PARIS — The apocalypse may be upon us, but fear not — we’ve got combat boots.
Buyers who braved coronavirus anxiety and descended on the French capital for the fall collections saw all the necessities for tumultuous times: sharp shoulders; tailored suits; split skirts; lots of leather, and everyone’s new favorite: boots. Casual looks and logos are out, dressing up is in — preferably all in black, which happens to go well with chunky soles.
“Tough stuff for tough times,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion and store presentation director at Bergdorf Goodman.
“This was certainly the strangest Paris season I can ever remember in 25 years of covering shows,” said Beth Buccini, owner and cofounder of Kirna Zabête. “The mood of uncertainty and fear was pervasive.”
On the brighter side, she’d seen some beautiful things, breezing through appointments in less-crowded showrooms.
In this context, the vote was nearly unanimous: Balenciaga’s doomsday set of sinking bleachers and fiery skies rose above the fashion fray, seizing imaginations and capturing the unsettled feeling of the moment.
Collection-wise, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Loewe led the pack of favorites, with Dior, Celine, Paco Rabanne and Chloé following closely on their heels.
Here, a roundup of buyer reactions to the Paris fall collections:
Natalie Kingham, fashion and buying director, Matchesfashion:
Favorite collections: Chloé was the perfect balance between beauty and function; Valentino created a uniform for all, and Saint Laurent masterfully modernized great moments from the Yves Saint Laurent archive.
Top trends: Red and the use of vinyl at the likes of Saint Laurent.
Must-have item: Deconstructed outerwear at Junya Watanabe was very strong.
Best venue: Balenciaga’s dramatic set was show-stopping.
Talent scouting: I was honored to be part of the panel for the LVMH Prize, the finalists were very inspiring.
Laura Larbalestier, group fashion buying director, Harvey Nichols:
Favorite collections: Balenciaga and Loewe.
Top trends: A real return to elegance and sophistication. Fashion is taking a moment to think about how real woman want to dress.
Must-have item: A great coat with a strong shoulder.
Best venue: Definitely Balenciaga!
What are you saying goodbye to? Logos, casual looks and statement pieces. The season focus is on how clothes make the customer feel rather than making a loud statement.
Talent scouting: She showed in London but we bought Eftychia in Paris — without doubt, my new favorite tailoring.
Is your open-to-buy up or stable? Stable. The world is ever-changing and we need to plan for the future.
Philip Manghisi, senior buyer, designer collections and men’s, Elyse Walker:
Favorite collections: Celine, Alessandra Rich and Silvia Tcherassi.
Top trends: Bold color was a big trend for spring and continues into fall. Leopard and velvet are also making a reappearance in a small way with the addition of wallpaper florals and plaid.
Must-have item: A metallic boot. Paris Texas and Gianvito Rossi both had a gorgeous offering.
Best venue: I did not attend any shows but it looked like the Balenciaga show was amazing!
What are you saying goodbye to? We’re saying goodbye to neon colors and faux furs. We love a good faux but there haven’t been many in the market.
Talent scouting: Our favorite new line is Amina Muaddi; we are just about to receive it in the store and the demand for her fun, sexy footwear is crazy.
Is your open-to-buy up or stable? Our open-to-buy is up from last fall. Though the runway delivery ships late and has a shorter selling window, we always need excitement and freshness to tempt clients.
Nathalie Lucas-Verdier, general merchandise manager, women’s ready-to-wear, accessories, luxury and shoes, Printemps:
Favorite collections: Saint Laurent was stunning, a decadent bourgeois with posh and elegant jackets that contrasted with latex and fetish attributes. Loewe was again one of the most innovative, with volumes, ruffles and cutouts. Paco Rabanne offered a beautifully crafted collection, making historical references extremely modern and on point.
Best venue: Balenciaga undoubtedly offered the best venue and immersive show experience with a post-apocalyptic world hostile to human beings and powerful nature, inundated with water with scary skies on a huge screen above.
