Paris Fashion Week: Nostalgia, sustainability and tributes to Lagerfeld

Written by Monica Ainley, CNNParis

The fashion industry’s biannual parade of new collections came to a conclusion this week, with Paris wrapping up the last of the Autumn-Winter 2019 fashion weeks.

As ever, the French capital saw luxury labels transforming iconic museums, monuments and gardens into spectacular show spaces. But this season also provided a melancholic celebration of Paris’ past, as well as reflections on some of the social and political issues of the day. Here are five of the key talking points.

Tributes to Karl Lagerfeld

The fashion world is still mourning the loss of Karl Lagerfeld, who passed away last month at the age of 85. And luxury houses took the opportunity to pay their respects to the legendary designer.
Chanel led the tributes to its late creative director at the Grand Palais, which it transformed into a snow-covered winter wonderland, complete with the faint jingle of alpine bells. The mood was somber during a minute’s silence, though some guests couldn’t resist taking selfies against the impressive set — to the repulsion of others in attendance. (On Instagram, French journalist and author Sophie Fontanel chided the “monsters” who took photos during the silence.)
Janelle Monáe at Chanel's Paris Fashion Week show.

Janelle Monáe at Chanel’s Paris Fashion Week show. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

Once the show was underway, Chanel muses from across the generations — including Cara Delevingne, Kaia Gerber, Mariacarla Boscono and Penelope Cruz — glided down the snowy catwalk in white puffer coats, pearls, tweeds and jewels bearing the brand’s iconic “double-C” logo. Some wiped tears from their eyes as they walked the finale to David Bowie’s “Heroes.”

A week earlier, Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri paid tribute to her house’s longtime rival, opening her show notes with a homage to “the alchemist of elegance and beauty, Karl Lagerfeld.” At Chloé, meanwhile, attendees were given postcards featuring rare behind-the-scenes images from Lagerfeld’s tenure at the house in the 1970s. The mementos were accompanied by an insert reading: “Chloé pays deepest respect and gratitude to Karl Lagerfeld for the incalculable genius he brought to us over his 25 years at this house.”

Empowering womenswear

Hedi Slimane pulled off an aesthetic U-turn for his second season at Celine. While his first collection — which comprised of babydoll dresses, short hemlines and leather — was largely criticized for being tone deaf at best, and sexist at worst, the French designer’s second outing featured a series of 70s-inspired looks that harked back to more refined and bourgeois time at the brand.

A look from Celine's ready to wear Autum-Winter 2019 collection.

A look from Celine’s ready to wear Autum-Winter 2019 collection. Credit: Kamil Zihnioglu/AP

With their pleated culottes, loosely knotted scarves, equestrian boots and houndstooth tailored jackets, the collection’s key pieces acted as a peace offering to the Celine purists, for now at least .

Chloé’s Natacha Ramsay-Levi also placed greater emphasis on wearability than in previous seasons. While maintaining her confident, structured aesthetic (clearly influenced by her early mentor, Nicolas Ghesquière), Ramsay-Levi showed more of the fluid dresses, shearling outerwear and relaxed tailoring so fundamental to the brand’s DNA — to the delight of longtime Chloé fans, and the relief of buyers keen to capitalize on the “Chloé Girl” look pioneered by her predecessor, Clare Waight Keller.

Model Liu Wen walks for Chloé at Paris Fashion Week.

Model Liu Wen walks for Chloé at Paris Fashion Week. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

Waight Keller, who serves as creative director at Givenchy, used her show to lead guests through a winding “Winter of Eden” journey at Paris’ Jardin des Plantes. With ghostly backlit branches hanging overhead, she rounded off her original sin metaphor by scattering snakeskin throughout a lineup of plisse floral print dresses.

Investing in sustainability

Last month, Paris announced a five-year plan to become the world’s sustainable fashion capital. Launched by former fashion journalist, Isabelle Lefort, and the city’s deputy mayors, Frédéric Hocquard and Antoinette Guhl, the “Paris Good Fashion Plan” focuses on creating a circular economy, improving traceability and sourcing, and making energy use and distribution more sustainable.

Echoing these ambitious goals, Vivienne Westwood’s designer Andreas Kronthaler urged the fashion industry to “reduce the product to its essence,” with his show notes also stressing that designers should only create garments that are needed. Backstage, manicurist Marian Newman decorated models’ nails with silver jewelry made of recycled metallic materials.

Elsewhere, Stella McCartney donated trees on behalf of her guests to the endangered Leuser rainforest ecosystem, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Among her show’s attendees was Oprah Winfrey, who voiced her support for McCartney’s environmental efforts and greeted guests from the front row, before posing for photos with fans.

Oprah Winfrey pictured at Stella McCartney's show.

Oprah Winfrey pictured at Stella McCartney’s show. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

On the runway, McCartney presented dresses made from recycled T-shirts (and garments cut from fabric leftover from old collections) alongside “conscious couture” made from eco-friendly cotton and viscose from sustainable forests. Backstage, the British designer lamented fashion’s “embarrassing” position as one of the world’s most wasteful industries. Conscious fashion, she added, will be the inherited responsibility of the new generations.

A show of diversity

Tommy Hilfiger and actress Zendaya walk the runway with some of their show's diverse cast of models.

Tommy Hilfiger and actress Zendaya walk the runway with some of their show’s diverse cast of models. Credit: Michel Euler/AP

The Paris runways have long been criticized for a lack of diversity — especially when compared to their New York counterparts. So it’s little wonder that a bold show of heterogeneity captured everyone’s attention.

Tommy Hilfiger who broached the subject head-on at the historic Comédie & Studio des Champs-Élysées, where he showed a collection co-designed by the 22-year-old actress and singer, Zendaya. For the collaboration, titled “TommyNow,” Zendaya invited 59 black models of varying shapes, sizes and ages (from 18 to 70), including music icon Grace Jones, to take part in a 70s-themed disco.

An ode to 1980s Paris

Louis Vuitton helped end Fashion Week on a positive note, closing the scheduled shows with an ode to 1980s Paris.

A model at Louis Vuitton's show, which brought Paris Fashion Week to a close.

A model at Louis Vuitton’s show, which brought Paris Fashion Week to a close. Credit: Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

Representing the cross-section of punks, rockers and New Romantics once found at the era’s hangout-du jour, Place Beaubourg, creative director Nicolas Ghesquière erected an elaborate backdrop within one of the Louvre’s grandest courtyards. The Russian-doll of a set included a reconstruction of Beaubourg’s architectural landmark, the Centre Pompidou.

With soft leather skull caps, sequins, ra-ra skirts and billowing floral blouses, the models looked every bit the ’80s hipsters seen at the complex during its early years. Yet the looks were not without Ghesquière’s signature belted structure, which evoked the mood of 2019 and beyond.

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