How heritage fashion brands are targeting a younger generation, from Chanel to Loewe

The fashion week runways saw couture maisons and high-end brands catering to the youth market

Chanel left the Grand Palais and headed for a girls' night out at the legendary Chez Castel nightclub on the Left Bank for its runway presentation during Paris Fashion Week this season.

The home of Chanel’s grand spectacles in the past was replaced by a more intimate venue that was a hot spot for the clubbing scene in the 1960s and 1970s, and the ideal location for a young, fun-loving collection possessing all the elements that would appeal to today’s millennial clubber.

Designer Virginie Viard wanted to have fun this season, musing over what to wear for a big night out post-pandemic. It had to be something small and brief for her coltish beauties, with silky fabrics, sparkly lurex, fun football-style numerals on sweatshirts (referencing Chanel’s iconic No. 5 and No. 22 perfumes), furry boots and jewellery, but carefully assembled in cool Parisian style.

Chanel’s autumn collection is a decided shift to target the young and the fabulous.

The lucrative youth market is something that's also preoccupying other storied fashion labels, perhaps in an attempt by their designers to get old heritage and couture houses buzzing once again. There was, for example, a clear focus on partywear and OTT earrings on the fashion week runways of New York, London and Milan this season.

Dayglo and demin at Balmain

Olivier Rousteing at Balmain is the perfect example of a designer who has wooed his #BalmainArmy from the get-go with sensual skirts, thigh-high boots, ripped denim and dayglo colours.

Founder Pierre Balmain was equally much admired for his eveningwear – elegant, elaborately decorated gowns draped with furs. He was the height of establishment, one of the big three couturiers of the early 1950s, alongside Christian Dior and Jacques Fath, but he was dressing a very different party animal to the ones who shop Balmain today.

Forget couture gowns for now; Rousteing’s youthful customer dials into utility-style daywear for autumn – less of the heavy-metal party dresses and more parachute parkas, aviator jackets, roomy jodhpurs and militaristic padded jackets and mini skirts.

The silhouette is mostly relaxed, with metallic flight suits and trousers (the collection was inspired by travel) adding some familiar Rousteing glamour.

Feathers and flowers at Patou

Jean Patou was a contemporary of Gabrielle Chanel, founding his house in 1914 and renowned for introducing sportswear to fashion. Unlike Chanel, the house has had a chequered history following the couturier’s premature death in 1936, but it was famously rebooted in the 1980s by Christian Lacroix.

Since 2018, Guillaume Henry has been updating the maison for a new generation, featuring this season 1970s-style flower-power prints in joyful pink, orange, lilac and turquoise hues, and lots of feather trims. Super-short but voluminous dresses, part of the house’s couture heritage, will appeal to young customers and the fact that 70 per cent of the fabrics are organic or recycled this season will attract the eco-conscious Generation-Z.

Psychedelic prints at Loewe

Loewe isn’t a couture maison, but a 175-year-old luxury house that introduced ready-to-wear in the 1960s and is part of LVMH with Jonathan Anderson as its creative director.

Craft is at the forefront of the brand’s ethos, with a very considered creative approach and yet the punchy colours, psychedelic prints and large, playful silhouettes of the autumn collection play to a different younger customer.

Street style at Courreges

One that should resonate with young millennials is the innovative 1960s couturier Andre Courreges, a futurist famed for his pared-down, abbreviated silhouette.

Courreges, along with Mary Quant, was credited with inventing the mini skirt, and so, creative director Nicolas di Felice, making his debut at the house this season, amped up those short trapeze shapes.

Designers such as di Felice nurture a dialogue between a house’s heritage and the workwear and clubwear archetypes customers want today. His collection therefore focused on the geometric shapes and high-tech materials of the past, teaming them with thigh-high boots, bomber jackets, T-shirts and baseball caps from the modern wardrobe.

Club vibes at Paco Rabanne and Lanvin

There has been some clever modernising by millennial designers at Paco Rabanne and Lanvin as well, aiming to create a fresh energy around these names.

Paco Rabanne, another 1960s futurist, has seen his shiny chainmail and metallic sequin dresses updated for post-pandemic clubbing by Julian Dossena.

At Lanvin, new designer Bruno Sialelli has caught the vibe, reinvigorating Lanvin’s ultra-feminine aesthetic with cocktail dresses for rich party girls.