The Talkative Us: Paris Fashion Week SS 2019

When two friends chat fashion


Conversation PFW SS 2019

One Monday evening—a stormy night—two individuals sought sanctity and peace, but found themselves giving Facebook more data to mine when they chatted, via WhatsApp, about a Paris season that had, as they saw it, neither vigour nor vim.

L: This season...

V: This season is a write-off! Paris now is a bit like 1982, or before Rei and Yohji came: flat.

Doesn’t it feel like that? We need someone to shake things up.

Unfortunately, fashion changers don’t come even every decade.

Definitely not Hedi, not this decade.

Pity the fashion editors who have to say nice things. Otherwise, no invites.

Even Karl stopped saying anything about him.

Haha, though he was in the audience. It’ll take two minutes for Karl to come up with this type of show.

Karl spins more variations on the Chanel jacket in one show than Hedi has for a dress the entire time he was at Saint Laurent.

True, but I didn’t see anything at Balenciaga either. Unnecessary $ for effects.

Projection on the wall is this year’s in thing. I feel like I have seen this show before.

He’s dialed back and is doing commercial and more wearable versions of previous stuff. Snore.

I looked at the current collection of Vetements up-close yesterday. Major snore too.

Irony can only go so far.

At least he has a point of view (and technical flair) for Balenciaga than the other one at Celine.

Since it’s Demna, I shall reflect for a week to see if he’s being ironical on his expected irony.

Demna does not depend on irony alone; he has something more innate. Although, for me, the Margiela influence is sometimes a bit too obvious.

For me, last year’s overcoat, pulled to one shoulder. Love! They were Beautiful. On every level. The intent was clear.

And the skill in meeting the intent! Irony atop expertise.

Or course, there’s not one shred of irony at Dior. Maybe the French are running out of steam. Paris = zero.

I don’t understand why everyone has a bloody social message to deliver. Why can’t fashion just be fashion? Or am I being ignorant—not woke enough?

Because that Maria made it cool, muahaha!!!

Maria is trite! Sumiko should interview her. They’ll enjoy each other’s company.

Unlike Galliano. No conscience, that one! All I want to know is whether he’s drug-free.

He isn’t—to style like that!

Waiting for another relapse.

Dior now just gets to me. I have never been so irritated by a label this much.

Can’t think of anyone else with her stunning lack of talent. Bouchra Jarrar has at least three silhouettes. Sarah Burton also has at least three.

It’s come to a stage when it’s about getting the bonuses to buy another house somewhere in the south of France. Or, being one’s own kick-starter to begin one’s own label.

Dunno, but we all know now which one of the Valentino duo has the talent. Before she left, it must have been her hand because every Valentino collection was the same camel tone and sheer.

I wonder what Pierpaolo thinks each time he sits there watching her show. Every time I walk pass Dior, I can’t bear to look. Too painful. More brain cells die.

That Dior ‘Blue’ collection: Has anything gone lower? Nothing excites anymore. Hence, I thought of pre-Comme/Yohji Paris. But readers of SOTD won’t go that far back.

How many people even go back to yesterday? That’s why we should. There’s nothing wrong with shuttling back. If things look better today, we wouldn’t have to.

They’re all doing what they’ve always been doing, even Galliano and Rei. I want something to shock me or disgust me. Demna came close a few seasons ago, but…

But Paris isn’t poised to shock when French fashion now is a multi-billion-dollar business. Shocking won’t pass the grade in any business plan. Ugly yes; shocking no.

I think the Dior windows this season can be a starting point for everything that is urghhh in fashion now.

But Anna said in that “everything was wonderful”.

She never says what she thinks. She’s no idiot. I’m sure she sees the malaise in fashion.

She loves Chanel too much.

I’m the only one saying this: Karl is younger and more inventive than the rest of them.

Inventive in styling and sets, but not quite in design. I don’t consider his clothes inventive at all. Maybe a little more so at Fendi. Or, why wouldn’t his own line ever take off?

Not everything works, but he’s firmly planted in the immediate. His play on the Chanel jacket, the fabrics, etc, I don’t think others can come near.

There’s some truth to that. In some ways, Karl is like Steve Jobs—he doesn’t truly innovate, but he does take what’s popular and give it a popular spin. You know it’s on trend but it doesn’t look like everybody else’s on trend. 