Top trends: Two moods sometimes mixed: ultra darkness and enhanced femininity, all celebrating female power! Some brands offered a fascinating, dark view — Balenciaga, Marine Serre, Thom Browne’s Noah’s ark. Most shows opened with all black silhouettes. Shoulders were strong, sometimes over exaggerated as armor. We saw a return of cyber-punk. Total-leather looks from Milan turned to latex in Paris at Balenciaga, Balmain and Saint Laurent. Harnesses and chains were also very strong and chunky boots with a gum sole seen in Milan were everywhere in Paris — Dior, Valentino. On point with coronavirus threats, most focused on very sober day wear with less exuberant palettes. Bourgeois looks brought femininity and legs were everywhere: from skirts with slits and play on lengths to the next it-item from Chanel — wide-leg trousers unbuttoned on the leg.
Talent scouting: Bevza offered interesting minimalist silhouettes with nice work on knitwear. Nodaleto very unique chunky shoes will join our multibrand Maria Luisa Boutique.
Must-have item: The big winner is definitely a skirt, long with slits. Clutches were everywhere following Bottega Veneta’s lead — Loewe, Miu Miu, Chanel; leather gloves short or long for extra drama; chunky boots; Chanel logo tights.
What are you saying goodbye to? Casual looks. The chic-er the better this season.
Jeffrey Kalinsky, vice president, designer fashion director, Nordstrom, and founder, Jeffrey:
Favorite collections: Dries Van Noten, Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel, Sacai, Celine and Valentino.
Top trends: A continuation of new interpretations of tailoring that we love. Every designer offers a different, fresh perspective, from Celine’s super-chic Seventies French woman to Dior’s powerful feminist or Sacai’s luscious take.
Must-have items: Shorts, a fabulous alternative to shorter skirts, most covetable at Celine and Chanel and bound to be must-haves. We really believe clothes will have to be passionate and emotional. Beaded brocades and prints and use of velvet at Dries will be perfect for us. The color red will also be very important.
Elizabeth and Dominick Lepore, owners and buyers, Jimmy’s Brooklyn and the Hamptons:
Favorite collections: Azzi and Osta, Balmain and Ralph & Russo.
Top trends: The back-to-black basics (our favorite!) in coats, leathers and capes. A touch of Eighties nostalgia with a masculine and men’s wear tailored feel. Cascading silhouettes with leg-of-mutton sleeves or rounded big slouchy shoulders and a piece or two of plaid outerwear.
Must-have item: The coat: long coats, belted coats, updated puffer coats, overcoats, leather coats, etc.
Best venue: Unfortunately, the best venues for us were our computer and mobile devices. Due to the recent health concerns we are all facing, we decided not to leave the country and are having all of our London, Milan and Paris buying appointments virtually.
What are you saying goodbye to? A continued distancing of streetwear and ath-leisure while a Gothic influence replaces the previous bohemian feel.
Talent scouting: Each season Paris brings the world together and we pick up new names from different countries. This year we saw emerging talents from Turkey, Colombia, Mexico and Russia such as Nedo by Nedret Taciroğlu, Silvia Tcherassi, Leal Daccarett, Dan Cassab and Olga O’Blanc, respectively.
Is your open-to-buy up or stable? Our open-to-buy is in flux this season due to the international crisis we face as an industry. We are cautious about the supply chain from production to shipping, and how to allocate funds, so we are welcoming trunk shows within Jimmy’s for those who can, so we can target buying to fit personal orders for customers.
Jessica Crawley, head of women’s wear, Al Tayer Retail and women’s wear divisional merchandise manager, Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdale’s and Ounass:
Favorite collections: Dries Van Noten for the styling, bold colors and embroidery. Valentino for the silhouettes and elevated sophistication. Paco Rabanne for the prints and materials.
