Saint Laurent S/S 2020

The week Paris disappoints will probably signal the end of all fashion. Thankfully, despite Greta Thunberg/Extinction Rebellion’s efforts and the retail-focused events in London and New York respectively, that didn’t happen. Contrary to popular opinion, events like these don’t suffer because of prevalent socio-political issues, not even – as was the case in London – if the issues in question are directly related to (Brexit and the economy, inequality) and/or are tring to bring the whole house crashing down (sustainability/the environment).

As mentioned previously, it’s retail’s responsibility to confront and fix these problems – sweatshops, fast fashion’s wastefulness and lack of opportunities for minorities are largely the result of globalism, greed at the opportunities and concern with – primarily Asian – competition.

Other factors tempered events: two radical labels (Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen) didn’t show in London at all. New York was wowed by a new delivery model from (always conservative) Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfigger, who may theme future shows in the Asian ‘experiential’ mould.

But fashion at its very best has always been about the transcendence of socio-political issues; couture arguably the transcendence of the practicalities of retail.

To Paris then: Dior began proceedings proper on Tuesday with a changement de baton from Dolce and Gabana’s Milan show. D&G had fruitfully and (perhaps intentionally) parodied Destiny’s Child’s Survivor video with its nod to rainforest adventure (see also Junya Watanabe’s Khaki theme). Dior borrowed some of D&G’s staging for a look inspired by ‘the environment’ and ‘botany’  but were indepted also to the horror film Midsommer. Here, at least, were lines that focused on the clothes alone.

Character and costume were allowed precedence (where polemics and thematics had overshadowed New York and London) – proper realizations of the contents of designer’s minds to create Hammer-Esque fete des monstres, with the showier elements either muted – morosely dressed blood suckers (Uma Wang) and ruffled, crippled peacocks (Dries Van Noten), starved cheekbones and sleep deprived eyes barred behind tea-coloured shades – or the heavy 60s/70s theme flouncily extending to Guy Laroche’s Sci Fi, Celine and Paco Rabanne.

Only Ann Demeulemeester wrestled with the zeitgeist: apology or defiance (?) via stripped and bared slims; likewise Yohji Yamamoto tugged away the bust and hip to make the central knot/pivot a prettier affirmation of a post-patriarchal world.

Amidst greasy rain, the apogee of all this, Saint Laurent showed that London and New York were worth forgetting. Hot but anorexic-looking models; clothes the usual pitch-velvet blend of Swarovski-lounge chic; a spotlit black catwalk with the Eiffel Tower as god-like relief. It was – aside from an adrenalin shot to a supposedly dying form – an indication that where fashion can die alongside more important matters, Paris kills.

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