Paris Fashion Week never disappoints in offering collections that reflect the zeitgeist, while also letting us dream. Even in this topsy-turvy period, designers are pushing forward, presenting, by and large, virtual showcases that prove why Paris is the fashion capital. Ahead, we select the best from the fall 2021 season.
This article first appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.
“It feels like now is a time for healing, for breathing new life, for exploring echoes from the past to enrich our future,” Sarah Burton explains. That sentiment translates to a return to nature for the creative director. “We looked at water, for its healing properties, and at anemones. Anemones are the most ephemeral flowers, here made permanent in cloth. The women wearing the anemone dresses almost become like flowers, like their embodiment, their character—but amplified, grounded, radiant and strong.” The blood red anemones also relay an otherworldly romantic gothic vibe to voluminous-sleeve gowns—because this is still McQueen after all and hardly your average garden party. Elsewhere, bold suiting, bits of denim, nip-waist moto jackets, and a dress of trailing silver lily pad embroideries over a T-shirt and black trousers display an interesting mix of casual and all dressed up. A new lease on life and how to dress for it perhaps?
Ladylike jackets never had it so rock-and-roll. “Serious matters push you to take other things less seriously,” Anthony Vaccarello explains. “Finding the balance while staying on the edge is a sophisticated aptitude.” We’re taking that as official word that it’s time for your mini skirt to get shorter, your heels higher, and to embrace hot pants under any and all circumstances. Tweedy suits and fur hemlines, metallic bodysuits, interesting color-blocking, and sequins to spare reinforce Vaccarello’s notion that it’s time to up the fun ante and get back in party mode. In the words of cheeky musician Peaches, who served as inspiration for the collection,”How do you do that cool dance? Baby don’t split those hot pants.” We’re down for a world where splitting your short shorts on the dance floor is your biggest worry. -Kerry Pieri
Set to the song “Un Day Dream” performed by Regina Demina, the Fall 2021 collection from Celine by Hedi Slimane looks a lot like the day dreams of many ladies—especially die hard denim lovers and those living in endless pursuit of Parisian girl cool. There are jeans of every shape-from baggy to Bermuda shorts— duffers, trenches, and puffers; sparkling dresses with Peter Pan collars; enough baseball caps to satisfy a host of Haley Bieber acolytes; pretty blouses; a leather bomber to swoon for; two new classic bags, the Romy and Tabou; and tweedy jackets fit for the most insouciant girl you know. Although the French label waxes poetic in the show notes, calling the presentation and video set on location at the André le Nôtre Gardens the Chateau de Vaux-Le-Vicomte , “An utopian parade and melancholic daydream of youth interrupted,” the straightforward, perhaps less poetic truth, is that there are a lot of great pieces here that the youth (and maybe not so youthful anymore) are going to line up to wear.
Slimane creates clothes to both live and be noticed in. There is no denying though, that the concept of youth has been interrupted this past year. We’ll never be able to count all the dinners missed, the wild nights lost, lovers and friends never encountered. Here’s hoping the kids (and the rest of us) will show up to all of it cooler than ever in a great leather bomber. —Kerry Pieri
Today marked the first collection since the unexpected passing of the label’s namesake and founder Kenzo Takada in October. In keeping with the exuberance the brand has always embodied, today was hardly about sadness—but celebration instead. “I have started by watching all of the (recently restored) videos of
Kenzo’s shows from 1978 until 1985…” creative director Felipe Oliveira Baptista explains, “To see all these great garments in movement opened a new perspective into Kenzo’s world.” The show included pieces from the archives as well as new designs that reflect that sense of joy, through color, floral prints, models who dance. It’s about, “Possibilities of a new world,” Baptista continues, “A world without borders, prejudices, and stereotypes. Kenzo stood for freedom, joy, diversity, love of nature and creating harmony out of contrasts.” In a time when the AAPI community is at the forefront of needing support, honoring one of fashion’s greatest Japanese designers feels particularly timely. –Kerry Pieri
Stella McCartney is ready to go out and party. On a Zoom call, where she presented her fall 2021 collection, the English designer admitted that she hadn’t been to a club pre-lockdown (she does have four children, after all). But now that the world is slightly opening up again, she is itching to dance and get “sweaty.” And the slew of looks she offered are primed for a night on the town: a ruched bodycon frock with a peplum hem in bright fuchsia, a one-shouldered PVC-free sequined jumpsuit with a psychedelic pattern, and flowing mini trapeze dresses in neon hues that were paired with glittering platform boots—think modern-day Ziggy Stardust. Of course, McCartney always imbues her British heritage in her designs, which, along with the David Bowie nod, came in the form of oversized coats in houndstooth, and roomy blazers and flared trousers in tattersall check.—Barry Samaha
There’s no place like home. A year after the global health crisis closed the Louvre—the world’s most visited museum and Louis Vuitton’s regular show venue—Nicolas Ghesquière presented his Fall 2021 collection in its empty Michelangelo and Daru Galleries. For the maison’s artistic director of womenswear, there was no need to venture far to create the impression of traveling: he found all the inspiration he needed in masterpieces of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquity.
