Cast your mind back and this time last year Paris was abuzz with new names – and Vetements, to some, was still potentially just the french word for clothes and not the biggest thing in fashion. Ever. Demna Gvasalia, the man behind it all, would subsequently be scooped up by Balenciaga for the top job just vacated by Alexander Wang. Suddenly the old guard of Paris, home traditionally to storied houses such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel and more, were being ever so slightly usurped by a new generation of hip and cool and insta-connected. Paris was no longer simply the centre of tradition and could no longer simply be classed as being the preserve of heritage maisons. Nope, suddenly a youth quake all its own was happening. And it was happening inside and outside, all around, in fact, the pillar luxury labels. From the arrival of new creative directors within to the rise of new labels to rival the establishment.
Paco Rabanne Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
It was happening at Courrèges, at Paco Rabanne, at Mugler, at Guy Laroche, at Carven, Nina Ricci too with Guillaume Henry – the boy wonder who had put Carven on the map – all welcoming new talent to bring them back to life. There was Y/Project and Jacquemus adding to the excitement as well – must-see brands and with only a few seasons to their names. And of course there was Vetements.
But then something happened. "I would certainly say the focus in Paris is again on the change-up for big houses," confirms designer Quoï Alexander, himself a newer name on the block having graduated from Central Saint Martins and brought his eponymous label to Paris.
"I think that in general in the fashion industry people are always excited about what is new, what is next and this season big Paris houses have been in the spotlight because they've got a new designer so it's exciting to see what the next season holds," agrees stylist Audrey Taillee.
Saint Laurent Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
Because suddenly it was all change at the top and that Dior job got filled; and suddenly that Saint Laurent job was up for grabs again; and among all of that there was suddenly a Lanvin job to be had. The moving and shaking was now top-heavy, establishment-establishment heavy. And if there was ever a way to reignite interest among the top-tier luxury labels – and note, not that it entirely dwindled, we're just talking a shift of focus – this chain of events was it.
Lanvin Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
So Bouchra Jarrar got the Lanvin gig, this season her tightly-guarded debut. Finally Valentino's Maria Grazia Chuiri was announced as taking the Dior role and this was her big reveal – and the first time a female designer took the helm. It left her stablemate Pierpaolo Piccioli to hold the fort at Valentino and then Anthony Vaccarello was tasked with following in Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent footsteps. Wow, what a difference a season, a year, makes in fashion. And it meant that suddenly every big show was a big show again at Paris Fashion Week, anticipation waiting in the wings, judgement day at the end of the catwalk.
Leonard Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
"I wanted to do an evolution not a revolution," explained Christine Phung backstage at Leonard Paris. The new artistic director of the 60-year-old house, she agreed that it was an intimidating task joining an established name and that "being in 2016" was key to making it work. But that being connected digitally, too, was important.
Because that's where so many houses have fallen down – misread the heritage signs and mixed them up with something too modern or not modern at all for a complicated and inaccessible output.
"I wanted to find pieces like pyjamas and strong items like the teddy boy jacket, very causal and that you can wear now but blend it," Phung continued.
Mugler Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
Because that balance is key. At Paco Rabanne, Julien Dossena wonderfully worked the house's iconic sci-fi elements into streetwear and sportswear cool. It came down to a mixing and matching of separates. At Courrèges, there were some nice nods also to that space-age heritage in cocoon shapes but the rest got lost among far too contemporary references and far too many of them. At Mugler, David Koma got it right – his blend the perfect modern-day Mugler; ditto for Nina Ricci; and Adam Andrascik at Guy Laroche worked to streamline his design sensibility with that of Guy's to great effect.
"It seems the emerging talent of Paris still has a strong hold on the industry, which has been traditionally unusual for Paris," notes Alexander also. As the last few days of the season fade away, the schedule eases up with the big names to hold it together. Cast your mind back to this time last week – equally as exciting, but in an entirely different way, was seeing the aforementioned, plus the likes of Koché and Aalto and Jacquemus.
Jacquemus Fashion Show Ready-to-wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 Paris
This season, though, the old guard certainly knew how to take on the new guard – and of course this is really purely coincidence. But fashion has a domino effect. And Paris, you know how to keep us on our toes.
"It's not so much the big houses that are in the spotlight this season but anything new that will or won't happen. I think this is what fashion week is all about," sums up Taillee.