Jul 3, 2023
After five nights of violence and turmoil in France, the off-calendar fashion shows on Sunday, July 2 – the eve of Paris Haute Couture Week, commencing on Monday, July 3 – approached with significant uncertainty regarding their relevance amidst a worrisome and unpredictable social context. The security concerns associated with organizing large-scale events were also at the forefront. While the riots seemed to calm down to some extent the previous night in the French capital, festivals and concerts had been canceled throughout the weekend.
In this abrupt backdrop, the cancellation of Celine‘s fashion show and its subsequent party was justified only a few hours prior. In a statement, creative director Hedi Slimane argued that holding a fashion show in Paris would be “inconsiderate and entirely inappropriate” given the situation. If it had taken place, the LVMH-owned label’s show would have theoretically started just 30 minutes after the Alaïa show, making it challenging for the usual guests to attend both presentations.
Ultimately, the other two fashion houses on the Sunday agenda decided to proceed with their shows. It is essential to remember that these events represent months of intensive work by the brand’s teams. While Patou chose the Wagram concert hall to debut Guillaume Henry‘s latest collection, Alaïa had an ambitious plan up its sleeve: gathering around 200 guests in an unparalleled outdoor setting at sunset. Thus, the pedestrian runway of Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, connecting Quai Anatole France to the Tuileries Garden, transformed into a temporary podium showcasing the creations of Belgian designer, Pieter Mulier.
Following in the footsteps of Louis Vuitton‘s recent show on the Pont Neuf, the Seine River became the exceptional witness to this event. However, the atmosphere was unfortunately more tense than the night of Pharrell Williams‘ debut. Closed to the general public, the runway drew astonished gazes and flashes from slightly bewildered tourists who crowded both banks of the river or sailed aboard the classic “bateaux mouches.” Meanwhile, the quays reflected a much calmer atmosphere than any other Sunday summer afternoon, with few locals strolling and the terraces of the “péniches” (typical Parisian canal boats that are often converted into summer bars and cafés) operating at half capacity.
Amidst a city colored in gray, Alaïa’s response was an exquisite sublimation of beauty that managed to stir up a brief Stendhal syndrome in a handful of guests, including singer Rita Ora and the legendary Anna Wintour. Seated at the center of the runway on foldable leather stools that served as invitations, attendees witnessed a moment of refined elegance, almost dreamlike, with the sound of water and a symphony by Gustave Rudman playing in the background, offering exclusive views of the Grand Palais.
The collection fully embraced one of today’s trendiest concepts: ‘quiet luxury’. It showcased a timeless, high-end wardrobe characterized by the sobriety of its lines and the sophistication of its details, celebrating noble fabrics and elevating models to powerful elegance. With leather as the common thread, the collection boasted long coats with exaggerated lapels, short double-breasted jackets, alluring pencil skirts paired with corset-style tops in black and white variations, structured long-sleeved dresses with puffed sleeves, and an extensive range of accessories. These accessories included long gloves as a sophisticated complement and discreet, minimalist handbags in various sizes and versions.
Mulier’s return to Paris, after taking Alaïa’s previous show to his hometown of Antwerp, resulted in a collection that echoed the precise lines and unique style of the late Franco-Tunisian fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa, who passed away in 2017. The collection encapsulated purity dedicated to enveloping and sublimating women’s bodies, affirming the purity of their curves with elegant results. It featured alluring, fitted, and semi-transparent long dresses adorned with volumes on the forearms or hips, as well as the brand’s classic hourglass silhouettes with halter neck dresses, tailored pencil skirts, and belts accentuating the volumes.
The collection embraced sobriety with touches of relaxed sensuality through body-hugging transparent fabrics, latex dresses, sweetheart necklines, high-waisted bodies exposing the buttocks, and jewel-adorned shoes with silver and gold details. In a neutral palette dominated by white, black, and different shades of brown, there was also room for touches of mustard, orange, light blue, and even red, which colored a full leather ensemble with a skirt layered over “fuseau” leggings. Classic collars and fur stoles added a traditional touch, while “pillbox” style headpieces evoked the elegance of Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn.
Clad in the classic white blouse worn by the Alaïa teams, Mulier made his appearance, racing to collect applause from a captivated audience. The ovation continued beneath the bridge on one of the quays, where a dedicated cast of models, led by Irina Shayk, Mariacarla Boscono, and Vittoria Ceretti, gathered.
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