PARIS — Paris Fashion Week kicks off today amid a troubled political and economic climate, with the fashion world still mourning the death last week of Karl Lagerfeld, a colossus who dominated the industry for half a century.
The German designer was cremated Friday in a private ceremony in Nanterre, on the outskirts of Paris, in the presence of senior Chanel officials, industry executives and friends.
Chanel, in a death notice in French daily Le Figaro, said “a farewell ceremony will take place at a later date,” but so far has not provided details. The couturier, who died Feb. 19, always made clear he did not want a public funeral.
Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s governing body, said it has not planned any memorial event. “It would have been completely contrary to his wishes,” he told WWD.
With 76 runway shows and 29 presentations on the official calendar between now and March 5, the packed Paris schedule features the return of Lanvin under new creative director Bruno Sialelli, and Nina Ricci with Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh at the helm.
Also new to Paris this season is Louise Trotter, presenting her first collection as creative director of French sportswear brand Lacoste. Meanwhile, Kenzo is returning to the women’s calendar after sitting out last season with its Memento capsule collection, which has switched to a see-now-buy-now format.
Tommy Hilfiger will be unveiling his collaboration with Zendaya in an off-calendar show on Saturday night, following see-now-buy-now runway shows in New York, Los Angeles, London, Milan and Shanghai.
Among the new entries on the official calendar is London-based Rokh. Headed by South Korean designer Rok Hwang, the brand won the runner-up special prize at the 2018 edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Designers.
The other newcomers, Japanese brand Cyclas and Chinese label Jarel Zhang, have shown in Paris previously, but never on the official schedule. The schedule will also feature presentations by Karim Adduchi, Kimhekim, Kristina Fidelskaya, Walk of Shame, Maison Mai, Magda Butrym and Savoar Fer.
Among those missing from the runway are Sonia Rykiel, which has switched to a presentation format, and Poiret, which is sitting out the season after parting ways with designer Yiqing Yin. John Galliano has yet to set a date for a presentation, having opted out of a catwalk presentation.
Among the new brands launching is Kirin by electronic music DJ Peggy Gou, the latest addition to the buzzy New Guards Group stable, which also includes Off-White, Palm Angels and Marcelo Burlon.
Julia Toledano, the daughter of Sidney Toledano, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Fashion Group, will unveil her debut collection of shoes under the Nodaleto brand.
The week also includes a number of social events: Diane von Furstenberg is cohosting a cocktail at the U.S. embassy on Wednesday to mark the forthcoming opening of the Statue of Liberty Museum, while Kenzo Takada will mark his 80th birthday with a gold-themed party on Thursday.
The following night, luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is hosting a showroom and cocktail at its headquarters for the 20 semifinalists of this year’s edition of the LVMH Prize.
Ralph Toledano said that despite the ongoing antigovernment demonstrations by the so-called yellow vests, the federation does not expect any disruptions to Saturday’s show schedule. An estimated 46,000 people hit the streets on Feb. 23 for the 15th day of nationwide protests, including 5,800 in Paris, according to the Interior Ministry.
“For me, the yellow vests [movement] is behind us,” Toledano said. He played down the impact on the demonstrations on the French economy, noting that France’s jobless rate fell to 8.8 percent in the final three months of last year, its lowest level in 10 years, according to national statistics institute INSEE.
“Growth is expected to reach 0.4 percent in the first quarter. Tourist numbers in France are at a record high. Government reforms will continue, so I think France remains on the excellent path that President [Emmanuel] Macron has set for the country,” he added.
Recent data suggests the impact of the protests against Macron’s reform agenda continue to reverberate, as the widespread closure of stores in the run-up to the holiday season left retailers holding large stocks, which they have not managed to fully liquidate during the winter sales.
The Institut Français de la Mode said sales of clothing and textiles fell by around 3.5 percent in value terms during the first three weeks of the January sales, compared to the same period a year ago.
“Many companies estimated that social unrest, as well as the Black Friday sale in November, contributed to curbing consumer interest in the sales,” it reported, adding that only 13 percent of the retailers surveyed had an optimistic outlook for the remaining weeks of the discounting period.
The troubles come on the back of another morose year for clothing and textile sales, which fell 2.9 percent year-on-year in 2018, according to IFM data. Preliminary figures for January indicate sales declined by a further 1.9 percent during the month as a whole.
The French economy is expected to grow 1.5 percent in 2019, unchanged from 2018, but down from 2.3 percent in 2017, according to the International Monetary Fund.
On the upside, Toledano noted that unlike previous French leaders, Macron is a staunch supporter of the fashion industry. Meanwhile, the city of Paris continues its efforts aimed at securing its status as the worldwide capital of fashion.
The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is about to embark on a major renovation of its fashion galleries, while the Palais Galliera fashion museum is also closed for a 5.7 million-euro renovation designed to create a space for permanent exhibitions, which Chanel is financing as exclusive sponsor.
“It all goes hand in hand. It’s obvious that compared to four or five years ago, public authorities — whether at the city, government or local authority level – have understood the vital importance of fashion, and are giving us a considerable and unprecedented level of support and help,” Toledano said.
He noted that Lagerfeld left behind a legacy of supporting craftsmanship, having encouraged Chanel to purchase 26 specialty ateliers, whose work he showcased through the launch of a dedicated Métiers d’Art collection in 2002.
“This initiative that Chanel took via Karl was a crucial turning point in the preservation and revival of these Métiers d’Art, because Chanel’s actions also prompted others to follow suit, and craftsmanship today is the foundation of efforts to reinforce our education system,” he said.