Fashion Show Reviews

Hyke RTW Fall 2023

Hyke RTW Fall 2023

Design duo Yukiko Ode and Hideaki Yoshihara put their signature spin on modern femininity by incorporating elements from traditional menswear and vintage military pieces into their fall collection. They opened their digital show with a series of all-black looks, including a wide-ribbed jumpsuit with flared pant legs, which created a beautiful silhouette on the body when in movement. They paired the piece with a hip-length tailored vest for a professional look.

Among their neutral tones of solid black, khaki, olive, white and tan, they mixed in two versions of bold checked prints. A tight version of gingham in black and white resembled polka dots from a distance, while a much larger, more open check gave graphic detail to softly draped, ankle-length dresses. Faux shearling made several appearances, as vests, on shoes and as the lining of bags whose open weave mimicked the gingham print.

Inspired by vintage outdoor sporting wear, pops of color came from deep emeralds and a vibrant red, which Ode said is one of her favorite colors. “I’ve loved red since I was a child. I would love to use it every season, but this was the first time in a while that we’ve used it in a collection,” she said.

Echoing the wide ribs that opened the show, another theme was box pleats, which were used to create long dresses and wide-legged trousers with adjustable bands around the thighs. Another creative silhouette was a Nordic sweater with frills at the armholes, a fresh, softer take on the classic ’80s power shoulder.

Self-Portrait RTW Fall 2023

Self-Portrait RTW Fall 2023

With 40-plus stores in China and newly appointed Chinese ambassador Zhao Liying, Self-Portrait offered a balanced collection for fall 2023 that caters to both the sensual new vibe, portrayed by Gigi Hadid in the latest campaign, as well as those who buy into straightforward pretty and elegant outfits for their everyday lives.

“As the brand grows, the category becomes much wider. For example, in Asia, they buy a lot more daywear for work or attending ceremonies, and this collection caters to different types of sexy as well. Overall this season is very stripped-down. Each piece is focused on one detail. Everything is cleaner I think,” Han Chong, founder of the brand, said during a preview.

Standouts in the collection included sequinned, embellished high-glam evening options, many of which came with sleeves, a detail that’s appreciated in the modest community.

The denim pieces were cut for a younger and cooler audience, while the abundant supply of tweed jackets and coordinated bartops and skirts has already won over fans including Kate Middleton and Blackpink members.

The brand’s signature bow bag, seen all over the street this past Fashion Month, got a furry update for fall. There were also a few iridescent versions of the diamanté embellished mini bow bag. They easily Instagrammable and perhaps can carry Airpods and a few credit cards.

Balenciaga Men’s and Women’s RTW Fall 2023

Balenciaga Men’s and Women’s RTW Fall 2023

Balenciaga’s fall show on Sunday morning, the first since its advertising scandal last November, felt different — very different.

Creative director Demna dispensed with celebrity hoopla and his dystopian sets — mud pit, wind tunnel, sunken stadium — to focus on “the art of making clothes,” which turned out to be his salvation when he and the house became engulfed in public outrage over ads that included children, sexualized teddy bears and papers related to a landmark child pornography case.

The show Sunday at the ultimate old-school venue, the Carrousel du Louvre, went off without any noticeable hitch, the runway theater as plain as can be: rows of black chairs in a long room lined with white toile, the primary tool for tailoring and dressmaking. Retailers, editors, influencers and a smattering of VIPs filled the room, and WWD saw no sign of demonstrations outside like the ones witnessed in front of a few dozen Balenciaga stores in the U.S. last November and December.

(However, at the Akris show afterward, a man outside displayed placards in protest of Balenciaga.)

The brand has been largely silent since the controversy erupted, save for multiple apologies, promises to make major changes in its “content organization,” the funding of a three-year program with U.S.-based association National Children’s Alliance, and an expansive interview with a rueful Demna in Vogue.

During a preview at Balenciaga headquarters with WWD a few days before the show, Demna said his metier helped him weather the barrage of online hate and death threats that came in the wake of two campaigns: a holiday gift one featuring children posing alongside a variety of items, including stuffed animals dressed in bondage gear, and a celebrity-stacked spring fashion one which included a still life of a handbag resting on a page from the 2008 Supreme Court ruling “United States v. Williams,” which confirmed the promotion of child pornography as illegal and not protected by freedom of speech. (The image appeared only on Balenciaga’s e-store and was swiftly removed.)