Top trends: Black dominated the runways, perfectly capturing the mood in Paris as fears of the coronavirus quickly became the talk of the industry. Givenchy, Balenciaga, Off-White and Valentino all opened with head-to-toe black, but despite lack of color, there was a refreshing sense of boldness. More focus on silhouettes brought sophistication, and designers moved even further from casual dressing. Breaking up the black were red accents from Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Saint Laurent. We also saw checks make a comeback, which we have not seen in this way since fall 2017, in collections at Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Chloe, Dries Van Noten, Saint Laurent, and Off-White. Velvet was another trend we saw on runways and in showrooms, but we are touching on it in a small way.
Must-have item: Chunky combat boots.
What are you saying goodbye to? Logos and casual dressing.
Talent scouting: For fall our focus is mainly on investing in existing brands, but we are excited to add Mach & Mach to our portfolio. We continue to see more and more talent emerging from Georgia and we are picking up all categories from Mach & Mach.
Is your open-to-buy up or stable? Up for all categories.
Tyler Franch, fashion director, Hudson’s Bay:
Favorite collections: Rokh, Thom Browne, Paco Rabanne, Maison Margiela and Loewe.
Top trends: The best of tailoring, bold checks and plaids, chocolate brown, leather everything, Victorian details, chunky knits, volume sleeves, pleats, high shine, lug soles, tall boots in every iteration and chains on everything.
Must-have item: Anything all black from the sequence of first exits at Rokh and one of Thom Browne’s whimsical animal bags inspired by Noah’s Ark.
Best venue: Julien Dossena’s Paco Rabanne collection in the underground chamber of the Concierge, a former prison that detained Marie Antoinette.
What are you saying goodbye to? Novelty. This season in Paris was about meaningful messages and responsible fashion. From Mugler to Balenciaga, designers are not shying away from using their voice to make a statement on the runway.
Jennifer Cuvillier, style director, Le Bon Marché:
Favorite collections: Creative universe and collections at Dior, Dries Van Noten, Loewe, Celine, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton.
Best venue: The unique suspended time at Thom Browne, the magical fashion history at Louis Vuitton.
Top trends: It started since the beginning of the season but with a hit during Paris fashion week: the powerful black total look seen at Valentino, Off-White, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Dior, Loewe, Chanel, Lanvin, Kenzo.
Talent scouting: Worldwide talents with South African designer Thebe Magugu, Korean-born designer Rokh and Hungarian designer Nanushka (which we present in-store with a lifestyle pop-up including men’s, women’s and accessories).
Must-have item: The combat boot: comfortable “It” item seen at Dior, Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Chloé.
Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director at Net-a-porter:
Favorite collections: Saint Laurent was my favorite show so far, the first look was just amazing, from the jacket to the blouses and down to the vinyl skintight pants. Balenciaga was one of the standout collections. I loved the modern tailoring and oversize shoulders that had a couture-like sensibility, that reminded me of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s archive pieces. I can’t stop thinking about Valentino, from the opening chic black looks to the beautiful leather dresses and blazers, and the breathtaking green tulle gown at the end. I also loved Altuzarra and Loewe.
Best venue: Balenciaga’s production and venue were amazing as Demna Gvasalia managed to created such an immersive experience that it gave the word a new meaning. Flooding the first two rows with water has never been done before!
Top trends: We’ve noticed a lot of designs with a couture-like sensibility, such as Demna Gvasalia’s oversized tailored coats and exaggerated shoulders at Balenciaga, and Saint Laurent’s bourgeois plaid jackets with bow blouses — ultimate Sloane Ranger dressing. We’ve also seen designers take an interest in the ‘forgotten’ décolletage, which we’ve seen in new and interesting shapes that feel sexier, but modern — sharp, plunge cuts at Altuzarra, one-shouldered Bardot cuts at Balenciaga and off-the-shoulder silhouettes. Leather, leather everywhere!
Must-have item: We’ve seen some great must-have boots this season, including some amazing patent leather ones from Saint Laurent, as well as the ultimate v-logo combat boots from Valentino.
