In Paris, Dior and Saint Laurent Show Different Takes On Womanhood

Dressing in the age of Time's Up.

dior paris fashion week

by Kenya Hunt |
Updated on

How exactly does one dress for the age of #MeToo? An impeccably tailored trouser suit, all business, in black? Latex leggings, glossy with the veneer of sex? Both? During a week in which a New York court found Harvey Weinstein guilty of sexual assault, two notably different takes on womanhood dominated Paris.

Maria Grazia Chiuri kicked Paris Fashion Week off by showing her Dior collection under an installation of neon lit signs that spelled out the feminism she has become known for projecting at the house. ‘CONSENT,’ a series of primary coloured works created by the art collective Claire Fontaine read. ‘When women strike the world stops,’ another (the press notes called them ‘woke subtitles’) broadcast.

dior paris fashion week
Dior AW20 ©Dior

Hanging from the ceiling, above a floor covered in various editions of the French newspaper Le Monde, they were so timely they could have been ripped from the day’s headlines about the Weinstein verdict. And so it seemed fitting that the woman who has made feminism such a defining part of her vision would go big on activist messaging in what has turned out to be a watershed moment for Time's Up and the Silence Breakers movement.

Chiuri looked back to her teenage years during the Seventies, a formative period for Italian feminist art. The cultural references made for a more modern and pragmatic spin on the decade from the more fantastical, flamboyant takes on the era we’ve seen in the past year from other brands.

dior paris fashion week
Dior AW20 ©Dior

Chiuri is a creative director who understands the practicalities of her woman’s day to day needs. Hers are clothes you can move freely in and foster what she has described as a ‘sense of liberation.’ Her bestselling pieces aren’t designed to be trophies, but lived in, daily: see her wildly popular book totes and walkable J’Adior slingbacks.

She continued that upbeat, no-fuss sensibility in her offerings for autumn from an opening series of black suits and dresses (some worn with neck ties, which are trending this season) to a range of mini skirts in heritage fabrics and checked coats and jackets to suit every age and shape. On the models’ feet: stomper boots and sensibly heeled Mary-Janes, to make it all the easier for a modern day change-maker to get around town.

saint laurent paris fashion week
Saint Laurent AW20 ©Getty

At Saint Laurent, Anthony Vaccarello also showed women on a mission with models stomping down a carpeted runway in gorgeously tailored double-breasted blazers, silk blouses, sky-high stilettos and latex leggings that coated their gams in glossy slicks of crimson, black, purple and fuchsia. Does skin-tight latex, the colour of a fire engine rushing to a burning building, have to mean sex? At the sight of all the red lips, leather bustiers and nipple-baring lace tops on show, the bedroom was understandably the first place the mind went — mine did.

But not so fast. Vaccarello was instead exploring the ‘well-behaved and overly bourgeoise’ women of the Nineties, playing up their elegance and sense of daring. It’s the contrast between the two that made his collection stand out so brilliantly in the month’s crowded calendar of clothes. ‘For Saint Laurent, elegance is mandatory but it also goes with perversity; one without the other would only be plain bourgeoisie or vulgarity,’ Vaccarello explained. On the surface, the fur coats, teeter-high shoes, hold-your-breath-tight pants and blown straight hair seemed to run counter to many of the values that rule fashion right now. But maybe that’s the point. In Vaccarello’s world latex can be a liberation too, depending on the woman wearing it: ‘Mister Saint Laurent had a very peculiar vision of bourgeoisie, he almost rejected it. I was really stimulated by that tension this season, it made me want to break the codes that are too conventional. Saint Laurent is about danger.’

saint laurent paris fashion week
Saint Laurent AW20 ©Getty

SEE: Everything Happening At Paris Fashion Week

Kenneth Ize makes a starry debut1 of 19

Kenneth Ize makes a starry debut

Austrian-Nigerian designer Kenneth Ize pulled in the big guns for his Paris Fashion Week debut. Imaan Hamman, Naomi Campbell and Adwoa Aboah all flew in to show their support - and the clothes themselves had bags of feel-good flavour in their colour and comfort-factor.

Dior brings back the waistcoat2 of 19

Dior brings back the waistcoat

You might not have considered the waistcoat as a sensible addition to your wardrobe, well, ever, but Maria Grazia Chiuri might change your mind this autumn. She sent several down today's catwalk, which was hung with giant letters spelling 'CONSENT', including this trench design with a fringed hem and slits for the arms to breathe.

Saint Laurent is big on Eighties flavour3 of 19

Saint Laurent is big on Eighties flavour

Saint Laurent went big on spectacle, spotlighting models as they stomped down the catwalk in jewel-toned latex trousers. If the wet-look is filed under 'too much' in your mind, the return of colour-blocking - think scarlet, violet and chartreuse for starters - is surely a tantalising option.

