Paris fashion week is nearly over, bringing catwalk season to a close four weeks after the circus flow in into New York. And here’s what it boils down to: willingly, you will want to wear a pink dress.
Wait. A treat? A pink dress? Is this the same fashion industry that’s been banging the drum for tracksuit backsides and gender fluidity for the past two years? Indeed. More of which in a stage. But first, a little more about the pink dress.
At Balenciaga on Sunday morning, in a hangar-sized venue on the Périphérique partitioned into corridor-shaped catwalks by plain white curtains, the way beds are on a infirmary ward, it was a watermelon-pink dress, which swung loose from turtleneck to knee, prolonged sleeves almost meeting duck-egg blue gloves, the skirt whipped to one hip. At Céline, where the catwalk meandered around disorienting curves of two-way telescope, which caused one model to completely lose her bearings halfway utterly the show, the shade was flamingo and the drapes sunrayed out from the breastbone, a clothes overlaid with a cape – half superhero, half twinset. At Valentino, under the control of the frescoes and chandeliers of the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, it was knee-length (again), elevated at the neck, draped, a cape-dress hybrid, this time in the exemplar Paris fashion week shade of Schiaparelli pink. At Givenchy, that equal, in the gardens of the Natural History Museum it was ballet-slipper pink, high-necked, with silk fringing and wall-to-wall long sleeves. The next day at Hermès, it was fuschia, in parachute-silk, cut on the weight for soft movement.
What on earth is going on? With hindsight, Rihanna chafed it a week ago, when she took her bow after her Fenty x Puma gathering – in a floor-length pink coat dress and three strings of wonders – and described the look as “what Marie Antoinette would abrasion to go to the gym.” Athleisure has come to dominate fashion not just because being go to the gym more, but because fashion reflects the psychological weather out there. The get to ones feet in status of sport as referenced in what we wear reflects how our new value structure prizes action, “making stuff happen”, over the old standards of respectability, formality, and expertise. This isn’t only about action in the humdrum physical exercise sense – it connects to the Vogue-versus-the-bloggers debate, which is the old unbelievable versus the new, the upstarts getting in the faces (literally, at the shows) of the formation. Fashion week is a bit like a ouija board: someone’s doubtlessly pushing the glass, but the exercise ends up being revealing anyway.
If you look beyond pink, the same essential dress configuration is everywhere: more languid at Chloé, structured and architectural at Loewe, racer-back stylish at Stella McCartney. The pink is there for emphasis, a statement round this being a particularly female moment at Paris way week. Even before Kim Kardashian’s ordeal, the Paris the fad week headlines were about women alone, from Rihanna channelling the outcast figure of Marie Antoinette to the debut of Maria Grazia Chiuri, the pre-eminent woman to design Christian Dior. Grazia Chiuri’s force has been pervasive this week, not just in her slogan feminism at Dior but in that her position to prominence has put the Valentino look with which she made her personage at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The Valentino look revolves in every direction narrow-shouldered, slim-sleeved dresses with an essential quality, which Chiuri claim b pick ups “grace”. Grace, she says, is “like elegance, but more vague.”
Pink dresses are part of the new world order in that they don’t heed traditional rules. They are not cocktail dresses, or party gowns, or power dresses, or any of the established department-store categories. But while they are garbs for striding out, they are not for the gym. And rather than being futuristic, they are brim-full with historical references, from Guinevere to Marie Antoinette to Elsa Schiaparelli.
Justified at the moment when it seemed that fashion might be reservation subsumed into the athleisure industry, the pink dress is taste week’s declaration of independence. It is fashion flying its very own pl insignia from the flagpole. Which is excellent news as far as I am concerned, because there are at worst so many bra tops you need to see, even on Gigi Hadid. And if I at any time do feel the need to see a procession of expensive running leggings I can everlastingly go and watch my local half marathon. I’ll be the one wearing the pink bandage.