Valentino, Louis Vuitton and Chanel close Paris Fashion Week on a high note

From ties and illuminated face masks to symbolic white flowers, the drama was in the detail

Camellia motifs reigned at the Chanel autumn/winter 2023 show in Paris. AFP
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Paris Fashion Week has finished for another season, bringing to a close an event in which designers across the board recalibrated collections to speak to a new need for practicality. Gone are the big, showstopping runway moments; instead, they've been replaced almost unanimously by pared-back tailoring and timeless classics. Even the final big shows in the French capital stayed with this approach, containing the drama into discreet detailing, instead of letting it take over the show.


Two seasons ago, creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli delivered an entire collection in only two colours: black and shocking pink. For autumn/winter 2023, he again returned to the notion of a single, unifying thread, namely "Black Tie."

Far from being a gimmick, however, putting a literal black tie on to every look, both men's and women's, actually shifted the emphasis of the clothes — away from something unobtainable, into a new, beautiful reality. In many ways, it was a return to something for Piccioli himself as well. Although these days, he is most likely to be in a dark T-shirt and a coral necklace, during the days when Maria Grazia Chiuri (who is now heading Dior) was his co-creator for Valentino, he was rarely seen without his skinny-fit suit and even skinnier black tie. Now, that has been translated into a new aesthetic that speaks of throwing out the rule book and wearing whatever — in this case, a tie — makes you happy.

There were plenty of elegant Valentino tailoring, as roomy white shirts for both genders, as well as well-cut skirts, jackets, dresses and shorts. Switching proportions, the clothes travelled from floor-length to micro-mini, so that floor-length sequinned skirt, for example, took on an air of Marlene Dietrich's style, while a densely encrusted miniskirt became boyish, almost rakish. Even dresses were given ties, either as a tone-on-tone as with a split-to-the-thigh look in lemon yellow, to more sequins, gathered across a sweeping dress. Elsewhere, a simple shirt dress was encased in a top layer made of bow ties.

Louis Vuitton

If the spring/summer offering from Nicolas Ghesquiere, the designer heading up Vuitton, was about oversized belts, buckles and zips, then for autumn/winter, it was about a profound new sleekness.

The show he delivered was a stroll through what constitutes French style, from the overcoat worn belted over oxblood leather trousers, to a knitted slip dress that appeared with tall leather boots and an oversized cream scarf slung over one shoulder. This dress in itself explained a lot about the subtlety of detail in the show. From a distance, it looked metallic, but close-up, is actually woven with specks of white.

Capturing a certain urbane cool is what makes Ghesquiere tick, and here it materialised as oversized, curved-sleeved jackets over slip dresses, and boxy jackets paired with trousers that are slashed at the knee. The proliferation of skinny leather belts, over overcoats and dresses, gave us all a lesson in not trying too hard, while unexpected looks such as curiously lightweight pinstripe cotton, pleated and gathered into a waisted jacket and pantaloon trousers, spoke of off-kilter nonchalance.

Intriguingly understated, this deceptively simple show was still infused with the creative anarchy of Ghesquiere, who loves to set things up in opposition. Case in point: the illuminated face masks he sent down the runway intermittently. In a show that was as complex as it was elevated, it boiled down to the intense luxury of discreet design, executed with technical know-how.


The final show of the week is always Chanel, and here, its creative director Virginie Viard focused the entire proposition around one of Chanel's most memorable motifs — the camellia flower. A recurring design element since 1923, to celebrate its centenary, Viard used it here to backbone clothes that were, like at many other houses, remarkably laid-back, and easy to wear.

Against a stage decorated with vast camellias, the show opened with a classic Chanel tweedy skirt suit, patterned with sketched flowers against a gridded background, thus setting in motion flower-as-decoration that would appear on almost every look, albeit in differing forms. Later in the show, other tweed looks had the motif as the belt buckle or even buttons.

A black leather coat had flowers around the lapels, for example, while black sequinned trousers were twinned with a white T-shirt, with white, 3D fabric flowers. Meanwhile, it turned up as what first looked like polka dots on top of jumpers, as intarsia patterns on knitwear, and even woven into cycling shorts and tights. It was reduced to a repeating graphic swipe of black and white on a snappy minidress worn under a cape, and etched into knee-high boots. It was made into a coral jacquard skirt and as a gossamer chiffon print dress. It even appeared as the shoulder bag paired with a beautifully simple knitted, cream dress.

Given how skilful Viard is at reading what her customers want, this collection was about timeless pieces that can be mixed and matched, or paired with jeans. Effortless, uncomplicated and yet utterly uncompromising in what it stands for, this understated collection was a joy to behold.

Updated: September 27, 2023, 8:09 AM