Ghesquière embarked on a fruitful partnership with Fornasetti, the Milan atelier founded by the celebrated 20th century designer Piero Fornasetti famous for covering furniture and objects with surrealist drawings of buildings, locks, keys, and ancient statues. Drawing from Fornasetti’s rich archives, Ghesquière remixed these motifs with thermal-camera imagery on velvet dresses, shiny printed jersey tops, fleece-hooded jackets, and tailoring pieces to create a rich palimpsest of past and future. “Exploring the Fornasetti archives had the excitement of an archaeological dig, searching for and finding drawings from the past to give them a new life,” he wrote in his show notes. —Alison S. Cohn
From Versailles to the Venice Lido, Paris Fashion Week has doubled as a virtual vacation. While we may not actually be going anywhere for awhile yet, today Miuccia Prada let us travel vicariously with her merry band of Miu Miu girls to the dreamy resort town of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the heart of Dolomites Alps. Set against the majestic landscape of snow-capped mountains, the show featured a number of hopeful party dresses paired with ski chalet chic outwear—including teddy-bear faux furs and very Ella Emhoff crystal-embellished coats—that would also look great off the slopes. Pastel knit ski helmets with detachable coordinating mask panels were the must-have accessory. —Alison S. Cohn
For Fall 2021, Chanel goes to Castel, the intimate Parisian club.”I wanted a small space. I don’t know if this is because of the times we live in, but I wanted something warm, lively,” Virginie Viard explains, “I decided to go to Castel. I like Castel so much for its many salons, the spiral staircase, its bar, the journey through this venue, its little house style, where the models can get changed, dressed and undressed, do their make-up together, and have fun like a girls night in. It’s very sensual.” While the show space may be of these times—intimate, just close friends—the looks from Viard’s latest collection tell a story that’s far more in line with a future of nights out, trips, and getting. dressed. up. “This collection is a mix of two influences: the ambiance of ski holidays, which I adore, and a certain idea of cool Parisian chic, from the 1970s to now.” Those influences translated to Fair Isle sweaters, little Chanel logo salopettes-ski suits, a zip away skirt and tweed jacket with silver “dancing” booties, sheer blouses, smart trouser suits with cropped jackets in black and bold pink, and a standout gold lurex trench. There are ski boots and sandals and pendant necklaces and double C belly chains—so, so much to have fun in. —Kerry Pieri
Julien Dossena traffics in embellishment. His latest collection for Paco Rabanne is all luxury by way of rich velvets, lace, vibrant gemstones, and of course chainmail. All of that opulence is balanced with crisp white collars, Prince of Wales check or tweed, mid-length masculine coats with boxy shoulders, and the feminine florals that have become a brand trademark as well. The vibe over all is louche ‘70s silhouettes meets ’40s femininity. Faux furs also make an appearance—solidifying the idea of maximalism and texture as a bold and optimistic way forward. –Kerry Pieri
Olivier Rousteing has always known how to read a moment. For Fall, that means an obsession with travel and escapism, getting out out out and away from the zip codes we’ve spent so much of the past year in. From the runway setting—jetside at Charles de Gaulle—to the lion’s share of the clothing, everything references the idea of taking flight. Board and begone! There were flight suits and lounge-ready sweaters; aviator-inspired coats and bombers; plus plenty of pockets (perfect for stashing your ID post-security, obviously). Hints of neon and metallic jolts punctuated all the olive, while a few standout stripes provided graphic indication of where the traveler might be headed. It’s a slightly more practical Balmain, with less minis and more “comfortable” looking pieces (take that with a grain of salt: It’s stuff you can wear curled up in a first-class chair, yes, but also pair with sky-high heels when the need arises). Fashion has always romanticised the traveller, but she’s been elevated to icon status here.—Leah Melby Clinton
