Nine days of fashion shows: this Monday, after London and Milan, it’s up to Paris to open its fashion week dedicated to women’s prêt-à-porter for autumn-winter 2022-23. But how do they do it? some creak. How can we keep up this avalanche of clothing and jewelry while the Ukraine crumbles under Russian vice? Fashion shows in a context of local or international disaster (attacks, war, earthquake, pandemic, etc.), this is nothing new. This “must go on show” no matter what happens reinforces the reputation of unbearable lightness, of cynicism, that many attribute to the sector.
That is forgetting that a fashion week is above all a showcase, that of high-end clothing, which is luxury, an industry that, like the others, reacts to turbulence of all kinds trying to stay the course. And, given its economic weight (one million direct and indirect jobs, a contribution to France’s GDP greater than that of the automobile and aeronautics combined), we can be satisfied. In addition, the clothing and textile sector as a whole needs to recover its health and image: its sales have not yet returned to pre-Covid levels and mistrust is growing towards the ugly duckling of the family, fast fashion. The glittering fashion week celebrates excellence.
Still, we also have the right to wonder how this Parisian European salvo will respond to the war in Ukraine. Fashion is not on the surface, it has regularly accompanied, reflected on and commented on social and, therefore, political news. It is true that collections are not designed at the last moment, and a designer cannot anticipate a conflict unthinkable even for geopolitical aces. But acting as if nothing happened, is it acceptable?
Will Paris do better?
So far, only Giorgio Armani has spoken publicly: on Sunday, February 27, during Milan Fashion Week, his brand’s show was completely silent. “My decision not to use music in the show is a sign of respect for the people involved in the tragedy currently unfolding in Ukraine. the 87-year-old designer said in a statement. The designers did not issue any other flashy posters as citizens demonstrated against the Russian invasion in the streets of Italy’s fashion capital. As if, in front of Putin, the exuberant clothing collapsed into a bubble of worried reluctance.
Will Paris do better? Or will we also engage in circumvention that suggests too many interests are at stake, even though Russia is only credited with 1-2% of the global luxury market? Ninety-five houses are on the official calendar and thanks to the decline of the Covid pandemic, physical shows are replacing videos, offering even more possibilities to dare to make a spontaneous gesture. And strong personalities, appropriate to the spectacular message, are not lacking. We think in particular of Olivier Rousteing (Balmain), Rick Owens, Vivienne Westwood, Demna Gvasalia (at Balenciaga), Stella McCartney, Jonathan Anderson (Loewe)… To have panache, for a fashion week, would be chic.