Agreed. He has never really ‘invented’ anything, but I think he’ll be the first to say he never intended to, anyway. Looking ahead, I think Marc at Chanel will be okay. Or even at Dior. Not earth-shaking, but competent.

It would be hard to replace Karl, but too easy to replace Maria!

Even Susie couldn’t bring herself to say anything about Dior, just praising the dancers. Sheer stretch tops + long tulle skirts. Genius.

Re-looking at Marc (sorry, divert to NYC a bit), that’s pure, pure retro-love. No irony, no attempt at 2019. Just a riff on YSL that’s not even contemporary—sort of YSL created for Alexis Carrington.

Marc always goes back to YSL (its okay, we’re in Paris again), sometimes by way of Comme.

Of course! I liked it immediately, but I knew exactly why it appealed to me—the taffeta, the satin, the flounces, the ruffles, the oversized bows.

To be fair, the flounces are not easy to handle. Marc has more in his repertoire than Hedi. Additionally, Marc had the rosettes of Ungaro, not just the flounces of YSL!

Marc did it all very well, especially the proportions. Hedi: short. slim, black, tight.

Like Hedi, Marc has gone through three houses (including his own). Marc has spanned a range.

But he’s not connecting to the now. In that sense, Hedi is more connected than Marc.

I am not sure if what he’s doing is “now” because now can’t stretch back to 2000 when he was designing YSL men’s (even before Dior Homme). 

Yep. I think fashion has moved on since his time at Saint Laurent. It’s dated, but Carine may like; she’s stuck in her Tom Ford era.

Why do you think Marine Serre is so well liked? I am not sure I get her.

I don’t even register her. The little I have seen, I did not even realise it was supposed to be ‘fashion’.

But many reviewers like her.

The only two I like this season are Thom Browne and Rick Owens, but they’re both in their own little universe.

I have no problem with that. Better in their own universe than in the same gutter.

Re-looking at Serre. Why am I seeing Demna and Ghesquiere? Did she intern, or was an assistant to them?

I see Vetements, too.

She just makes Demna more palatable.

Maybe she has captured the mood! Or, imagine getting stuck even before Demna!

That French woman designer—I can’t remember her name now. She’s very Vogue Paris.


She did a collab with Topshop, or was it H&M?

Oh, Isabel Marant! It was H&M.

Now, that’s stuck, stuck, stuck!!! I know you like Phoebe, but Phoebe and Marant, etc, all design in a very fixed and narrow aesthetic.

I see what you’re saying, but both are leagues apart. I admire Phoebe because she’s ‘technical’. Nothing she did was straightforward. She could make a simple shirt sing and soar! There was a certain mastery that even her contemporary Stella doesn’t have.

Hello?! There’ll be no Stella without Phoebe. I wonder how much of Chloe did Stella design. I bet Phoebe did it all.

Even a quintessentially French brand like Chloe is sleep-inducing. Why does Paris not excite any more? I have always skipped New York, been selective when it came to London and Milan, and totally followed Paris, but more and more, I feel let down by Paris. 

Paris—I just feel that every designer (even Rei, I’m sorry) was doing exactly what they were expected to do. Exactly!!!

Theyskens did not do exactly what was expected of him, but look at the result! He and the others seem weary of the business or unsure of the prevalent mood. And I don’t think they bother to carry the torch for Paris.

Aiyo, Theyskens was weak. Like he completely lost his mojo.

The worst is happening at resuscitated houses! Poiret! Why did they even bother? You might as well bring back Worth! But he’s not French. Maybe this is consistent with the nationalism sweeping across Europe?

Who even knows or cares about Poiret? Might as well develop a new name.

Poiret’s clothes were not even known to be well-made! He was better known for his ideas, not quite dressmaking. 

And did I hear Patou?

Why not Lelong too?

Rabanne—salah! Could be any label.

It’s such a waste of money and resources. Aren’t there enough unworn and unsold clothes? And those destined for the incinerators? How much can Rabanne sell to justify its existence? 

Who cares about anyone who would buy Rabanne?

Like who cares about those buying Lanvin now!

See how we don’t remember Alber Albaz? It’s telling.

