Bold oversized leather suits to large-and-in-charge pantsuits, Paris Fashion Week 2019 ended fashion month with a bang. Spanning a course of nine days – the longest amongst the four Weeks - this year’s collections featured an extensive variety of designers from the usual showstoppers like Dior and Louis Vuitton to newer names like Tmall and Rok Hwang’s Rokh making their debut. Amongst these talents was a significant South Asian presence, such as designers Rahul Mishra and Manish Arora as well as Bollywood celebrities Deepika Padukone and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
Rahul Mishra’s collection, Metropolis II debuted on the last day of the Paris Fashion Week. Mishra partnered with the luxury jewellery brand Zoya to complete the looks. The designer elaborates on his collaboration being prompted by their “sincere approach to form”. Arora’s pieces included flowing dresses and structured, oversized blazers. These were complemented by Zoya’s baroque-inspired artisanal jewellery. The handcrafted pieces – from delicate wristbands to chunky chokers - emphasised the juxtaposition between the artisanal and the metropolis.
Rahul Mishra is not alone in thinking about land and its evolution: Dior designer Maria Grazia repurposed 164 trees into a hall, creating a magnificent indoor space resembling a forest. This appears to be a nod at the paradox every fashion enthusiast finds themselves in, a love for fashion that almost always results in damage to the environment. Post-show, the plants are to be redirected to various sustainability projects across Paris. The ensembles themselves showcased a sea of beiges, greys and whites set against a dazzling coral blue. The models also sported bamboo bucket hats, and in many cases, braids. According to Dior, the inspiration for these came from women gardeners.
Another face that returned to Paris Fashion Week was Zara Umrigar, returning after a two-year break “bolder and more glamorous than ever”. Inspired by the powerful women in Game of Thrones, Zara appears to infuse modern chic looks with classical regal elements. While her brand has changed over the last two years, she admits to being forever fascinated by the contradiction between old world charm and the modern world we live in today.
At a press release, Manish Arora describes his autumn collection as a “motley crew of Mad Max bohemians straight out of a dystopian future”. Titled WE ARE FAMILY, his presentation was a celebration of unity in diversity, as he discussed the one-year anniversary of the Indian Supreme Court striking down Section 377. His collection was worn by various LGBTQIA+ models and featured a colourful collection of elaborately embroidered designs; one skirt was said to have taken a group of 3-4 designers up to a month to finish. Arora uses familiar silhouettes, pairing them with an exciting blur of bright hues and metallic tones. The resulting effect is an otherworldly collection that is both familiar and alien.
Maison Margiela, a brand that describes itself as an ‘iconoclastic avant-garde fashion house’, sought inspiration in historical “characters” and their stories. Designer John Galliano describes his collection Défilé as a coincidence of the past, present and future. Featuring military-style looks containing jackets and war-nurse caps, Galliano reanimates characters from the past - simultaneously incorporating a certain political resonance in an effort to highlight the “trivialisation of democracy in the European Union”. The works also appear uniquely futuristic as an arrangement of lively colours. Galliano’s collection titled, the hack also involves a printed-on cotton that appears to be a weathered and worn tweed. This exciting play on material and texture would be impossible to execute a decade ago and holds promise for the future.
Be it Manish Arora’s colourful celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, Zara Umrigar’s fierce, powerful and bold femme inspirations or Rahul Mishra’s invocation of traditional Indian weavers, artists at this year’s Paris Fashion Week seem to exhibit a real sense of consciousness surrounding nature, politics and culture. Designers are actively thinking about the ever-changing world, creating interesting blends of bittersweet nostalgia and new-age creativity. This year is a good time as any to reexamine whether ethics, aesthetics and politics may ever be separate, and what that means for fashion in the future.
By Khushaali Shukla