What life will look like in the second half of the year is anybody’s guess at this point. Will we be putting on our glad rags, or still mostly keeping cozy at home? The madcap layering in Matthew Williams’s Fall 2021 Givenchy collection embraced both of those possibilities. Sheer going out out tops were paired with trim cigarette pants, while feathered and sequined gowns underpinned board room ready blazers. For those who just want to wrap up warm, there were chic cropped puffers and the faux fur coats so plush it seems a shame to call them faux. “This collection is about a constant tension between two worlds,” the designer wrote in his show notes. “It’s about finding personal meaning in difficult circumstances.” Challenge accepted. —Alison S. Cohn
On International Women’s Day—and the day after Meghan and Harry’s explosive Oprah interview—Maria Grazia Chiuri’s fall 2021 collection shown in the Palace of Versailles’s storied Hall of Mirrors offered its own powerful reckoning with the mythos of fairy tales. The Dior creative director commissioned Italian artist Silvia Giambrone to create a custom installation for the opulent space in which the 357 gilded mirrors built by Louis XIV were replaced by wax and protruding thorns in a commentary on patriarchy and female self-perception.
As detailed in the new book Her Dior, Chiuri has made feminism a cornerstone of her work since her first collection for the house, which featured Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s statement “We Should All Be Feminists” on a T-shirt. Here, Chiuri looked to the work of female authors of fairy tales such as Angela Carter—whose retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in the 1979 short story collection The Bloody Chamber inspired a series of hooded cloaks—as well as 17th- and 18th-century writers Madame d’Aulnoy and Madame Leprince de Beaumont. Paired with black leather, motifs recalling childhood innocence like white collars and broderie anglaise were anything but sweet, while bloodred tulle evening gowns fit for princesses offered no promises of happily ever after. —Alison S. Cohn
Irreverence, surrealism, risk taking, the unexpected, and a playful attitude are all key to the Schiaparelli DNA, and when it comes to facing the heritage of such a legendary house head-on (and channeling it for the modern-day shopper), Daniel Roseberry continues to prove he’s the best man for the job.
Roseberry’s pedigree from his tenure at Thom Browne no doubt prepared him for this moment; he’s on a roll after Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian West served up IRL moments in his haute couture and put his knack for merging taboo motifs with fine craftsmanship on the global map. For fall 2021, he continued to play with body parts, suits of armor, the house’s signature padlock, and his affinity for gilding all of the above. Gaga’s dove brooch made its way into the collection, and the silhouettes continued to feel as strong and powerful as they do feminine. The array of brooches and new accessories cemented one of Roseberry’s key show notes: “Bijoux that are as much armor as they are embellishment. … All of us who love fashion understand that there’s an uneasy (if necessary) marriage between design and commerce.” It seems that between couture, his seasonal collections, Instagram, the inauguration, and awards season, Roseberry has found an on-brand balance of both. —Carrie Goldberg
If you grew up when Bruno Sialelli did, you remember the power of MTV—and when Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl” featuring Eve debuted. It was all about unapologetic excess—from shopping sprees to Fashion Week after-parties. This was when it was okay to get dangerously close to maxing out your credit cards, and then ordering everything off the room service menu in the royal suite. After a year of lockdown, Sialelli is ready to be a little extra as an ode to the era when he first embraced the art of excess. So he asked, What would he and his clients wear if they were a rich girl—knowing full well that many of them are.