You’re only as good as your last good collection: clichéd but true.

People praised him and dissed the Taiwanese owners, but he became rather formulaic too. His last few seasons were so blah.

By the time of his H&M collaboration, he was, in fact, coasting. The jelak effect set in. Even today, many brands still insist only getting us satiated.

As I said, this was Paris, 1982.

Even Sacai! She’s traipsing a plateau, not, as Kate Bush sang, Running up that Hill. Or, have I become easily bored? I was such a fan. No more. I think she sold out after that Colette thing. 

Sacai! Chitose is doing exactly what she has been doing. Sacai has now early-fossilised into, not a caricature, but doing the same thing because she likes it and her customers like it. That’s what I find about designers like her: they want to have their own voice, but it’s the same voice every season.

I think women are not quite as influenced by designers as they are by pop stars and KOLs. The catwalk is really for entertainment. I mean, people go to the movies, love a character, but don’t dress like the character (no more Annie Halls). Who’d want to look like Effie Trinket anyway? But pop stars and KOLs photograph themselves on a real beach, in a real bathroom, with a real ice cream cone, so that’s more real for most.

Maybe the idea of “iconic” and “fashion-forward” dressing is no longer relevant. Or even dressing as a challenge to the zeitgeist. Maybe these are outmoded ideas.

Because “icons” these days are not iconic and “fashion-forward” can be backward. Or, nudity in IG. Or, some trashy dress on the red carpet, even at the Met Gala.

Every city, big and small, has a designer who just survives recycling off-shoulder or one-shouldered satin dresses, mermaid/goddess gowns with beading or fish-tails, and tulle skirts. Best examples: Zuhair Murad and Elie Saab.

And Michael Cinco. 

[Yawn emoji]

Or feathers—McQueen plumage. 


Conversely, there’s this thing about wanting to look not polished and the love of the anti-fit. And aping hip-hop stars.

Sorry, that’s the black culture, which I don’t care about because it’s not fashion; it’s money. Never allow casual sportif New York to go to Paris.

Or anyone in Kanye’s orbit.

Nooooo!!! Cannot mention the Ye or Abloh. Cannot!!!

Oh! Yes! No!

I think the word we dare not use today is original.

I think that died with the corset. Or, may be, later, with Cristobal.

The finality and banality of SS 2019: Cathy being nice to Dior and Hedi. She took a long time to sell out, but she did anyway. When Cathy is being nice, I don’t believe in what she thinks any more.

I can’t say I was not disappointed, not because she was seemingly positive about Hedi, but because she, like Sarah, justified what he did. She probably missed going to his shows. Maybe she needs to get back into his good books.

I think fashion critics don’t matter anymore.

I still think they do because I want them to put into context for me what I would not be able to see or experience on my own. But at the same time, I do not lap up everything they say—Suzy, for example. Her IG posts are, frankly, embarrassing. And, contrary to Mark’s disdain, I do not “click on some poor designer’s name who (I) might think is about to get a drubbing”. I want them to tell it like it is. Even Rei has her moments of extreme silliness. Just say it.

No one reads them with the intent we do.

Read? Many fashionistas count looking at IG posts as reading. (Fashionista! Is that word still relevant? There is a website by that name!) #OOTD dos not require the reading faculty.

Well, we watch the live streams. (I did not even bother with Gucci!) and instant viewing.

[Gasp] You didn’t watch Gucci? Have you given up on Michele?

Not given up, but for the last two/three collections, he has moved on to a different aesthetic (not that most people noticed) that is not quite me. I can appreciate it, but I don’t want to wear it. Also, Gucci have raised their prices.

And the aesthetic shift is different enough to matter? He has gone through several shifts. I like his first two/three collections a lot, but not when he started pushing the already distinctive aesthetical force.

I don’t think it matters because his unquestioning fans will and have bought it, and when they wear it, I can appreciate it, but not on me.

Why are fans “unquestioning”?

For me (and fans), it’s about the unabashed explosion of colours, of textures, of colour mixes that are so off that they’re right, the nerdy feel, the totally non-gender specific individual items. The proportions are surprisingly “classic” though disguised by colours and the accessories.

