All you really need to know, to get your head around Paris fashion week, is this: the most lusted-after, Instagram-liked piece on the catwalk this week was an anorak. At Balenciaga, new designer Demna Gvasalia’s vision for the most ultra-chic, super-refined Paris label was distilled in an oversized anorak in a garish green-and-blue colour combination which was a long, long way from the pale greys of Avenue Montaigne or the matt black of the Boulevard Saint Germain. And the audience loved it.
It is not often that you come away from the Paris shows resolving to look less chic. But that is, most definitely, the vibe. Aside from the Balenciaga anorak, other key pieces from this week’s catwalks included a donkey jacket (in leopard print, at Givenchy), and quilted coats at Stella McCartney and Rick Owens. Off the catwalk, patchworked jeans with asymmetric seams and frayed hems have replaced Céline blazers as the front-row status symbol. In fact, the blazer – for so long the bedrock of the chic Frenchwoman look – was conspicuous this week by its absence from both catwalk collections and what was being worn in the audience.
That whole French-girls-are-so-chic, trench-coat-and-black-coffee shtick is still shifting books at the tills at WHSmith, but Paris fashion week has – finally – moved on. For decades, Paris designers have essentially flip-flopped between celebrating an ultra-feminine, Tuileries-promenading, couture-shopping Parisienne and a heavy-lidded, Gitanes-smoking, Café de Flore girl. But the new Paris muse is neither of these. The new look is closer to the aesthetic of French-cropped boys who spin the waltzers at the fairground. The models at this Paris fashion week walked with neither the old-school high-stepping pony gait, or the slouchy hands-in-pockets stride. Instead, they stomped so fast that clocking what they were wearing was difficult. They seemed to less parade for the audience, as barge past us. The half-zipped tracksuit top is the new blazer, and, in the front row, Kanye West is the new Catherine Deneuve.
Chicness is essentially about being easy on the eye: a fluid line, neutral colours and a sense of cultured ease. The new Paris look is more hard-edged. There are Easy Rider motorcycle leathers at Anthony Vaccarello and Chloé. Trousers either drag on the floor like pyjama bottoms you haven’t pulled up properly, or end deliberately awkwardly above the ankle bone without pandering to old-fashioned concepts such as making your legs look longer. However, Paris is still, at the end of the day, Paris. The anoraks at Balenciaga and the quilted coats at Stella McCartney were worn loosely on the shoulders, with the grand attitude of a fur stole. Chic is dead, and the anorak is the new blazer – but the look is still, unmistakably, Paris.