“I kind of escaped or hid myself through work,” Demna related. “Especially in the most psychologically complicated moments where I needed to kind of survive it, I went home and started cutting and stitching.”

The Georgian designer said he grabbed a stash of vintage pants, and with his sewing machine and scissors set out to create new garments from them: Pants that turn into jackets, dresses or trenchcoats. “And this deconstruction literally became like a solution for me personally.”

He noted that the pant transformations, very reminiscent of Maison Margiela, where he worked earlier in his career, were the only elements in the fall collection created post-crisis. Famous for mapping out Balenciaga collections well in advance, he had initiated the fall ready-to-wear collection last October and claimed his plan all along was to open a new creative chapter, dialing down the bombast to focus more on the clothes.

A note placed on each seat read: “Fashion has become a kind of entertainment, but often that part overshadows the essence of it, which lays in shapes and volumes, silhouettes.”

The coed fall show unfurled in chapters: first the pants, then an exploration of biker clothes, followed by his fetish floral-print dresses, here pleated and with built-up, rounded shoulders, which were reprised for evening gowns, the closing look carpeted in wispy black feathers and belted with a bow.

Eliza Douglas opened the show with her usual impassive aura, but the models were less hurried, less angry, letting their bug-eyed sunglasses and extra-long sleeves telegraph the icy cool associated with the brand. They strolled to plaintive guitar strumming by Demna’s partner, Bfrnd, and there was no finale walk or runway bow.

Demna’s skill as a tailor and dressmaker shone through brightly in all three sections. The oversize tailoring built from pants was handsome, inventive and even wryly humorous, with left-open zippers serving as a vent on coats and jackets, and the pockets of leather jeans upside down at the bottom of blousons, unable to hold any cigarette lighter or house keys.

The motorcycle gear was shown with the inner airbags inflated, giving models a hunchback appearance, their skinny legs poking out of enormous padded boots. Warmup jackets with small logos were snug, but given the same rounded couture shoulders as all of Demna’s day dresses and gowns.

The loose dresses were lovely, and the eveningwear all worthy of Oscar night.

After the show, everyone rushed backstage as usual, but the scene was calmer: No Kim Kardashian wrapped in packing tape, and no television crews; only warm hugs and kisses on the cheek from Kering boss François-Henri Pinault and his mother Maryvonne, dressed in a beige coat crawling with jacquard Balenciaga logos.

During the preview, Demna confessed that he’d been asked by many people if he considered resigning, which he waved off as preposterous, given the number of people, more than 4,000, now employed by Balenciaga, and the glorious legacy of Cristóbal Balenciaga, the name more than a century old.

He also has been asked repeatedly if he would now make “boring clothes” to avoid another controversy. The answer was also a resounding no.

“I don’t want to become someone else,” he said. “Deep inside I think I’m a forever designer….Reconstructing through deconstruction is something that I’ve done since the beginning.”

He hinted that his next shows for Balenciaga will be even “more focused on the garments” as opposed to the immersive experiences of yore.

“I want people to see the work that we do for six months, and not the set design,” he said. “I cannot have it overshadow the collection because we make good clothes. I want people to see that and to focus on that.”

Elie Saab RTW Fall 2023

Elie Saab RTW Fall 2023

Elie Saab has found his Renaissance woman, and she wears puffer jackets.

The Lebanese designer looked to the art of the 15th century with all its soft colors and big blooms for a fall collection full of dresses and suits with the quintessentially elegant embroidery that is a Saab signature. He always sends out a runway of reliable red carpet-ready hits in glamorous gowns, pants, capes and blazers.

This season he added puffer jackets for the first time, with floral prints, feathered flair and big silver zippers front and center. A voluminous ball gown was paired with a simple pullover sweater, tucked-in, belted and with sleeves pushed up. The twist felt carefree and gave the collection a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Much of this has to do with the appointment of his son, Elie Saab Jr. as chief executive officer in 2019. Saab the younger has been looking to add more accessible products, he said before the show, especially the brand’s fragrances and accessories. That was evident as models walked in Elie Saab sunglasses and boots, with the brand’s intertwined motif boldly placed in gold on the heel of each pair, and carried Elie Saab bags.