Stefani’s tune was the soundtrack to a collection full of feathers, leopard, pastels, jewel tones, embroidery, evening gowns, sparkle, and all the accessories to go with them. A cameo from Eve herself made the collection video that much more music video-esque, conjuring memories of VJs and TRL. In a time of constantly looking ahead, Sialelli is ready for a throwback. This collection makes fashion lovers consider what we’ll wear in the Roaring 2020s when shopping, parties, and glamour are back in full swing. —Carrie Goldberg
This season, Giambattista Valli merged the motifs of his native Rome with his adopted hometown of Paris. The color palette was an obvious joining of both worlds, with French black and white pairing with Italian red and gold and sweet garden-esque florals strewn in.
The silhouettes were a combo of both cultures—much of the collection had strong and sexy micro mini hemlines, and all the eveningwear was done in slim shapes. But it was the embroideries that really brought the two cities together in the most romantic and feminine of ways; evening gowns in gold and black sequins with floral embroideries tapped into the glitz and the glamour of Italy, while the ease of the silhouettes felt like Paris. The motifs spoke to the beauty of gardens and frescos alike, and proved that Valli, an understood maestro of red-carpet moments, could create drama in ways outside his signature volumes. —Carrie Goldberg
Hermès is simple, but never minimal. It’s classic good taste, elegant silhouettes and an attention to detail and craftsmanship that can’t be rivaled. Fabrics are the real star here, with leather, wool, silk, and shearling all playing nicely both together and alone. Oversized pockets and panels offer Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski an excellent way to display the sort of detail the house is known for: There are too many opportunities for lesser hands to slip up or show a messy stitch (something that simply doesn’t exist in the world of Hermès). The palette, based on luxe neutrals, gets a punchy kick here and there from ruby reds and primary green and orange, and prints mostly present on cropped jackets. It’s far from loud—Hermès would never—but it gives itself plenty of opportunities to show off.—Leah Melby Clinton
We could very well be entering a stage where our clothes will need to work harder than ever before. With work-life still in flux, everything ought to be easy enough for home but chic enough to step out, and Joseph Altuzarra got the memo. Dresses and knits are versatility perfected, the sort of thing that would collect compliments when out but also ace elevated WFH dressing. Draped, belted, and off-the-shoulder shapes all wink at the loungewear we’ve been living in, though ran through the filter of the tailoring he’s made such a signature. To that end, there are less blazers than you’d typically see in a fall collection, and those included are boxier, roomier, as if we could no longer restrict ourselves too much. Instead, it’s a dress world, and Altuzarra is ready for it in tie-dye, checks, leather, and more.—Leah Melby Clinton
Let there be no doubt: Isabel Marant‘s take on futuristic dressing is still very Isabel Marant. There are puffed shoulders, belted waists, and western-inspired elements; waistlines are high and dresses wrap. The nostalgia threaded throughout—there’s plenty of ’70s prairie chic and ’80s boldness—makes it feel less of a space rocket trip straight to the future and more of a study only possible with time (similar to how it feels positively quaint to look at how people in decades past costumed 2020). To wit, the vinyl used throughout is that perfect mix of future-retro: Spaceship uniforms are always designed with a sheen to them, yet it’s impossible to separate the fabric from so many pop-culture moments of the past. When you have an aesthetic as defined as Marant, though, the setting hardly matters: They’re clothes you’d want to wear in the ’80s, the aughts, and beyond.—Leah Melby Clinton
It stands to reason that every single fashion collection is about the maker behind it questioning themselves: What feels current, interesting, challenging, or otherwise worth investigating more? The show notes for Yohji Yamamoto‘s latest confirm that the runway was born from the designer wondering about “the future”—and where he landed is not entirely clear from the results. An undone feeling is par for the course at the label, but this season feels more undone than others, with backward elements peppered throughout (a vent is placed at the front of a dress rather than the back; oversized pocket linings are attached, cathedral-like, to the front of another). It’s helter-skelter in a punk way, a wardrobing that says, sure, we might not know what we want, but there’s power in that.—Leah Melby Clinton
“The Loewe show has been canceled,” read the meta invite to the Spanish label’s fall 2021 collection, presented via newspaper headline. While technically that’s true—designer Jonathan Anderson didn’t have the standard runway with a parade of models—the show, as saying goes, must go on. The collection is a standout one, with acrylic hues of bold yellow, reds and yellows. It’s joyful; there’s no other way to say it. The invite was also accompanied by an excerpt from Danielle Steele‘s latest novel, The Affair.
