It was an intense nine days. We came and we watched, we had our bags searched and bodies scanned, and we drove in choking traffic, over and over again, but nevertheless we all saw it: Fashion in Paris is alive and kicking. This Vogue consensus of opinion on the shows would run to the 10 Best in a normal season; this time, no special pleading about being supportive in a dark time, we’re up to 12. Just as no one was really expecting it, all the designers below took exception to the gloom and fought back at it with exceptional, nuanced, well-made, practical, mood-uplifting work.
There was talk about escapism and optimism this season, but as Pierpaolo Piccioli said at Valentino, it was more about appreciating what is already there—in his case, it was the inspiration of Mr. Valentino’s ’80s glamour, seen from the distance of a moon-traveler. Demna Gvasalia took the real—upcycling ordinary dress codes and objects as mundane as glass mustard-pots as glass cuffs—to make it extraordinary. Julien Dossena showed Paco Rabanne girls to the disco dance floor, a going-out escape that sparklingly reflects the spirit of unputdownable youth.
We live on, despite our troubles: Rick Owens’s majestic piece of performance art gave us that sensation of human resilience against the odds. I challenged Phoebe Philo when she said she was an optimist: How, in this time of terrorism, war, and political agony? Her answer: “My principles that apply when I’m designing or in anything I do, is to take personal responsibility. All I can do is to be a good citizen,” she said. “I believe in the Buddhist belief that everything starts at home.” That conversation resonated with me, because in her Céline collection—she also talked about the joy of working in Paris with an exceptional atelier of skilled people who make things by hand—and in what we saw from Jonathan Anderson at Loewe, who talked about “calm,” there was also a visible honoring of craft tradition. Incredible, specialist, human handwork, rather than impersonal machine-made product makes the difference between the banal and the mind-blowing, between blah, forgettable clothes and things which keep imagination and desire alive.