As Paris Couture Week drew to a close, Fendi offered a hypnotic blend of minimalist futurism and homage to the legendary Karl Lagerfeld.
Zendaya and Reese Witherspoon were among luminaries who caused snaking traffic and hyperbolic tussles to witness artistic director Kim Jones deliver what was a memorable collection with frothing, organic fringing inside the gilded venue of the Palais Brongniart. It not only revered the past but embraced a forward-thinking ethos.
Here are some highlights of the fall couture displays:
KIM JONES’ GEOMETRIC ODE, SANS FUR
“I was thinking about Karl Lagerfeld’s futurism,” Jones said, setting the tone for a collection where lightness, structure, and emotion intertwined seamlessly.
Yet, eschewing his indulgent predecessor's era for exotic furs and feathers, which are rapidly going out of fashion, Jones instead focused on the human form. It made for a somewhat minimalist and thoughtful display that ensured that each garment accentuated rather than overshadowed the wearer.
A new box-like silhouette opened the spectacle, with precise geometric patterns in silk gazars. Gowns with severe, minimalist hemlines were adorned with intricate beading, a sophisticated evolution from the brand’s fur-heavy past. A feather-like, all-over fringe appeared as a new kind of pelt—likely to curry favor with a more ethically-minded couture consumer. Jones’s vision of Fendi’s future, he seemed to be saying, is rooted in delicate humanism—not animal pelts.
The craftsmanship of Fendi’s ateliers shone through in every piece, showcasing a mastery of embroidery, tailoring, and fabric manipulation. The integration of crystal fringing in tulle sleeves became a feat of fashion genius when it seamlessly merged with clutch bags in a trompe l’oeil effect. It was the collection’s zenith — as if crystals, human skin and fabric had merged as one in some futuristic fantasy world.
One fashion insider humorously likened the collection to a place that Kardashians might like to call heaven.
The creations, while echoing the grandeur of couture, were decidedly contemporary in their execution. Jones was respecting the Rome-based house’s codes while boldly stepping into a less opulent, more refined future.
MARGIELA’S THEATRICAL ANDROGYNY AND BURLESQUE DRAMA
Maison Margiela’s spring couture, under the masterful direction of John Galliano, transformed the runway into a realm where burlesque met androgyny in a dramatic fusion of past and future. The avant-garde show redefined the boundaries of haute couture with its blend of theatrical Zorro masks, severe historic corsetry, and a daring play on gender norms.
The collection opened with a male model donning an exaggeratedly cinched corset over a bare torso. Exaggerated proportions continued with hyperbolic hourglass figures crafted into sheer garments, complete with abstract, windswept hair and almost scaffolding structures, creating a silhouette that was both otherworldly and deeply rooted in historical fashion.
Galliano’s penchant for blending the old with the new was evident in a menswear jacket that echoed a 1930s street urchin vibe. Similarly, another ensemble featuring checkered pants, a textured brown jacket, and a Dickensian collar and hat evoked Oliver Twist's Artful Dodger, especially paired with the model’s dramatic scowl.
A textured golden coat gown and an enveloping hat captured the delightful drama of a Nancy-like character straight out of the Victorian novel, such theatricality a recurring motif. It blurred the lines between fashion, performance, and art.
The show took a provocative turn with a female model in an invisible corseted structure, boldly displaying nudity with visible nipples and pubic hair. This striking look not only pushed the envelope in terms of fashion design but also made a bold statement about the human form and its representation in the modern fashion narrative.
THE ART OF THE INVITATION
In the fast-paced digital age, the fashion industry’s extravagant show invitations seem defiantly anachronistic.
Each season, fleets of couriers zigzag across Paris, hand-delivering invitations to guests at their homes or hotel rooms that are artistic, often painstakingly made marvels. This ritual holds a tinge of irony, as many of the shows these invites tout have ecological themes.
Fashion houses vie to outdo each other with invitations that are not just access to their shows but are vignettes of the runway themes themselves.
Consider Maison Margiela’s approach: A sophisticated white card encasing a diminutive Paris metro ticket, elegantly detailed with the specifics of the collection.
Then there’s Valentino’s whimsical nod to Willy Wonka, a glistening golden ticket, while Fendi sent out a giant box with pieces for a DIY Fendi-branded rose to assemble inside. Instructions were included.
Chanel presented a charming cinema ticket, simply inscribed with “BUTTON,” a prelude to the button-inspired fashion spectacle reserved for their VIP audience.
ASHI STUDIO’S SPECTACLE OF SCULPTURE
Mohammed Ashi, the trailblazing founder of Ashi Studio, known for dressing the likes of Beyoncé, Cardi B and Zendaya, has once again hit the Paris runway. Ashi, the first Saudi Arabian designer on the official Couture Week calendar, is solidifying his brand’s reputation for creating red carpet-ready looks.
This season’s couture, rendered in a palette of black, white and gold, opened with a gleaming black pantsuit that sparkled like a starlit sky. Each piece was a study in contrasts: black feathers spiked on organically shaped forms, evoking images of black amethyst formations undulating around the torso.
The collection was a blend of sculptural and organic forms, defining a brief but impactful display. It was marked by moments of sensuality, with nipples daringly exposed through sheer silk, and a stunning sheer ruched skirt, its chic sculptural, scalloped hem exemplifying Ashi’s play with form.
Founded in 2007, Ashi Studio has rapidly become celebrated by VIPs for its intricate craftsmanship and bold, architectural designs.
JULIE DE LIBRAN SUSTAINABILITY MEETS PARISIAN CHIC
In the heart of Paris, Julie de Libran’s spring mixed sustainable luxury and effortless elegance. In an intimate setting, de Libran, who honed her craft at iconic houses like Sonia Rykiel and Louis Vuitton, showcased a line that whispered a simple confidence.
De Libran’s design philosophy often involves reworking classic styles with contemporary elements, and she has been recognized for sourcing many of her fabrics from vintage markets or from sustainable platforms like LVMH’s deadstock platform, Nona Source.
Taking center stage was a slinky, floor-sweeping gown cut on the bias, adorned with a cape—a drape effect that has become a signature.
Ostrich feather fringing graced hems throughout the collection, adding a diaphanous lift to pieces like a draped coffee shawl-jacket and simple, loosely tailored suits.
De Libran’s journey in fashion is marked by a seamless blend of high-end experience and a down-to-earth approach to design. Running her own boutique in Saint-Germain-des-Près, she embodies the role of both designer and curator, offering a hands-on experience that reflects an understanding of sustainable fashion.