“The press called her the Golden Lioness, because she also had the Midas touch and a great head for business// Her passion and instinct for fashion had surfaced at twenty, when she was living in Paris// She said that marriage was a man-made invention that just didn’t work most of the time, and children weren’t for her,” read one highlight.
This is the kind of woman who doesn’t shy from bold gowns, fringe, and those shoes; the kind of woman that can’t be kept inside too long. Here’s hoping she gets to step out in these looks when they hit stores. —Kerry Pieri
A search for knowledge is what drove Lilia Litkovskaya‘s hand for fall, resulting in staple silhouettes and basics that display craftsmanship as part of the aesthetic appeal. Neat rows of stitches, sharp tailoring, and sculptural shapes and folds are all done at a master’s level: This is the work of a student who’s perfected the craft. There’s a touch of the cerebral to every look, that oft-utilised term that signifies something being different. It’s a thinking person’s coat/blazer/dress, the piece revealing more and more each time you study it. They’re classics-but-not, each worthy of staying in a closet forever without running the risk of getting boring.—Leah Melby Clinton
There’s something oddly comforting about watching a Rick Owens show in the middle of a global pandemic, uncompromising as they are in their Biblically dark, smoke-filled vision. Owens named his Fall 2021 collection Gethsemane, after the garden where, according to the Gospels, Jesus spent his final night before his crucifixion. In an effort to keep the production lean and local, a rocky beach in front of Owens’s own home on the Venice Lido stood in for that Jerusalem olive grove, and the camera panned wide to reveal the designer himself dressing the models.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, rending one’s clothing is a physical expression of mourning and grief, and a number of the models wore black denim slashed to within an inch of its life. Tailored jackets from which the sleeves were ripped off and replaced with jumbo duvet snap-ons also featured prominently, as did skin-tight leather body suits and Brobdingnagian power shoulders meant to parody male aggression. Every single look came with a mask—something you’d think you’d see on more runways—featuring a stylised scarf-like panel. “I have shown masks with these pandemic shows not because my masks are guaranteed protection, but because they are a vote for responsibility and consideration and an acknowledgement of our immediate collective experience,” Owens wrote in his show notes. –Alison S. Cohn
Futurism, modernism, and all things go-go are at the core of Courrèges, the storied ’60s French brand that has gone through a number of designers since its revival in 2016. Nicolas Di Felice, a protégé of Nicolas Ghesquiere, is the latest to join the ranks, and with his first collection, titled I Can Feel Your Heartbeat, he is showing why he is the right man for the job. Di Felice mined the brands archives, finding the styles that celebrate founder André Courrèges’s early Mod vision—miniskirts, geometric patterns, A-line dresses, jumpsuits, and a wool crepe little white dress—and refining them with looser fits. Also on offer were chic caps and, of course, go-go boots. The lineup will certainly pull on the heartstrings of Courrèges loyalists.—Barry Samaha
The designers who have helmed Chloé read like a who’s who of fashion icons—Phoebe Philo, Stella McCartney, and Karl Lagerfeld, to name a few. Today, Gabriela Hearst joins rank with a stellar intro collection that brings all the rich boheme we could ever want from the French fashion label. The presentation is 100 years to the day of the label’s founder, Gaby Aghion’s, birth. And sometimes the universe aligns, from one Gaby to another Gabi. With an emphasis on sustainable practices, an initiative close to Hearst’s heart, the brand has already integrated lower-impact raw materials and put a plan in place to lower carbon emissions by 2025. But we all know the greatest