Paris Fashion Week: Street Looks, Feminist Influences Hit Runways

By Booth Moore
Los Angeles Times.

PARIS

It was a season of auspicious beginnings and poignant goodbyes at Paris Fashion Week as new designers entered to breathe fresh life into the Sonia Rykiel, Paco Rabanne and Loewe brands, and the original enfant terrible of French fashion, Jean Paul Gaultier, exited the ready-to-wear stage to focus on haute couture.

On the runways, the collections shown for next spring were a youth quake of swinging ’60s and ’70s style: flower power prints, army and navy uniforms, flared pants and babydoll dresses, folklore and fringe, eyelet and embroideries galore, seen at Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Dries Van Noten, Sacai, Chloe, Rykiel and more.

But there was a different kind of revolution happening too during the presentations, which ended Wednesday. Designers grappled with the meaning of fashion in the context of feminism, and whether it’s even realistic to think that designers can still dictate to women, especially now that street style blogs, Instagram and YouTube stars are challenging the whole top-down system.

At Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld erected a grand boulevard indoors at the Grand Palais and took fashion to the streets. For a finale, he staged a protest, models marching out, fists in the air, with picket signs that said, “Be Your Own Stylist,” “Tweed is Better than Tweet” and “We can match the machos.”

It was a rallying cry for a lot of things, including individual style, and an acknowledgment that today fashion is not a consensus, but merely a suggestion, one that many women (and some designers) choose to ignore, resisting the idea that there could ever be a new or old look. Coco Chanel knew all of this. One of her most famous quotes remains true, “Fashion fades, only style remains the same.”

Of course, a big house with a storied heritage has design codes that are written into the lexicon of style, Chanel’s tweed jacket, for example, which is and always will be a classic.

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