Paris Fashion Week: Medieval inspiration at Paco Rabanne and Ann Demeulemeester
More than one designer in Paris chose to look to the past to reimagine the present on day four of the French capital’s fashion week. This was especially the case at Ann Demeulemeester, who imagined a modern day Renaissance lady of the manor; at Paco Rabanne with his knights in chainmail; and at Léonard Paris, which took us on a journey to the Far East.
At Ann Demeulemeester, the brand’s creative director Sébastien Meunier plunged us into the distant past, a vague medieval or Renaissance era, reimagined through the lens of a more sombre contemporary world. Models appeared on the runway in a halo of blue-toned white light in a series of all-black looks with coats, jackets, dresses featuring slits and statement necklines, super-tight trousers, and maxi skirts with draped leather.
Metallic structural details emphasised the collection’s silhouettes, enclosing the torso like a harness with thin lines making a belt or showing off the neck with a collar. These silver threads were also used to form minimalist crowns that bore three large, black feathers, for pointed epaulettes, and to create crinolines.
The collection’s medieval inspiration continued through its culotte-shorts and small velvet jackets with doublet-style raised shoulders, dresses featuring trains or draped purple velvet, sets in bronze brocade textiles, and frock coats in green velvet. A unicorn, a classic emblem of the medieval times, was also a signature symbol of the collection and could be found emblazoned on a sleeveless knit.
The Middle Ages and its religious order also appeared to have inspired Julien Dossena at Paco Rabanne, who sent models down the runway in colourful high-leg, platform boots under the powerful columns and pointed arches of the Conciergerie building in Paris to a soundtrack of Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater.
Except for a few looks featuring cropped trousers, the entire collection was made up of maxi-dresses, richly decorated with high necks and long sleeves, often puffed, worn with pilgrim-style collars or fringed shawls, which added a hint of retro.
White lace had a liturgical flavour, especially when used to create alluring, transparent outfits. The models’ heads were covered, and sometimes even appeared to disappear, hidden by pearl fringes or covered with tight, bonnet-like caps. Some hats resembled a bath cap while others brought to mind the draped hoods found on monk’s robes.
The collection was completed with an impressive series of mermaid-esque dresses in metallic gold or silver sparkling chainmail. Embracing the brand’s signature, some were covered with large sequins or beaded fringing. Paco Rabanne’s models looked more like oriental dancers than knights in armour from the Middle Ages.
At Léonard Paris, the past met the present with a selection of the brand’s signature prints. Each season, the brand’s creative director Christine Phung chooses three prints from the brand’s archives and reinterprets them. For the autumn/ winter season, the designer decided to take us to the Far East with shimmering silk and satin outfits in duck-egg blue, orangey red, burgundy, and mauve.
Léonard’s famous floral motifs, such as the orchid found in this collection, were given space to stand out this season and added to just part of a garment or juxtaposed with solid colour to play with the contrast of busy and sparse. Printed flowers featured on pleated skirts, trousers, and silk dresses and giant embroidered flowers adorned an ecru cape and black coat to showcase the Asian inspiration for this season’s aesthetic, also seen in kimono-style jackets and quilted silk pieces.
This season, the brand notably introduced a range of silk down jackets, seen in the form of small jackets and maxi-coats which floral prints and vibrant hues transform the utilitarian garments into chic and luxurious overcoats. The collection also saw the fruits of research into new materials such as taffeta featuring a lacquered technique and certain neoprene textiles used for hybrid clothing.
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