The Courrèges studio might be stuck right in the middle of the Triangle d’Or, an area around the Champs-Élysées where all the luxury houses are located, but designer Yolanda Zobel has clearly twigged that to accurately capture Parisian youth, the house needed a change of environment. For spring, Courrèges trekked farther north and showed its collection on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, a popular hangout in the buzzy 10th arrondissement. It was a risky choice to stage a show outdoors given the capricious weather, but the excitement reflected on the faces of the teenagers crowded round the canal and snapping pictures with their phones made it all worth it.
Zobel has clearly found her stride. While past seasons still had an experimental feel, the designer seemed to have nailed her Courrèges concept for her third proposition for the house. Aside from the impressive show setting — models arrived on a barge filled with smoke to the eerie sound of performer Lafawndah vocalizing to a track created by DJ Jeff Mills, and the show’s finale was staged on a neon-lit bridge over the canal — the collection was a success.
The looks showed a fresh take on Courrèges’ greatest hits — a lot of white trapeze dresses, short vinyl jackets, bow-front ballet pumps — but with an energy and radicalness that was very today. White tops were slashed at the front, showing pops of orange; trapeze dresses were made out of fluid materials, allowing movement and showing a lot of leg; cropped jackets were done in a new algae-based vinyl blend that is only 10 percent plastic, and ballet pumps were given huge rubber platform heels and wacky oversized bows that could be tied around the leg.
You could tell the designer had fun, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t hard at work pushing the brand toward a more sustainable future. “The fashion industry is not at that point yet where you can pick and choose between sustainable materials or manufacturing options,” Zobel said the day before the show. “So as a designer, on top of the creation aspect, you have to spend time doing research and development.” After using up most of the house’s archival vinyl as planned, Zobel is now focusing on finding long-term solutions for Courrèges, a brand that is still synonymous with the plastic-based looks it became famous for.
The algae-based vinyl is one of these solutions, a partnership with Brazilian organization Instituto-E is another. The designer added pirarucu fish skin to her selection of materials, an animal protected by Instituto-E: A staple of the Amazonian diet, business around the fish is essential to some villages around the river; its skin is a byproduct of the food industry. Olive-colored patches of the skin were sewn into jackets and long coats, bringing both a rough texture to the silhouettes and an added symbolism. Young, fun and ready to party — but with the weight of their world literally on their backs. Our generation in a nutshell.