Paris' Musee d’Orsay was, for the duration of Louis Vuitton’s 15-minute show, a museum transformed: A buzzing circus of sparkle and camera flashes where the rich, powerful and famous mingled on the penultimate day of Paris Fashion Week.
Designer Nicolas Ghesquiere put on a resplendent and passionate vintage-tinged ode to French style, prompting cheers from the audience that echoed around the lofty chambers.
Meanwhile, earthy scents pricked guests’ noses as they entered the venue for Stella McCartney: A manege. Shivers from the cold were quickly succeeded by gasps, when seven horses suddenly galloped in from a side door followed by an exuberant handler.
The show that incorporated equestrian themes was a visual and sensory statement from McCartney, a prominent animal rights campaigner.
Here are some highlights of fall-winter 2023-24 ready-to-wear shows Monday:
The musee Vuitton
The excitement was palpable, even among the VIPs.
Sophie Turner not only dressed on brand, decked out in a silken Vuitton pajama look, she also sung on brand – chanting “we love Louis Vuitton” with front row neighbor Chloe Grace Moretz. Vuitton ambassadors Alicia Vikander and Lea Seydoux chatted animatedly. Anna Wintour pouted.
Pharrell breezed in to flurries of camera flashes, wearing a monogrammed coat and cap, still basking in becoming Louis Vuitton men’s designer. Quizzed by The Associated Press if he felt at home at the maison since last month’s announcement, Pharrell replied: “It feels like love.”
The show itself told a story. Sounds of daily life played in the soundtrack — the sound of whizzing cars, bird song, trains, footsteps and the weather. The clothes too felt like daily life — albeit a sublimely elevated one.
It was as if Ghesquiere had gone to a glamorous thrift store with vintage-style, often sparkling, garments vibrantly mixed and matched.
An oversize brown jacket led down to even more oversized circular pants, next to a snipped away waistcoat worn with a giant student-style knit scarf.
Hidden behind the haphazardness though was some incredible fashion design. Surreal plays in form abounded. Skirts came with pleats as sharp as knives. Yellow sleeves were so long they looked like they had been put in the wrong wash cycle. And an oversized marble knit sheath dress had leg of mutton sleeves with the top part completely lopped off.
McCartney’s softness and hardness
Vibrant designs showcased on the brown manege sand drew inspiration not only from horses -- with equine motifs, horse blanket patination inspiring wool looks and marbled patterns resembling horses’ coats — but also the world of show jumping.
McCartney used the sport’s pomp and regalia to inspire a collection that harked to her tailoring background.
A double-breasted jacket had sharp shoulders nipped above the waist with a diagonal dynamic, mixing masculine and feminine. Takes on regalia and the military included a men’s white lilac tailored show jumping jacket worn against naked flesh.
The sense of “softness and a hardness, of male versus female,” a touchstone of the LVMH-owned fashion house, was captured also by the horses themselves, McCartney said.
Bags used vegan leather alternatives, such as MIRUM, a plant-based technology, AppleSkin, an apple-based material that creates a crocodile effect.
This was an optimistic collection — with flashes of eye-popping citrine and vermillion — that never lectured but celebrated living in harmony.
Stella’s wild, wild horses
“Have you even seen a wild horse at a fashion show, or a whisperer?” McCartney asked the stunned fashion press on a crowded balcony above the manege that still smelled of horse. She said organizers called her “crazy” for attempting to get wild horses to a show.
Yet McCartney said fall-winter in particular seemed a good time to highlight cruelty-free designs with the unique spectacle of wild animals living, breathing and playing together.
“I really wanted to make a connection with our fellow creatures because there is so much leather and fur and feathers on the runway, especially in winter,” McCartney told AP. “I wanted to show that you can do (fashion) in a different way you don’t need to kill anything and it can be (just) as luxurious.”
McCartney said the horses had many personal meanings to her, from the photography of her mother Linda and sister Mary to “being British,” speaking to the love for horses that runs deep in the UK.
She said the message of the horses “is that they’re alive and the clothes haven’t killed anything so there’s a kind of celebration of everything living in harmony with one another.”
The horse handler was a star of the show. McCartney said she first saw him at a London horse show and was impressed with his work. “They are his wild horses. He doesn’t use any bridles, any saddles and he’s a horse whisperer ... They’re his little babies,” she said. “I can’t even get my dog to do that.”
Aquazurra bag launch
Jessica Alba led VIPs into the flower-laded salons of the Hotel d’Evreux on the famous Place Vendome for the cocktail launch of Florence-based Aquazurra’s first bag collection.
“I feel like this is jewelry and a bag together. It’s super chic. It definitely had a girl in mind,” Alba said, clutching one of the new bags with triangular gold clasp and soft nappa tassel that are “see now, buy now.”
Aquazurra, a brand founded in 2012, has made a name for itself in shoe wear. But founder and creative director Edgardo Osorio said he felt it was time to expand.
“We were born as a shoe brand in Florence. ... In 2023, we are launching women’s bags, which felt like a natural extension. The idea is to sell the modern Dolce Vita,” Osorio said. “A new Italian lifestyle. Next is probably men’s shoes. And fragrance.”
Items include the “Twist” maxi clutch as well as the “Galactic Crystal” and “Love Link” bags.
There’s still a bitter-sweet tinge at AZ Factory shows. The brand was created by designer Alber Elbaz just before his 2021 death from COVID.
Elbaz, still reeling from his ouster as longtime Lanvin designer, had wanted to make a brand touting a new way of doing luxury – easier on designers, body positive, and more affordable. AZ Factory was just that. Since his death, guest designers have moonlighted for the brand, remaining faithful to its ethos, and Elbaz is still felt in the house spirit
On Monday, ruffles, toggles, belts and ties brought a utilitarian dimension to the soft ready-to-wear designs. There was a sense of relaxation running throughout as the models walked nonchalantly in low-key platform sandals.
A furry coat with swirling pink motif and in-built scarf became a total look, covering the model completely with ankle warmers in the same material. It was fun and tactile.