Paris Has a Socio-Political Agenda – But is it Authentic?

During the Fall/Winter 2019-20 menswear season, designers already delved into socio-political themes in order to present their latest collections. From post-apocalyptical runway settings and over-protective staple pieces to rethinking pop-culture and finding life beyond earth, the latest men's ready-to-wear collections were reflecting our present times in many eclectic ways. 

Dior Fall/Winter 2019 show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

This time around is no different: in fact, this women's ready-to-wear season seems to have a full-fledged social agenda. The luxury industry's quest for more awareness, fairness, and sustainability throughout the past years has sparked a renewed social trend on the Parisian runways this season. Whether it's a truly authentic attempt to tackle important socio-political issues, or an attention-seeking marketing trick remains a big question mark. 

The week started on a high "social" note with Marine Serre who reflected on our current status quo in a most dystopian, George Orwell-inspired way. She imagined a future were ecological crises and climate wars are destroying the last remains of civilization as we know it, leaving only a small number of survivors behind. Wedged into protective outfits and protected by gas masks, the models evolved in an apocalyptic universe. But it's not only for the show's sake: Marine Serre is a sustainable designer on a mission; her collections so far have always been based on environmentally friendly practices, such as recycling and upcycling. 

Marine Serre Fall/Winter 2019 show in Paris. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION.

And she is not the only female designer to point the finger at social issues in Paris. Earlier this week, Maria Grazia Chiuri once again delivered a feminist agenda at Dior, continuing the theme of female empowerment with her new sisterhood inspired motifs and prints that were made to revive the success of her "We Should All Be Feminists" printed shirts inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's best-selling book. On a lighter note, Redemption's Bebe Moratti paid a tribute to the rebellious power of rock'n'roll, and heavy metal in particular, that he considers to be "one of the most stigmatized musical genres of our times." He de facto infused the strong, buzzing energy and spirit of heavy metal into a glam-rock flavored women's collection. Virgil Abloh, for his part, subtly tapped into political dressing, which is, by definition, a codified style adopted by a group of people to call attention to a social issue. In his case, the Off-White and Louis Vuitton menswear designer recently dressed Bella Hadid in an outfit with a bright yellow vest for a Louis Vuitton x Chrome Hearts event in New York last January – one couldn't help but notice the nod that was made to the Gilets Jaunes movement. 

Off-White Fall/Winter 2019 show in Paris. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

But how come fashion designers – whose brands are in reality tugging the purse strings of a selected few, the ones with considerable spending budget – are so obsessed with and inspired by social causes? Is it a sign of a new, more conscious and less discriminating era for the luxury sector or simply a desperate attempt to be authentic by all means? The answer to this question depends on one's perspective – and on the faith one has in the capacity of the fashion industry to identify and represent social causes and ultimately initiate change. Some look at the luxury and fashion sector as a capitalist multi-billion dollar industry that operates to the detriment of our environment; others consider it to be one of the most powerful forms of self-expression in society. And because nothing is ever black and white, some people also take both perspectives into account. Does this willingness to tackle socio-political causes make the world a better place? No. Does it inspire us to make it a better place? It sure does, because this is the least we can and should do.