Should fashion be political?
It’s a question that has consumed editors in a week dominated by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. For better or for worse, in the era of #MeToo, a hemline is no longer just a hemline.
While some designers have shrugged off feminist readings of their collections, and others appeared to deliberately court controversy, Nicolas Ghesquière embraced the moment with his lineup of retro-futuristic clothes, shown in a maze of neon-lit tunnels set up in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum after dark.
“This is not a narrative collection. This is about my obsession to empower women,” he said after the show. “There were so many discussions the last months about the place of women, and I thought that this is really an intuition to want to give power when you are a designer.”
He did that by tapping into a few of his other obsessions: sci-fi imagery and exaggerated volumes. Dominican model Ambar Cristal Zarzuela, making her Paris debut, opened the show in an oversized blouson with mille feuille sleeves featuring photo prints of candy-colored artificial landscapes.
The sleeves were the connective tissue between his eclectic band of intergalactic explorers. They came in huge ballooning or triangular constructions, bolstered with tubular ridges, and in caged and quilted leg-of-mutton shapes that brought to mind a suit of armor. “I would say it’s more a shell than an armor,” Ghesquière demurred.
With its echoes of “Star Wars” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album cover, the imagery was reminiscent of Ghesquière’s work at Balenciaga — in particular the curved white hats that looked like shrunken versions of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s futuristic 1967 wedding veil.
Ditto a clinical white molded rubber coat that was a feat of construction, in a similar vein to Ghesquière’s reworking — more than a decade ago — of the Balenciaga cocoon coat. Nestled in the middle were three outliers: masculine suits shown on deliberately androgynous female models.
“It was my idea to try to be very ambiguous, because sometimes everyone thinks when a woman dresses like a man, it’s giving her power, and I think you can be very vulnerable when you wear a suit for a woman, so I thought it was very interesting to play with that ambiguity,” Ghesquière said.
Quite what he meant wasn’t clear: was Ghesquière trying to claim a stake in the androgynous tailoring movement that is being revived by Hedi Slimane at Celine? Or was he trying to demonstrate that a brocade floral jumpsuit could look just as tough?
Figuring it out at 9 p.m. on the last day of a four-week runway marathon felt like a tall order. Here’s an idea: what if fashion went back to being just fashion?