of unexpected hybrids.


Also, there were Nordic-sweater-patterned dresses that turned out to be made of devoré velvet as well as what appeared to be a rib-knit dress from the front but, around the back, took the shape of workwear-weight trousers attached to a chiffon top.