Talent scouting: It’s been great seeing Gauchére — a brand we launched in the Vanguard program — on the Paris schedule. We are always looking for fresh brands with a distinctive point of view.
Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion and store presentation director at Bergdorf Goodman:
Favorite collections: There was a “show must go on” atmosphere which speaks volumes about the industry — intrepid, resilient and flexible. Brands and showrooms have been ultra-resourceful and quickly recalculated: already open for market digitally! In spite of, or because of, growing fears, designers seemed to dig in deeper to use the season to express a response to the times or fortify their individuality and house codes. Balenciaga’s “end of the world as we know it” show was unforgettable and powerful. Saint Laurent’s subversive take on its own legacy was breathtaking, literally. Givenchy was a season high and Dries Van Noten once again an unexpected mélange tour de force, and favorite.
Top trends: While sobering black opened most shows, and we’re all in, we are buying into color where we can. The gender conversation has perhaps made tailoring and jackets more imperative than ever. The accompanying “man pant” is on our list. Trends per se were aplenty; capes, leather and latex, plaid the print of the season, sculptural sleeves, but it was the highly diverse voices and extraordinary shows used as messaging platforms that set Paris apart.
Must-have item: Tough stuff for tough times like leather, latex, chains, getaway carryalls and combat footgear feel timely, though we will balance out with florals and more quieting offerings.
Eric Young, founder of Le Monde de SHC:
Favorite collections: Kwaidan Editions, Coperni and Lanvin.
Best venue: The one for Lanvin, I loved these gorgeous tapestries. As a backdrop to the collection it made for some striking and subtle contrasts.
Top trends: No gender, and silver.
Must-have item: Coats with a unisex pattern.
What are you saying goodbye to? Faux fur.
Talent scouting: Samuel Gui Yang, a Shanghai-based design duo who have a great mix when they keep going with their East-meets-West concept. We bought them from the beginning; our clients love the pieces, especially for the finishing.
Erica Russo, Bloomingdale’s vice president and fashion director of accessories and beauty:
Favorite collections: Christian Dior, Saint Laurent, Chloé and Valentino. Dior felt very approachable and wearable with multiple must-have items as well as updates on the book tote and combat boots. I fell in love with Saint Laurent’s tailored strong shoulder blazer paired with the bow blouse back to latex pants and skirts, with various punctuations of color — the masculine meets feminine combination that Anthony Vaccarello does well. Chloé felt like the perfect expression of the designer and the brand, with fitted sportswear separates cinched with a belt, flowing dresses, statement outerwear and must-have boots. Valentino’s evening pieces towards the end did not disappoint.
Top trends: Suiting, latex, fringe as well as plaid and checks. Suiting continues to be strong, from sets to separates, in a ladylike sophistication. Latex emerged as a surprise idea that popped up in a few shows and added a jolt to the season. Fringe is a major trend in everything from casual to evening looks.
Must-have item: A cape that can finish a look or be that perfect topper for that time of year when the season is just turning and there is a cool, crisp change in the air. Must-have shoes for the season are platforms in a boot or Mary Janes.
Best venue: Balenciaga. Seats submerged in water, overhead screens projecting fire, crashing seas and storm clouds. It was the perfect dramatic backdrop for the fashion that followed.
Federica Montelli, head of fashion at La Rinascente, Milan:
Favorite collections: Saint Laurent, Dior, Loewe, Valentino, Paco Rabanne, Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Celine. Chanel was modern yet timeless, Felipe Baptista’s debut at Kenzo brought the brand into a new direction convincingly and Coperni’s first show was a highlight.
Top trends: Sleek suiting with a minimal vibe, elevated blazers with a wow effect, skirt-suits, floor-length coats and capes, leggings for day and night, skintight cuissard boots, the focus on “big” shoulders, long dresses, padding, fringes, masculine “tough” boots, all-black looks, and red, nude and burgundy.