“We have 12 stores and our plan is to have 25 stores by 2025, and this is shifting our way of thinking on extending our product categories and developing the business in a more dynamic and active way,” Saab Jr. said before the show.

Saab is looking to cast a wider age range net with new shapes and products, but not looking to abandon his house’s codes in search of the new new thing.

On dresses, petals appeared in pinks, white and blues, delicately falling from waistline flowers embroidered on sheer gowns underpinned with briefs. Very on trend, but let’s remember that Saab is, after all, the man who practically invented it with Halle Berry’s famed Oscar gown 21 years ago. Sheer capes with hoods demurely draped over the head added a breezy flow.

He continues to work his magic on solid colors as well, in deep reds and a bright chartreuse that bordered on fluorescent, bouncing layers of color in a swishy taffeta. It might be a hard wear for anyone older than 25 in IRL, but it caught the eye on the runway.

Junya Watanabe RTW Fall 2023

Junya Watanabe RTW Fall 2023

Five models stormed down a narrow, elevated runway installed at the Oratoire du Louvre, a Protestant church, and then came to a dead stop, evenly spaced. Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” blared as the audience took in their black, hooded utility coats rigged out with dangling straps, carabiners, protective padding and other technical paraphernalia.

It was a couture version of Junya Watanabe’s fall menswear collection, which riffed on protective gear for BMX and motocross. It rocked.

Here the Japanese designer collaged various elements of those extreme sports — and what looked like a serious haul of deadstock leather duffel bags — to create overalls, pinafores, tunics and a bounty of statement coats.

It’s been an outerwear-centric fashion season and Watanabe’s straddled rugged and pretty adroitly, for he added godets, ruffles, bits of skater skirt and lantern sleeves to anoraks, trenchcoats and parkas crawling with gewgaws.

What was worn underneath — glossy leggings, knife-pleated skirts or hairy pants, the offbeat item of fall 2023 — seemed superfluous.

In brief press notes distributed after the show, Watanabe said the Led Zeppelin song drove him to create the show. “It is an homage to the lyrics and the feeling of desert travel,” he said.

The designer also reprised from the men’s show a collaboration with Innerraum, a Berlin maker of accessories incorporating elements of protective gear, adding up to something alien and sci-fi. All the “Dune”-worthy face masks and a handbag were the fruit of that tie-up for the women’s show.

In any case, takers for this dystopian outerwear should easily spot them at the restaurant coat check, and no doubt send the street-style photographers into overdrive next season.

Ester Manas RTW Fall 2023

Ester Manas RTW Fall 2023

Ester Manas and Balthazar Delepierre are getting married.

The duo behind the size-inclusive Ester Manas label used their nuptials next summer as the starting point for their fall collection. Guests arriving at the American Church in Paris for the show, titled “For Better or for Worse,” heard the organ music and wondered if the couple would tie the knot on the catwalk.

“No, it’s a fashion show,” a bemused Delepierre demurred backstage. “We’re doing the kind of wedding that we won’t have ourselves.”

For starters, they don’t plan to get married in church. But mainly, this practice run had a much higher tolerance for kitsch, with outfits based on archetypal characters gleaned from binge-watching U.S. rom-coms.

That was the official line, at least, since it was hard to imagine either Julia Roberts or Kate Hudson rocking up to the altar in the brand’s skimpy little numbers. The duo worked their signature ruched dresses in lacy variations that provided more than a glimpse of the models’ Chantelle lingerie.

The mood was frothy and sexy, from the cool bride in a white lace T-shirt dress, accessorized with shades and a twisted sculpture of a handbag called the Veil, to the guests in featherlight black lace leggings and stretchy knits with peekaboo cutouts — all made with more than 80 percent deadstock fabrics.

A sheer black ruched top was paired with a lace midi skirt edged in furry cream fringe, while a black slipdress was set off with a baby blue ruffle hem. Cropped sweatshirts came with scalloped seams, while a bandeau top with a red rose at the neck was printed with the words: “I Said No.”

