Designers & the Irony of Instagram

There is an irony in the fact that Rei Kawakubo, one of fashion’s most personally press-shy designers, creates pieces that so appeal to the age of Instagram. The scene was set this Paris Fashion Week as guests entered the darkened space of 46 Rue Cambon, led into it by a deep red curtain, and took their seats surrounding a stage with two huge lights suspended over it. Finally, after a mild panic on behalf of those who were late or couldn’t locate the venue’s whereabouts, a hush descended upon the space. The lights whirred into action and hoisted up above the catwalk – and out came the first model in a heavily worked white silhouette, an ornate glitter crown upon her head. Upon its skirt those could have been marshmallows, such was the tantalising compact texture that stood before us.


COMME DES GARÇONS FW18 show in Paris. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

Next came inside-out organ shapes of red polka dots and splaying florals skirts; one tiered constructions later comprised from lingerie slips spilling out to create the cascade of the shape. Then came ripped-open dresses all spayed out as one decoration upon another; a puff-petal shape with the model’s head peeking out as though she was the bud; and Betty Boop also made an appearance among the pastel wedding-cake creations. It was impossible to know which one to take a picture of. Hands permanently raised in the air to capture this all.


COMME DES GARÇONS FW18 show in Paris. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

Yet the intriguing thing is that Kawakubo’s collections are notoriously known for their comment and insight on the world as opposed to what has become this ritual of courting attention that so underpins the shows in a colossal manner these days. Yet, they can't help but invite it – which makes an interesting juxtaposition.

Inside out and supremely layered, punches of cartoon colour – not to mention the cartoon pin-up herself, Betty – this was a fun output, the models holding hands as they wobbled back down the runway for the finale.


BALMAIN FW18 show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

One designer who certainly is made for Instagram – who adores it, embraces it, and has made it a key cog of their fashion function – is Olivier Rousteing at Balmain. In fact, this show even went so far as to invite the audience to try out the Balmain filter for Snap, newly created. He is a designer of the digital age, after all.


BALMAIN FW18 show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

The clothes on the runway certainly came with their very own filter, a hyper holographic one, which meant this collection dazzled and sparkled even more than usual. Fluro pops and serious shine, transparent shoes that showed off just how high the arch of the foot can be; there were all the standard shapely wraps and sexy styles, little bling jackets and trophy-commanding clothes. You can’t ever fault Rousteing on not being behind his aesthetic. It’s been seven years now. “I’ve been beyond lucky,” he wrote in his show notes. His enthusiasm and excitement at being where he is and doing what he is never fails to be conveyed in a collection, this one likely to entice the not-yet-converts too.


SONIA RYKIEL FW18 show in Paris. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

Over at Sonia Rykiel, though Julie de Libran has well proved that she has been the best candidate to take on the legacy of the legendary French designer – there had been some back and forth before her arrival as designers came and went – even she called upon a little bit of snap-sensationalism: Bananarama, the Eighties-launched, and the London female trio were back. In fact, they’ve been cropping up of late, but de Libran, a music fanatic growing up, felt they perfectly encompassed Sonia Rykiel, which launched in 1968 at an important time in popular culture, and in Paris.


SONIA RYKIEL FW18 show in Paris. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

It was a wonderful surprise, there’s no doubting, especially as de Libran seemed the most excited at their arrival, dancing on the catwalk and gesturing everybody up as flutes of champagne filled the room. But even if this hadn’t happened, this was a great show – of the clothes, which all so perfectly embodied that Sonia spirit, 50 years on, the models’ hair all frizzed up like the late designer’s also. De Libran has really got it covered. From the house hallmarks to adding a contemporary overlay, this is a success story on its own without any Insta tricks needed.


SONIA RYKIEL FW18 show in Paris. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

Food for thought: It’s funny how some brands work and some brands have to work – at it. And in Paris, this becomes a lot more clear as one sees everything from the avant-garde and conceptual to the storied and heritage, to just the straightforward.

 

See COMME DES GARÇONS' full FW18 collection here. 

See BALMAIN's full FW18 collection here. 

​See SONIA RYKIEL's full FW18 collection here.