[Photo reference]

Is there any other designer doing the totality of this look? Tisci can, but he’s too lazy now. People can get turned off by the runway or editorial look, but that’s what fans want, not the tees or just the shoes, but the whole feel.

Yep, not just one pair of Flashtrek with the crystal embellishments.

I can’t bear it, anyway.

It’s hard to say that isn’t gaudy. When will we know it’s excess?

There’s no excess in Gucci. It’s all built-in. A Gucci fan will immediately get Tony Duquette.

Kaleidoscopic! Or, maximum of maximalism?

You better pray I don’t die before you do. How to have this conversation with someone else in Southeast Asia?

Collage: Just So

Window Pain

When fashion and feminism meet on the storefront

Dior store front Oct 2018

This is a Dior window we have never thought we’d see. It is a print of a collage that includes the text “WOMEN” and “CES’T NON NON NON ET NON (“that’s no no no and no”, which is also on sweaters and other tops of the autumn/winter collection)” amid torn images taking prominence over the clothes. And somewhat hidden away from the full-cap messages, two other words peeked: “MEN” (afterthought?) and “YOUTHQUAKE”, which prompted an SOTD reader to remark to us, “Which era are they in?” And, on the window design, “Stupendous banality, beyond vapid”.

Dior is on a roll. After this season’s uninspired advertising campaign, now this lame window. Frankly, we did not expect Dior’s political stance to come this far, or to the storefront. No Dior designer, as we can recall (please correct us if we are wrong), has worn their political convictions on their sleeves or the front of their T-shirt. Neither had any emblazoned messages on wallpaper to be plastered on the brand’s store frontage. Christian Dior himself may have been a political science student (at the École des Sciences Politiques in Paris) and his New Look—with their extravagant use of fabrics—may be seen as a reaction against the rationing of cloth during World War II, but it is hard to say that Monsieur Dior was a ringing political voice.

It is not clear if Maria Grazia Chiuri is a political creature or a political opportunist. Or both. It seems that being the first women designer in Dior’s 70-plus-year history isn’t enough a political statement, she sees it necessary to lend her voice to the causes she believes in. Nothing wrong with that, but how effective can one be as fashion designer and political activist? Dior’s “YOUTHQUAKE”-inspired window display barely engages the political discourse nor offers a social mirror to the real vexations of the world. Despite its social message, it is still patently brand communication, made more unmistakable by the recurrence of the DIOR logo when the store is already well identified.

Dior store front P2 Oct 2018

You’d think if there’s anyone who would take their political conviction or feminist zeal to the fashion front, it would be the one-time communist Miuccia Prada, who, like Monsieur Dior, studied political science (graduating with a PhD at the University of Milan), who, according to popular telling, wore Yves Saint Laurent to protest. But Ms Prada, also a known feminist, has not succumbed to sloganeering to get her message across. As a designer, she used design instead.

Politically-correct/aware dressing of body and mind is, of course, trending now. That fashion should be embroiled in the current state of world affairs is emblematic of how passions and emotions are now easily and deeply stirred in people on either side of the socio-political divide. Fashion designers using their clothes (rather than storefront) as medium of political expression isn’t a Trump-era trend. One of the pioneers of political-slogan-as-fashion-statement—yes, emblazoned on T-shirts, Ms Chiuri—was Britain’s Katherine Hamnett. In the late ’80s, her messages were boldly printed on the entire front of T-shirts to be unmissable, although it is not certain if those who copped the tops shared her beliefs or were just interested in text on tees. In the UK’s fashion community, Ms Hamnett wasn’t alone. On and off, Vivienne Westwood, too, used similar methods to draw attention to what she felt fervidly about. Interestingly, women designers are the ones more inclined to speak their mind through their clothes. Ms Hamnett and Ms Westwood, however, wasn’t merely going afloat with the current of the their time. Theirs were ardent beliefs independent of social trends.

Dior’s collaged tear-sheets of newsprint images of women protesting in the ’60s with placards declaring “Mini skirts forever” (and such) are perhaps too distant and too grassroots for a luxury brand, and, thus, appear to be token engagement, especially when the windows and their encircling spaces offer little to shoppers that could arouse the mind. Bottom line: is it meaningful? As Miuccia Prada once said to Document Journal, “Someone who is superficial gets only the façade”.

Photo: Galerie Gombak