McQueen, Hermes and a poignant tribute to Vivienne Westwood at Paris Fashion Week

It was a day of beautiful disruption in the French capital

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If fashion weeks are about disruption, then it was a busy day at Paris Fashion Week. In a rollercoaster of emotions, Vivienne Westwood's widower and co-designer delivered the first collection since her death in December; while Hermes leaned into elegant rebellion, and Coperni offered a glimpse of the future with robotic dogs on the runway.

Coperni

The designer duo at the French brand Coperni, Sebastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, are proving to be dab hands at grabbing headlines at a crowded Paris Fashion Week.

Last season, the pair went viral for spray painting a dress on to model Bella Hadid, in a moment that wedded technology with fashion. This season, that narrative has continued, executed as another internet crashing moment: sending robot dogs down the runway.

The five cyber hounds, all apparently called Spot, are made by Boston Dynamics, a tech company that has publicly declared its robots and drones would never be weaponised. As the models walked, the robo-dogs, with unsettling glowing green eyes, wandered around finally interacting with their human companions, by coming face to face with one model, before helping her to take off her blanket coat, before handing it back to her.

Although this show was hardly the stuff of Skynet-dystopian nightmares, the arrival of robots on the runway certainly marks a new era for tech, that perhaps one day, just might replace us all.

Alexander McQueen

With a heritage of subversion and elegant rebellion, Alexander McQueen looked back to the core of the house for autumn/winter 2023. Founded in the tailored excellence of Saville Row, where founder Alexander Lee McQueen cut his fashion teeth, creative director Sarah Burton returned to this, as a timely reminder of the sharp cutting skills of the house. Quietly leaning into this exceptional know-how, Burton offered a parade of streamlined suits, crisp white shirts and pinstripe cloth reworked into strict dresses.

The soft marks of tailoring chalk made the stripes on a sharp-shouldered coat, while traditional pinstripe jackets were de- and then reconstructed into clever dresses.

There was soft leather, folded into the twisted neckline of a red, corset dress, and pushed into the supple folds of a drop-shouldered coat in purple. More tailoring appeared, as a black wool coat was taken apart and remade into a caped top, with a high collar reaching up past the jawline.

There were plenty of bugle beads to add some decadent sheen, as a fitted dress with a sensual cutout across the torso, and a silver dress with three-dimensional forms supposedly inspired by the anatomy drawing of Leonardo da Vinci. In a beautifully creepy twist, the sinuous shapes moving across the dress were jewelled versions of the muscles that lie under our skin.

Hermes

As one of fashion's outliers, Hermes has never concerned itself with chasing trends, and instead has always walked to the tune of its own song, except that now, of course, everyone else is catching up with this mischievous, independent thinking.

Against this backdrop, Hermes continues as before, with a show filled with soft, louche and beautifully relaxed wares in rich autumnal tones that slowly shifted from a russet red to taupe via bitter chocolate and ochre.

Using surfaces as a highlight, a knitted jumper in russet, for example, was paired with a metallic plisse pencil skirt in the same tone, while a ribbed knitted dress appeared under a sleeveless gilet of brushed cashmere. A taffeta shirt and matching shorts in chocolate brown were offset by over-the-knee boots in brown suede.

Elsewhere, a cashmere wrap top in oatmeal was worn with an ivory coat of tightly shorn shearling wool. A trench coat in mustard arrived with a quilted lower half, in a nod to the equestrian roots of the house, as a leather all-in-one in olive-y taupe was worn with a heavy, cable knit-wrapped scarf.

It was, in short, classic Hermes, designed for the well-heeled, and made with the highest level of savoir-faire, which is precisely what we all expect from this storied French house.

Vivienne Westwood

As the first collection since the death of Westwood herself in December last year, this was always going to be an emotional affair, and the show that her widower and co-designer, Andreas Kronthaler, delivered was an ode to the fearlessness of his wife.

Across 68 looks, Kronthaler delved through the archive of the house he has been part of since he married Westwood in 1992. Although a designer in his own right, he has been increasingly involved with the house over the past few years, as Westwood lined him up for the succession.

The collection strode through the defining codes that made her name — namely punk, via a finger-knitted dress and spiked dog collar; the Pirate era, seen here as clashing patterns — worn by former muse Sara Stockbridge, swagged tops, pantaloon trousers and the famous buckled boots; to the new iterations of the 1987 "Statue of Liberty" corset, now tight-laced over curtain fabric skirts, and in gleaming satin. There were copious amounts of tartan, as oversized jackets, asymmetric skirts, gators, and a great coat with matching hat, while deconstructed tailoring was the backbone holding the collection together.

As the final collection that Westwood had a hand in, this show was very much about her. But, as the first offering as the solo trustee of the house, Kronthaler conjured a touching and often beautiful tribute to the woman who was part of his life for more than 30 years.

Updated: September 27, 2023, 8:11 AM