Must-have item: Saint Laurent’s high shine leggings – loved the colors from burgundy to black — or black stirrup pants by Isabel Marant. A special head-piece: Choose between a fluffy feather hat by Loewe, a futuristic headband in pastel pink by Lanvin, or Paco Rabanne’s chainmail balaclava. An all-black look — Valentino’s black dresses with combat boots or any version of the LBD largely seen on the runways. Dior’s sheer shirt paired with a tie is an intriguing feminist touch. A headscarf, better if logoed (Dior), a floor-length coat (Miu Miu). A black suit with an unexpected detail, like the one by Coperni with extra-long sleeves.
Best venue: Balenciaga’s apocalyptic water-full “immersive” experience — dark and esoteric.
Talent scouting: Closely Gauchère and Kwaidan Editions; Thebe Magugu is another name to watch.
Beth Buccini, owner and cofounder of Kirna Zabête, in New York:
Favorite collections: Saint Laurent, Sacai, Paco Rabanne, Celine and Dior.
Top trends: The suiting trend continues to evolve. The palette is full of browns and neutrals. We saw great textures in suede, leather and velvet, and plenty of plaid.
Must-have items: Saint Laurent latex leggings, Dior fringed vest, a Celine bow blouse, Dior shearling boot and new Loewe hammock tote.
Best venue: The Balenciaga show with the apocalyptic screen above with fire, lightening, water and birds, and the models stomping through water was quite an immersive experience and certainly reflective of the mood these days!
Are budgets up, down or flat? Our budgets were down for runway before the coronavirus fears since our pre-budgets were high. We also found a lot of newness in the pre-collection market we finished just a month ago, fortunately, since so many new designers this season cancelled. Runway has proved more and more challenging to buy given the majors’ propensity to mark down so early! It kills it for the rest of us.
Talent scouting: We are very excited about Rokh and his quirky, modern vision. The fabric mixes are fresh and the clothes are well-priced.
Heather Gramston, head of women’s wear at Browns, London:
Favorite collections: Kwaidan Editions, Maison Margiela and Miu Miu.
Top trends: Leather, gray tailoring, high-shine latex, strong shoulders and evening opulence.
Must-have items: Thigh-high boots that were everywhere — Balenciaga, Celine and Saint Laurent. Miu Miu gray wool maxiskirt with thigh-high split.
Best venue: Balenciaga created a sunken stadium with a post-apocalyptic digital set with models walking on water to highlight the threat of climate change — a powerful show with an amazing soundtrack.
Are budgets up, down or flat? Our budgets are up. As always, we remain committed to offering our customers an amazing edit.
Say bye-bye to: We’re not saying goodbye to tailoring, that’s for sure. It was all over the London shows and everywhere in Paris. I’m obsessed with the all-black oversized tailoring at Balenciaga.
Talent scouting: Kwaiden Editions is new to Browns for spring. I love the unique use of color, texture and proportions. The silver leather trench was a personal favorite.
Ikram Goldman, owner of Ikram, Chicago:
Favorite collections: Rabih Kayrouz, Loewe, Sacai, Celine and Balenciaga.
Top trends: Long dresses and voluminous sleeves, oversized coats and socks.
Must-have item: The Marco Zanini sweater made of 50-ply cashmere. It’s just the most beautiful.
Say bye-bye to: The coronavirus. I would like to see that disappear from the universe.
Talent scouting: Giovanni Bedin. I loved it.
Brigitte Chartrand, vice-president of womenswear buying, Ssense:
Favorite collections: Dries Van Noten, Rick Owens, Kwaidan Editions, Junya Watanabe and Lemaire.
Best venue: Balenciaga, Thom Browne, Off-White, Saks Potts, Lemaire.
Top trends: Knitwear at Rick Owens; plaid at Dries Van Noten, Alexander McQueen and Rokh; earthy colors mixed with bright colors like greens and purples at Kwaidan Editions; bags, from the minis to the oversized, at Balenciaga and Loewe; chunky chelsea boots at Valentino.
