Paris Fashion Week is well under way and two of the industry's biggest names unfurled their spring/summer 2024 collections on Tuesday.
The return to pared-back luxury over showy trends, as spotted on the runways of Milan, continues in Paris thanks to the shows of Christian Dior and Saint Laurent. These two powerhouse brands often set the tone for next season's style, so it is telling that both have opted for a more discreet approach.
At Saint Laurent, the stark yet fabulous Le Smoking micro skirts, shorts and dresses of the past few years were replaced by another classic from the archive: the safari suit.
First introduced by Yves Saint Laurent in 1968, the safari jacket, and later the suit, was itself lifted from the breezy multi-pocketed camo-chic favoured by the European aristocracy on hunting expeditions. In Saint Laurent's hands, it was transformed to the very height of urban style.
Anthony Vaccarello, who has led Saint Laurent since 2016, resurrected it by turning out an entire show dedicated to belted looks in khaki, tan and brown.
Casually cut shirts and jackets worn long over knee-length skirts, sleek leather dresses and deeply scooped jumpsuits were not only stylish, but also felt like the most inclusive collection Vaccarello has made to date – in that it is not a prerequisite to be 18 years old and a size zero to wear it.
Still wonderfully Parisian, it felt wider reaching without compromising any of Saint Laurent's famous elegance.
Over at Dior, creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri – who teamed up with artist Elena Bellantoni for an artwork of words projected over the runway, which at times threatened to drown out the clothes on display – also played a quieter game, delivering a collection that was simple and understated.
Her all-black silhouettes, short, crinoline dresses, roomy trousers and house emblem of full skirts and waisted jackets were offered with the faintly unsettling undertone of witchcraft and decay, one of the themes of the night.
In Chiuri's hands, this was an oblique reference, such as frayed hems on a jacket, a shredded chiffon dress and "burn" marks on the hem of jackets, skirts and boots. The scorched effect – along with fragile lace dresses in cream and black – was beautiful, if slightly spooky. With many models clutching black leather gloves, the measured primness of it all only added to the atmosphere.
Elsewhere, Chiuri returned to the Paris maps of last season, still covering a duster coat and full skirt, but now softened and blurred, while the Eiffel Tower made an appearance, soft-focused on a jacket.
In contrast to the delicate lace and defined waistlines, there were shirts recut to be one-shouldered tops, teamed with full skirts or wide-legged trousers.
Despite the slightly overbearing artwork on the walls – that broadcast a changing roster of anti-capitalist, pro-feminist slogans – this was a discreet show, where the devil, quite literally, was in the detail.