Hubert Burda Media

Paris Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2016: Chloé, Loewe, Balmain, Lanvin, Dior

Our front-row regular reports from the runways.

Paris Fashion Week, which is a 10-day-long marathon of shows, presentations and parties, always gets off to a slow start. Its first day tends to be a quiet affair of small shows from up-and-coming designers, then things start moving into high gear on the second and third day, when up until last season the two big headliners used to be the illustrious houses of Lanvin and Dior.

This season, however, the excitement those two shows used to generate was absent, given that both houses have yet to name creative directors after Alber Elbaz left Lanvin and Raf Simons Dior. The task of creating some much-needed buzz fell then on the shoulders of two previously low-key brands that in recent years have become the cool kids of Paris fashion.

Chloé, headed by British designer Clare Waight-Keller, offered a line-up of boho-chic separates and dresses that will look appropriate both on the music-festival circuit and the party scene. Inspired this time by Anne-France Dautheville, a French adventuress who traveled around the world on a motorbike, Waight-Keller didn’t stray too far from her successful formula of frilly blouses, oversize knits and maxi dresses, adding leather jackets, trousers and overalls that were the epitome of biker chic.

The other brand to steal the limelight was Loewe, the Spanish leather-goods house helmed by London-based Jonathan Anderson, who in a matter of seasons has turned the show into one of the hottest tickets. Never forgetting that accessories, especially bags, are the bread and butter of the maison, Anderson piled them up on models who paraded down the runway carrying multiple bags in materials such as mink and shearling and adorned with cat-shaped necklaces and tons of jewellery. The clothes, however, didn’t play second fiddle to all those extras and had a sophisticated polish that is quite new for Anderson, whose creations tend to appeal to twenty-something fashion-forward street-style stars. From a show-stopping striped fur to beautiful pleated skirts paired with slim knits and even a couple of tweed suits with frayed edges, the collection felt more luxe and less Instagram-driven than in previous seasons.

The other show that definitely got some buzz, but for different reasons than design prowess, was Balmain, where Olivier Rousteing, the 30-year-old creative director and social-media sensation, was inspired by strong women such as Kim Kardashian, Beyonce and his campaign stars Cindy, Claudia and Naomi – no last names needed. Been there, done that. However, with Kris Jenner and Kanye West on his front row and a line-up of top models such as a blonde Kendall Jenner and a brunette Gigi Hadid – they were wearing wigs, a gimmick that was pure Instagram bait – Rousteing proved again a master at generating noise, not necessarily substance, although you can’t deny that the clothes were superbly made and will find an audience among the many Kardashian wannabes around the world.

So what about those aforementioned illustrious houses? For Lanvin, a changed venue and set didn’t mask the fact that this was a work in progress and that the vision – and skilled hands – of someone like Alber Elbaz were definitely missing. At Dior the spectre of Raf Simons is still hovering over the design studio, which seemed to rely on bits and bobs from the former creative director’s work to offer a very safe and bon chic bon genre line-up of beautiful clothes that lacked the wow factor. Although it’s not fair to be harsh when judging these transitional efforts, it’s also hard to give them too much attention given that in a few months these two labels will probably look nothing like today and, hopefully, they’ll both find a steady and strong hand to take charge and move things forward.