Reflecting its expansion, the label will move next week into a new office in Brussels, but the pair realized they’re also ready to take their relationship to the next level. “We’ve had the brand for three years and we’ve never really taken a moment for ourselves. It’s always the brand, the brand. We thought to ourselves, we have to get married, we have to take the time,” Delepierre said.

Congratulations to the happy couple!

Coperni RTW Fall 2023

Coperni RTW Fall 2023

How do you top the most viral moment of last fashion season: Bella Hadid being spray-painted into a dress?

Coperni designers Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant sought to create more buzzy images by sending robot dogs onto the runway, leading to a standoff between model Rianne Van Rompaey and a quadruped machine that created a palpable sense of unease.

It was one of five eerily lifelike Spot robots built by U.S. firm Boston Dynamics, using a form of AI called “athletic intelligence” that allows it to climb stairs, avoid obstacles and cross difficult terrain with little or no input from users, according to the company’s web site.

While Boston Dynamics pledges it won’t allow the robots to be used as weapons, they’ve been employed in military training exercises in France, namely to help with reconnaissance.  

Meyer and Vaillant based the interaction on “The Wolf and the Lamb,” a fable by 17th-century French author Jean de la Fontaine on the survival of the strongest. Guess who was the lamb? 

The automated creature leaned into Van Rompaey’s face before clutching her jacket in its mechanical jaw and tearing it off. Turning her back, she casually took back the proferred jacket before walking away — a rewrite of the original ending. “We want to show with this show that at the end, we can all live in harmony,” Meyer explained backstage.

Once again, the performance — recalling Alexander McQueen’s 1998 show featuring Shalom Harlow and a spray-painting robot — overshadowed the collection, which was peppered with other mini viral moments.

These included the presence of Eden Dambrine, star of the Oscar-nominated Belgian drama “Close,” who opened the show; Deva Cassel, daughter of Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel, as a Goth version of Little Red Riding Hood; and a new rendition of the brand’s signature Swipe bag made with a 55,000-year-old meteorite.

Somewhere in between, there were draped dresses fastened with oversize silver brooches shaped like emojis, and outfits featuring prints generated with AI software DALL-E that were subsequently repainted by hand. Vaillant is confident the technology won’t make them jobless.

“It’s like when we were younger: internet, the iPhone, all those things were scary for some people, but we do believe it’s the future,” he said. “It will never replace the emotion of the things we can create as humans, but it can actually help to go faster. We played so much with this AI thing, we went into so many different worlds, it actually really excited our creativity.”

Clearly, the show failed to reassure the audience about the benign nature of machine learning. After the designers took their bow, guests sat in silence as the robot dogs, flanked by their human operators, remained in the center of the room. Nobody wanted to make the first move. 

Litkovska RTW Fall 2023

Litkovska RTW Fall 2023

Lilia Litkovska continues to shine a light on what’s happening in her homeland, the only Ukrainian designer on the Paris schedule. Almost exactly a year ago she arrived in Paris in time for fashion week after fleeing Ukraine, which had just been invaded by Russia, with her young daughter. Since then, she has made it her mission to highlight her country’s plight through her work.

For fall, she staged her “On Air” collection with a runway presentation in the entrance to the Grand Rex, touted as Europe’s biggest movie theater, complete with branded bags of popcorn. The soundtrack featured snatches of pop music and jingles from a plethora of radio stations and musical genres. 

But otherwise, it was not about entertainment. The billboard outside the venue read “Litkovska: From the war zone with peace,” while screens behind the popcorn counters showed a livestream from the inside of the designer’s atelier in Kyiv, her team busy at work.

“Our team creates this collection for fashion week, and now they are in Kyiv, staying strong, continuing to love, to work, to believe,” the designer said backstage beforehand.

The collection was intended as an observation on the brevity of life. “Ukraine doesn’t have time to pose,” she explained. 

The no-time-to-waste attitude was a clear fit with the aesthetics of her deconstructed tailoring, and she offered a minimalist contemporary wardrobe with twists that added interest to the silhouette. Familiar menswear archetypes were offset and usurped into new suiting shapes, with panels and strips of fabric fluttering like flags, their lines clean but artfully reworked to look casually donned.

