Paris Fashion Week’s biggest star wasn’t front row, but on the runway itself. Pop legend and new face (and elbow) of Balmain’s new handbag, Cher walked to the show’s finale in a silver spandex bodysuit, black platform boots and with cheekbones that could cut Comté.
The show took place at the Stade Jean-Bouin stadium in Paris’ 16th arrondissement, chosen for its capacity rather than its location. The audience consisted of almost 8,000 people, members of creative director Olivier Rousteing’s so-called Balmain Army, who bought tickets by donating to Red. The event has been called a festival rather than a show, and for good reason. There were even snacks.
Democracy – and food – is not the norm at Paris Fashion Week, where closed doors, champagne and Scrabbles in the front row are the order of the day. But Rousteing’s commercial success — beginning his second decade at the label — is largely based on giving people what they want. And this season that meant over 100 different looks, including dresses made from straw and raffia, bustiers made from sustainably harvested chestnut bark, blazers with Renaissance images and, of course, Cher.
Rousteing’s collection, which swayed dizzyingly from ready-to-wear to couture, addressed his fears of a “dystopian future” sparked by France’s recent spate of droughts and wildfires. “I’m sure I wasn’t the only one asking fundamental questions about the possible dystopian future that awaits us,” he said. Balmain isn’t a label known for nuance – the final look was a flame-covered silk dress – but the vibe was there.
One designer well versed in tackling climate change through her clothes is Gabriela Hearst, creative director at French label Chloé, whose mythical ‘Chloé girl’ shopper will also be wearing Doom dressing for Spring 2023.
After last season’s “chapter” on Rewilding, a comparatively gentle show with melting icebergs on tote bags and beautiful knitwear, Hearst’s attention shifted to the elimination of fossil fuels and fusion energy. This collection was particularly inspired by the function and form of a tokamak, a complex machine designed to harness the energy of fusion.
On the catwalk itself, the attire was more wearable than technical, with flowy cloaks and capes in raw silk and linen adorned with eye-catching metal clasps. Pants were baggy, suit jackets were bulky, and crocheted dresses were floor-length. Proof that the Y2k trend is going nowhere? Rave pants, so called by Hearst in her notes, featured eyelets. Like the rest of Paris, there was a lot of leather here, from biker jackets to babydoll dresses to waistcoats. Everything was available in white, black, or red except for a bright fuchsia suit inspired by the color created by plasma fusion. In terms of sustainability, Hearst’s leather came from French farms and all other materials were 100% traceable.
When the collection was displayed at the Pavillon Vendôme, a 19th-century entertainment venue (and former home of the poet Baudelaire), the staging itself was almost too dystopian. A Tron-like light installation looked impressive, but meant the clothes were only visible on half of the runway, leaving audiences in the dark at times. As fashion catches up in terms of a global understanding of climate change, perhaps that was the point.