When the bar bells ring in Paris Fashion Week, the ruling houses of the industry's powerful conglomerates gear up for a season that wouldn't be lost on Olympe de Gouges. By Anders Christian Madsen
Riding the waves of the rebellious zeitgeist, the spring/summer 2019shows in Paris are set to be a dance of giants. As a contemporary fashion hero makes his eagerly anticipated return to the runway, local leaders and a particularly powerful guest from out of town will flex – just days apart – their woke marketing muscles in an epic reflection of the identity-driven spirit of millennialism and the defiant values of Generation Z. If the arrival of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton signified a new day in menswear's most hallowed hall in June, this fashion week is womenswear's answer to the revolution.
Céline welcomes Hedi Slimane as its new designer on Friday September 28 at 8.30pm. Two years after he left the Kering-owned Saint Laurent, the transition marks his return to the LVMH fold, which he departed in 2007 after his wildly impactful seven years at Dior Homme. As things go with the elusive designer, his debut collection for Céline is shrouded in absolute mystery, but for the market-savvy Slimane, who basically created Dior Homme from scratch and rebranded Saint Laurent to great success, his new presence on the Paris scene will no doubt spur his competitors. The vast fan base of Phoebe Philo – who departed Céline in December – holds its breath to see if Slimane's take on the house will reflect her philosophies, or paint an entirely new portrait of this church of power-dressing. Either way, the designer is sure to up the ante on the stuff that makes the hearts of the new shopping market grow fonder. In keeping with the winds of change, Slimane will show women's and menswear together.
Gucci relocates its show from Milan to Paris for the season when Alessandro Michele takes out the legendary nightclub Le Palace on Monday September 24 at 9pm. The move marks the final chapter in a French trilogy for the house, which saw Michele commemorating the youth revolts of 1968 in a pre-fall 2018 collection shot in Paris before staging his Cruise 2019 show in Arles. Since the designer's triumphant appointment in 2015, Gucci has become one of the most successful brands in the business, with daily queues outside its worldwide stores and a prolific stream of millennially-minded campaigns and projects. Michele has been hailed as a wizard of retail, who has captured the youth-driven spirit of self-expression. For the Kering-owned brand, its march into Paris is momentous on a show schedule that's already heralding big change in fashion.
Maison Margiela debuts a new show format on Wednesday September 26 at 11am, as John Galliano announced in a podcast for his Artisanal men's show in June. "The rest of the collection will be shown with the women's in September as a co-ed show," he explained of his decision to create an entire haute couture collection for men that month, as opposed to the usual ready-to-wear, a move deeply rooted in the outlook of the millennials and Generation Z, who inspire him. "I just got so excited with the changing landscape of menswear and the new energy that's coming in at different houses," he explained, tackling head-on what every designer must be thinking these days. "I hope this is a journey to help us discover a new sensuality, a new sexuality, breaking down pre-conceived ideas of what's masculine and what's feminine through cutting skills," he reflected. Come his ready-to-wear collection, Galliano will get the chance to illustrate his new ideas of gender-nonbinary glamour and sex for the Only the Brave-owned Maison Margiela
Elsewhere on the Paris scene, the major brands of LVMH and Kering are gearing up for a season of transformation. Dior, usually scheduled on the Tuesday afternoon, moves to a 2.30pm slot of Monday September 24, retaining its position as the first big show of Paris Fashion Week ahead of Gucci that same day. Saint Laurent, which assumes its traditional show slot on Tuesday September 25 at 8pm, surprised the industry by staging a full menswear spectacular in New York in June. With the return of his predecessor Hedi Slimane at Céline four days after his show, Anthony Vaccarello gets a bolstered opportunity to paint the future of his house. On Tuesday October 2 at 6.30pm, Nicolas Ghesquière follows up a terrific Louis Vuitton cruise collection hailed by critics as a return to the spirit of his Balenciaga legacy, while on Sunday September 30 at 8pm, Clare Waight Keller will present the first co-ed ready-to-wear collection for Givenchy after gaining worldwide attention to her bridal collection with Balenciaga, which has long held the throne as the trend forecaster of Paris, will get to defend that position when the disciples flock to Demna Gvasalia's show on Sunday September 30 at 11.30am.
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