These were contrasted with bias-cut satin draped dresses, seen in camel or vivid red, and a number of standout outerwear options to pick from, from a bouclé shearling collarless coat with contrasting leather strips to an outsized overhead technical jacket in khaki with a high-zip up collar, nodding to the utilitarian. Litkovska’s creations, like her resilience and commitment to her country, stood strong.

Off-White RTW Fall 2023

Off-White RTW Fall 2023

If hungry humans ever colonize another planet, will Uber Eats and Deliveroo still be able to get to your door within an hour?

The question occurs to you after previewing Off-White’s fall collection with Ib Kamara, who spoke of delivery uniforms, his childhood memories of Sierra Leone — and what life on the moon might be. His nimble brain spins out far-flung, seemingly estranged references — and then it dawns on you as he talks how the padded foil interior of a food-delivery bag is not so far from what you imagine on the inside of a spacesuit.

For his second runway show as art and image director of the brand that Virgil Abloh built, Kamara spun a unique narrative that also embraced Abloh’s circular cutouts, or “meteor holes” — here expressed by the giant silver orb plunked in the middle of a vast set of red earth and stones, and by grommets galore on the clothes.

The collection was a big improvement over his debut, falling something between a futuristic Alaïa and a luxury streetwear version of “District 9.”

The show was impressive and bursting with ideas, perhaps a few too many, and there were arresting scenes: Naomi Campbell in a jersey gown suspended from a beaded rubber tire around her neck, and male models strolling out wearing bright puffer jackets and sunglasses with four lenses.

Kamara’s memories of how rust and moss mingle on the corrugated zinc sheeting of homes in Sierra Leone were recreated faithfully as a mottled print on outerwear, while other “components” were the mere starting point. For example, car or bicycle wheels became circular motifs on custom-made lace; zippers from delivery bags the piping on finely cut blazers, while the orange tail lights from motorcycles became the toe caps of square-heel boots.

“Off-White is a very innovative brand in its thinking,” Kamara said. “We’re experimenting, we’re still developing our own codes.”

With this accomplished collection, the brand seems ready for another liftoff.

MSGM RTW Fall 2023

MSGM RTW Fall 2023

It’s not every day one catches Massimo Giorgetti in a total black look — let alone witnessing nine total black outfits in a row in one of his MSGM shows.

Such a sequence made for a cool anomaly in the brand’s fall 2023 collection, which also marked the first time the designer had “no moodboard, nor a story to tell,” Giorgetti admitted backstage.

Pure instinct and his eye for shapes and textures guided the creative process, which was a natural reaction to his desire for neatness and detox from the overflow of images, references and inputs around him.

The plain off-white location evoking this clean slate further amplified the surprising effect of the black designs as they came out on the expansive runway. Building on the more mature direction Giorgetti has been increasingly pointing to, this part of the lineup included tailored mohair jackets; plush faux furs; body-hugging dresses, and mini skirts covered in bows; little black dresses with corsetry details, and even an incursion into eveningwear with a one-shoulder silk slip dress featuring a plunging side slit and furry trims.

Yet, in Marie Kondo-ing his fashion this season, Giorgetti aptly found himself to also keep what sparks joy in him, retracing many of said elements in his own archives. That’s when colors eventually kicked in and plush textures multiplied in the lineup, with a triumph of faux furs, fluffy hats and shoes all rendered in vibrant hues and bouncing as the models strutted at the fast-paced beat of The Chemical Brothers’ hits.

Adding to the tactile quality of the collection, furry knits were offered in maxi volumes; leopard patterns were introduced as basics in coats and blazer jackets; abstract prints and striped shirts were styled with flocked denim separates, whose appearance was mimicked in a sequin-covered blue shirt and matching baggy pants.

A brocade fabric reprised from an MSGM collection of a decade ago still made for one of the highlights when cut in a mini skirt or short frock. “It’s a way to go back to those years, when we were freer. There was less merchandise and rules and our heads were less polluted, too,” said Giorgetti.

Although expressed boldly, here was a compelling exercise of simplification, both in terms of the number of pieces per look and their immediate readability. The collection also restated that as much as Giorgetti pivots toward a more refined aesthetic or strips down brainy references, there’s one core asset he luckily can’t silence: that youthful energy that’s the very essence of MSGM and that always cuts through the noise.

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