way to lessen the impact on the earth is to buy less and keep it forever, and these are keep-forever pieces. The show began with a quote from the brand’s founder:“There was no luxury ready-to-wear; well-made clothes with quality fabrics and fine detailing did not exist.” A series of ponchos in stripes and solids open the collection, along with knit maxi dresses. Trench coats and tailored jackets that tie at the side and dresses in leather and wool gauze round out a cool approach to daywear. Shearlings in cropped and long versions will certainly be a collectible hit for the brand. We can’t wait to see where this sense of wanderlust traveler goes next. —Kerry Pieri
Dries van Noten‘s fall collection, shown in artful, moody images, runs the “full gamut of human emotion from happiness to rage, confusion, logic and euphoria,” according to the brand. “The heightened, dramatic, exaggerated, discreet and timid all synchronise.” There is a lot of emotion in these images and in these clothes: a long white shirt dress that’s an updated take on one from his first collection in 1981 as a fashion student, black shorts suiting, and vibrant colour-blocked gowns. All come together in that particular Dries way. Inspired by iconic shades of revered artists— including Yves Klein blue, Almodóvar Red, Koons pink, and Beuys grey felt—the languid collection seems to fall off the body. Denim pieces like a maxi skirt and oversized vest lend an air of the casual, while a feathered pink and red dress is anything but. These are clothes for a life, that express human emotion and move about the world with ease. —Kerry Pieri
“I was thinking about what happens when we emerge from isolation, the same but also somehow different,” says Jonny Johansson, creative director of AcneStudios. “This collection is a dreamscape that begins with soft pastel colours, before awakening into monochromatic clarity, which is an ode to the white or black clothes worn for rituals in our life cycle, like weddings and funerals.” That colour story reads like a journey from cool spring days in knit pastels to heavier and more serious trenches and coats and high button maxi dresses. So yes, this fall collection does feel seasonless in a way. There’s a sense of twisting and turning and layering—nothing is quite so literal or straightforward which makes it feel interesting and fresh. Acne traffics and clothes for cool girls and they’ll be pleased with what Johansson has on offer. –Kerry Pieri
In uncertain times, many of us look to tarot readers and astrologists for direction. Thebe Magugu, too, sought a higher power. “This season, I wanted to have a conversation with traditional healers, who have divinely been given powers to answer our most burning questions, and who act as a conduit between various realms, often by using objects of divination,” he said about his fall 2020 collection. The theme of “African Spirituality” was reflected in sharply tailored suits and Mod-inspired dresses that featured eye-catching prints of the symbols and tools used by mystics. Indeed, the way he takes the vibrant motifs of his South African heritage and places them on Eurocentric silhouettes continue to develop with every season. This clear, unwavering aesthetic leaves little doubt why he is a finalist for this year’s Woolmark Prize.—Barry Samaha
Like many of us, 2020 was a point of reflection for Marine Serre, a time when she evaluated the essence of her brand. The result of this introspection? A three-part presentation aptly titled Core, which consisted of a documentary, a corresponding book, and her collection for the fall 2021 season. All let viewers peer into Serre’s “Ecofuturistic” world, showing her continuous heralding of sustainable fashion. On offer were her signatures: midi dresses made of repurposed silk scarves, multi-pocket jackets made of deadstock materials, and, of course, her iconic crescent-moon bodysuits. Serre is a master at giving recycled fabrics new life, designing them in a way that always feels au courant. This lineup was proof of that sentiment. —Barry Samaha