Dries Van Noten's flora and fauna4 of 19
CREDIT: Jason Lloyd-Evans

Dries Van Noten's flora and fauna

Dries Van Noten was a typically beautiful exploration of print and its power. One of our favourites was this leaf-splashed mac paired with snakeskin boots, a look that brought the rainforest canopy to the city of lights.

Lanvin goes oh-so-ladylike5 of 19
CREDIT: Jason Lloyd-Evans

Lanvin goes oh-so-ladylike

Lanvin was a 2020 take on the classic bourgeois wardrobe, with elbow-length gloves, richly-coloured coats, top-handle bags, elegantly coiffed hair and, naturally, ladylike pumps.

Maison Margiela is, well, weather-appropriate6 of 19
CREDIT: Jason Lloyd-Evans

Maison Margiela is, well, weather-appropriate

You can always count on Maison Margiela for delivering look-twice clothes and styling, but this all-black ensemble, comprised of bucket hat, slick raincoat and sensible brogues, is just the sort of thing one needs at the beginning of a British autumn, no?

Balmain brings back the 80s power blazer7 of 19
CREDIT: Getty Images

Balmain brings back the 80s power blazer

Balmain gave a nod to the 80s this season, with oversized, doubled-breasted blazers, complete with retro brass buttons. There was definitely a sense of masculinity about this collection, with the majority of looks incorporating power shoulders and slick-backed hair to match.

Loewe and lapels8 of 19
CREDIT: Getty Images

Loewe and lapels

Loewe's show saw some interestingly oversized lapels incorporated in outwear, like this trench coat.

Isabel Marant signals to the waist9 of 19
CREDIT: Getty Images

Isabel Marant signals to the waist

Belts were a big feature at the Isabel Marant show. Nearly every look was cinched in at the waist to create a feminine silhouette, against oversized and chunky knitwear.

Off-White's new take on practical dressing for your wedding10 of 19
CREDIT: Getty Images

Off-White's new take on practical dressing for your wedding

Here-comes-the-bride, dressed-in-Off-White. Only Virgil would incorporate a windbreaker and a wedding dress. But, we're into it, and it's practical, given the recent weather. Also, what's a wedding without your close family beside you? No, we're not just talking about Bella, Yolanda walked in the show too.

Paco Rabanne opts for armour11 of 19
CREDIT: Getty Images

Paco Rabanne opts for armour

There were several knights in shining armour at the Paco Rabanne show, and aside from thinking how heavy it must all be, we're pleasantly surprised with the theatrical use of Paco's usual metal chainmail technique.

Chlou00e9 embraces the long necklace12 of 19
CREDIT: Getty Images

Chloé embraces the long necklace

The Chloé show was full of classic heritage prints, like this argyle roll neck. Fair Isle knits were also spotted and so were checks. The collection felt very country-chic, and we're not over the quilted coat – perfect for a Sunday dog walk right? Also, please note, the long statement necklaces, very 2008.

Celine channels its signature Seventies style13 of 19
CREDIT: Getty Images

Celine channels its signature Seventies style

Hedi Slimane isn't reinventing the wheel each season. Instead, his clothes for Celine are wardrobe classics that will prove brilliantly wearable, not just this year but this decade.

Balenciaga's flooded catwalk makes a statement on climate change14 of 19
CREDIT: Getty Images

Balenciaga's flooded catwalk makes a statement on climate change

Demna Gvasalia took a typically confronting approach to set design for Balenciaga's AW20 show, flooding the catwalk to send a message about the climate crisis and rising sea levels.

Valentino's fairytale gowns15 of 19
CREDIT: Getty Images

Valentino's fairytale gowns

The gowns are genuinely gasp-worthy at Valentino - and this season's were no different. This semi-sheer floor-sweeper was flecked with sequins and full of drama.

Givenchy dials up the drama16 of 19
CREDIT: Getty Images

Givenchy dials up the drama

The Givenchy silhouette was supersized for AW20, with hats that took on Handmaid's Tale proportions and dramatically elongated capes.

Stella McCartney's enlists furry friends for finale17 of 19

Stella McCartney's enlists furry friends for finale

First we had Balenciaga's flooded show space, creative director Demna Gvasalia's comment on rising sea levels, then Stella McCartney invited a series of furry friends onto her catwalk to raise awareness about animal welfare. The designer has long championed the use of sustainable fur and leather alternatives and, when the results look this good, here's hoping more designers put their innovative caps on.

Giambattista Valli gives us girlish elegance18 of 19

Giambattista Valli gives us girlish elegance

You can always rely on Giambattista Valli to deliver girlishness. This off-the-shoulder gown, that stops short of the ankle, is just one dreamy example.

Alexander McQueen joins the latex army19 of 19

Alexander McQueen joins the latex army

Kim and Kourtney Kardashian both wore latex leggings to Kanye West's Sunday Service - and last night Alexander McQueen is backed the wet-look bottom half. Expect to see them everywhere come September.

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