At Paris Fashion Week, designer Olivier Rousteing, the creative mastermind behind Balmain, put on a defiant runway display Wednesday, just days after garments from his collection were stolen from a truck loaded at Charles de Gaulle airport. Rousteing poured his woes into a show that radiated opulence through a floral lens amid rebellious and haunting melodies. The celebrity applause — including from Cher and Kim Cattrall — also may have helped buoy him a little.
Here are some highlights of spring summer 2024 shows:
FROM STEIN TO STEM: BALMAIN’S NOD TO AN ICONIC FRIENDSHIP
When Gertrude Stein, a close confidant of house founder Pierre Balmain, penned “A Rose is a rose is a rose,” she likely never envisaged its metamorphosis into a Paris runway’s guiding theme. Yet, Rousteing, embracing this iconic friendship, orchestrated a floral ode for Balmain’s Spring 2024 show.
Rousteing channelled the essence of Balmain’s couture from the late 1940s and early 1950s, celebrating Pierre’s architectural wizardry. With every fold, cut and stitch, he echoed the legacy of the maison’, fused with his own brazen touch. Sprinklings of the petit pois (polka dot), a staple from Monsieur Balmain’s era, added whimsy amid the blossoming rose narrative.
With haunting vocals by Björk setting the mood — a reminder of the designer’s recent woes — the runway flourished with sheeny sheaths, bejewelled appliques, and rose pink boleros. The rose, in its myriad avatars — crafted from materials as eclectic as latex, porcelain, and recycled plastic— took centre stage, a fragrant nod to Pierre’s couture designs.
Though the vibrant array of garments sparkled, it was no groundbreaking feat of originality. But in light of the recent theft debacle, the show’s execution was surely valiant. Vibrant shades played alongside strict monotones, Parisian precision met flowing contours, and age-old couture traditions fused with contemporary touches.
In his show notes, Rousteing reflected, “Love is complex—every rose, after all, comes with its thorns.” This sentiment materialized across the collection, from thorn-touched accessories to edgy eyewear. The show was a juxtaposition, much like Stein’s poetic simplicity with Balmain’s intricate designs.
BALMAIN DEFIANT AFTER BEING OVERSHADOWED BY THEFT OF 50 OUTFITS
The recently concluded Balmain Paris fashion show was marked by challenges as a van transporting 50 outfits destined for the runway was hijacked days prior to the event. The robbery took place between one of Paris’ main airports and Balmain’s headquarters, adding to the tension of the showcase.
In a note distributed after the show, Rousteing detailed the unexpected setback, stating, “The recent robbery of fifty of our pieces was definitely not the type of news that my team and I were hoping to hear in the days leading up to this presentation.” He went on to acknowledge the fashion industry’s unpredictable nature, emphasizing the need to handle unexpected challenges.
Rousteing extended gratitude to the Balmain team for rallying together. “You were exhausted already, but you found the strength needed to help ensure that a robbery would not affect our runway,” he mentioned. He also expressed appreciation for the outpouring of concern from colleagues in the fashion world.
Further, Rousteing conveyed thanks to the Paris police for their ongoing efforts in the case. While the stolen van and some of the boxes have been recovered, investigations continue.
VAN NOTEN HITS ’70s NOSTALGIA WITH MODERN TWIST
In a season where the ‘70s reigns supreme, Belgian maestro Dries Van Noten took a dive into the era with elongated silhouettes and a deliberate art of mismatch. Banking on his forte in men’s designs, the runway boasted models flaunting androgynous cuts and gelled dos, blurring the lines between yesteryears and today’s sartorial zeitgeist.
Entitled the “unfamiliar familiar,” it drew from retro sporting vibes, with rugby stripes adorning asymmetric dresses, and tennis scarves cleverly reimagined as tops. The essence was unmistakably Van Noten — honouring tradition with a spontaneous, fresh pulse.
Standouts included a historic flared trench, cheekily paired with a bikini top — Van Noten’s playful take on fusing the then and now. Layering made a statement too. Picture an open striped shirt, layered with a bikini, all under a muted beige jacket.
Paris has been parading cargo and khaki, and Van Noten didn’t miss the memo. His rendition? A commanding oversized beige trench jazzed up with utilitarian flair and a surprise peek of red stripes from a hidden zippered jacket.
Dipping into his scholarly fashion roots, a cetacean blue gown waltzed down, with 18th-century ripples and bows, jazzed up by a split in the leg that led all the way down to classic menswear brogues.
But amid the curated chaos of old meets new, whispers arose: Is Van Noten playing it too safe this time around? While his design genius showed through, the collection’s cautious undertone was palpable.
BOHO MEETS SPACE AGE: COURRÈGES STEALS THE SHOW
On a pristine white runway Wednesday morning, Paris Fashion Week witnessed a harmonious blend of past and future as Nicolas di Felice transported fashion aficionados back to the ‘70s — with a nod to the space age. It was minimalism with a retro twist for the iconic house of Courrèges.
Known for its structural and futuristic designs since André Courrèges’ time, the fashion house has been synonymous with innovative wear. The founder’s engineering background had once crafted trapezoidal lines and audacious whites that defined a new era in design. Cut to today, and di Felice, while keeping the brand’s essence alive, is introducing his own narrative.
The runway showcased tunic-like garments that effortlessly floated, hinting at the signature sportswear vibe Courrèges is famed for. Retro features like centre-parted hair and ‘60s heels took onlookers on a nostalgic journey. But it was the space age touches that truly captured the essence of Courrèges’ legacy: tubular geometric arms, intriguing geometric cutouts on pants, and large silver bauble pendants that could easily fit into an intergalactic tableau.
The pièce de résistance? A split-leg black floor-length dress that channelled a bohemian Morticia Addams, subtly balancing the contradiction of a minimalist ethos with ’70s flair. And for those seeking a bold space-age statement, a sheeny transparent bikini top did just that, fearlessly revealing the model’s nipples.
Drawing from the visionary spirit of André Courrèges, di Felice proved that the brand’s heart still beats in tune with its history, while daringly exploring new frontiers.
MARNI’S PARISIAN DEBUT: CHECKS, STRIPES AND FLORAL FANTASIES
Marni, under the guidance of Francesco Risso, made quite an entrance into Paris – helped by a host of celebrities including Usher and Erykah Badu. The collection was a treat, walking us through a tapestry of craftsmanship and innovation. Marni’s signature checks took a bold stand through cutting-edge, waste-free knitwear. These patterns weren’t just confined to apparel. Shoes and knee socks dazzled with the same checkered design, hinting at the work’s meticulousness. The designer has said that the technology required to achieve this is so advanced that only a handful of firms in Italy can replicate it.
But Marni’s story didn’t stop at checks. Intricate leatherwork showcased patterns interwoven with the brand’s well-known stripes. There was great attention to detail: Some pieces featured multiple types of checks, showcasing craftsmanship that borders on couture.
The true show-stealer, however, was the floral array in a riot of colours and designs. It was as if Risso had hand-picked classical floral images from our collective consciousness and breathed life into them. The dresses, layered inside and out with hand-cut fabric florals mirrored the abundance of nature. Some even sported three-dimensional metal flowers, invoking avant-garde art, a delightful juxtaposition of beauty and danger.
With Paris as its stage, Risso’s Marni celebrated a defining moment. This wasn’t just another show; it was a grand spectacle, marking the brand’s triumphant ascent in the world of fashion.