Talent scouting: It was great to see brands that Ssense began carrying for spring, like Kenneth Ize, grow their talent on the Paris stage.
Must-have item: Kwaidan Editions’ heeled mule.
What are you saying goodbye to? Tracksuits.
Is your open-to-buy up or stable? Ssense has always had high double-digit annual growth; as we continue to grow our open-to-buy is up.
Alix Morabito, Galeries Lafayette fashion director:
Favorite collections: Balenciaga for its minimalism and classicism; Saint Laurent with its sexy working girl; Loewe for the luxurious aristocrat proposal; Lemaire that offers the perfect wardrobe for all women; Paco Rabanne with its strong push on its iconic metal dresses; Y Project perfectly mixed historical and pop references.
Top trends: Aristocracy and religious atmosphere, elegant interpretation of nature and outdoor. Richness with well made cuts, luxurious fabric and a touch of embellishment. Timeless pieces. Black everywhere. Earthy palettes. Winter is off-white and gray with an accent of blood red and bright blue. New combo colors with bright and pastel. Fringes in different fabrics on coats, dresses and skirts, woolen plaids, tartan checks and tweedy fabrics, also shiny leather.
Must-have item: The man jacket and coats are still very present. Coats are very long, jackets are double waisted; pencil split skirt in soft than heavy fabrics; long shirt and scarf dresses; puff parkas take over the down jacket; knitwear in total looks with jumper and skirts; the shiny leather slim pant; all kind of boots; small waist bag and 48-hour bags.
Best venue: The spectacular immersive set of Balenciaga; la Conciergerie hasn’t hosted a show for a while and fit the medieval feeling of Paco Rabanne; The garden and nomad structure for Kenzo at l’Institut National des Jeunes Sourds.
Say bye-bye to: Superposition, overstyling and streetwear.
Talent scouting: Gauchere, researching the perfect cut; Kwaidan affirmed its signature consistently.
Nelson Mui, merchandising director, Lane Crawford:
Favorite collections: Saint Laurent, Nina Ricci, Loewe, Balmain and Thom Browne.
Best venue: Balenciaga.
Top trends: Plaids and checks. Patterns and prints, especially vintage styles, don’t resonate as well in our market, so this is a very accessible and familiar pattern play that enlivens the offer. Leather and vegan leather: it’s a full-blown trend — tops, outerwear, culottes, skirts, trousers. Volume and oversized: We have bought in more heavily as the shapes find their way into every collection.
Must-have item: An updated, abstracted tartan piece; an embellished piece — à la Dries’ custom-made sequined floral accessories; strong shoulders as bold, new feminine power; novelty tailoring — the cropped jacket suit at Nina Ricci looked fresh and modern; cape-combo silhouette – like the dress at Loewe, but in every iteration with tops and outerwear; balloon sleeves on everything from dresses to knitwear.
Talent scouting: Coperni.
Lisa Aiken, fashion director, Moda Operandi:
Favorite collections: Balenciaga, Valentino, Paco Rabanne, Miu Miu and Alessandra Rich.
Best venue: Balenciaga was truly an experience; impactful and emotive.
Top trends: Black made interesting with sheer fabrications, texture and leather; tailoring, but more feminine; sweater dressing; long lengths with a more romantic feel; compelling outerwear ideas including long lengths, texture and fit and flare.
Must-have item: Heavy soled boots at Valentino, reworked City bag at Balenciaga, anything in leather.
Riccardo Tortato, Fashion Director Tsum.ru and Men’s Fashion Director Tsum Moscow & DLT St Petersburg:
Favorite collections: Saint Laurent Paris, Lanvin, Balmain.
Best venue: Balenciaga, Saint Laurent Paris.
Top trends: Latex, or leather tight pants and a blazer.
Must-have item: Long coats and high heels.
What are you saying goodbye to: Women’s sneakers and jeans.
Is your open-to-buy up or stable: We are considering the worldwide situation, but we are positive.