Having spent almost all of her adult life being phenomenally famous and reliably photographed going about her day-to-day, Victoria Beckham knows better than anyone that, when used to your advantage, clothes can be like armour – empowering and protecting at once. If the paps are going to be there, you might as well make sure you look (and, equally important, feel) good, right? It’s a dialled-to-the-max, intensified version of how many women feel, and a personal perspective which Beckham utilises to strong effect in her fashion collections.
For her autumn/winter 2022 offering – presented via private appointments at Paris Fashion Week, and an accompanying fashion film, instead of a London catwalk show – the idea of fashion as armour was softly, sensitively explored. Note, for instance, the cocooning silhouettes of dropped shoulder bouclé coats or what she calls, the ‘go faster’ chevron stripes of sporty zip top dresses and track tops for the woman whose engine is always running.
‘The girl this season is a bit of a superhero. There’s something really strong about her. She’s a real character,’ Beckham explained when hosting appointments for the collection. Although she did opt to wear latex leggings earlier in the week (to sit front row at the Saint Laurent show), Beckham’s interpretation of ‘superhero’ dressing was gentler here, as seen via knit jumpsuits starring the VB monogram print that she first introduced for the pre-fall collection or the zingy thigh-high boots in mint green and tomato red. Playful touches - like contrast-colour seams - are a boost of sorts for the wearer.
Perhaps the most powerful thing about a Victoria Beckham collection, however, is the space she gives for personal style. She doesn’t propose a formulaic look so much as she does hard-working, solutions-driven pieces. Here there was more of an emphasis than ever on layering. Those jumpsuits certainly look less intimidating when worn under a slip dress or giant coat (she said of the outsized proportions that they were, ‘a bit little girl raiding her mum’s wardrobe’). Her favoured roll necks were teamed with almost-everything; shimmering sequins were downplayed, even daywear-worthy, thanks to organza or tissue paper-fine knit overlayers.
Next season will also see Beckham launching her first full bag collection, which she's already been taking out for a spin in Paris. The offering includes bucket bags, capacious clutches, disc-shaped pouches and more. The details are considered, elevated yet functional, for example the chunky chain handle inspired the strap of a vintage men’s watch David bought her.
‘I always think a bag should be an extension of the woman carrying it,’ Beckham explains. Designs are roomy so that you can comfortably stuff everything you need for a busy day in them. 'I carry so much stuff,' she says with a smile, adding: ‘Most of that is taken up with makeup.' Well, as VB knows, it never hurts to be camera-ready.
SEE: The Highlights From Paris Fashion Week AW22
Louis Vuitton - staged in the rather grand Musée d'Orsay - was a who's who of Hollywood. Cynthia Erivo, Gemma Chan, Julianne Moore, Ava DuVernay, Joe Jonas, Sophie Turner, the list goes on, sat front row - while Hoyeon Jung, star of Squid Game, opened the show. 'She's a supernova,' said creative director Nicolas Ghesquière. 'We've known each other for a long time because she started out as a model. She is a very endearing person and I'm happy for her.' The clothes, meanwhile, were preppy and collegiate, with button-downs and ties, rugby shirts (as seen on Lous and the Yakuza), penny loafers and lace-up sneakers. Nostalgia-core is clearly still booming in Paris – even if our teenage years didn't look quite as chic.
In Stella by Stella - the latest collection from Stella McCartney - the designer mined the talented life of Frank Stella. The American painter and sculptor was one of the most important artists of his generation - and, in homage, McCartney's clothes were made for her women, 'creators and collectors', who want pragmatic staples as effortlessly wearable art.
As guests arrived at Balenciaga - a show which saw models walking through a simulated snow storm - each received a yellow and blue T-shirt, as well as a note from Demna. 'The war in Ukraine has triggered the pain of a past trauma I have carried in me since 1993, when the same thing happened in my home country and I became a forever refugee,' he wrote. While admitting that he considered cancelling the show - 'Because in a time like this, fashion loses its relevance and its actual right to exist,' - Demna decided against it. 'I realised that cancelling this show would mean giving in, surrendering to the evil that has already hurt me so much for almost 30 years.'
As well as his house signature - the woven fabric called aso oke from Nigeria, which this season was made into a delightfully fun fringed skirt suit and an elongated corset top - Kenneth Ize experimented with corduroy (splicing the fabric with leather on a skirt), velour and denim, with the hottest of hot pants worn with a collared jacket.
A sense of practical ornamentation was on display at Givenchy, where worn tees were styled with out-out leather boots and hoodies with pearl necklaces. Of his man and woman, Matthew M. Williams said: 'On the runway, both are grounded by a sense of reality.'
Schiaparelli's latest collection was inspired by a tablecloth. But not just any tablecloth, one that was hand-painted with the house's codes by Daniel Roseberry. 'Body parts, padlocks and keyholes, measuring tapes and bijoux were rendered in black ink on bone-white cotton - the finished canvas served as both that night's tablecloth at our dinner, and later, this season's creative jumping off-point.' What followed was a collection, in the disciplined colour palette of black and white, that sought out perfection. 'What was the perfect dress, the perfect sweater, the perfect coat? I wanted to know not just what made a piece perfect, but what makes it perfectly Schiaparelli,' said Roseberry.
Pink. That was the name of the game at Valentino, where the majority of the looks were a dazzling shade of magenta (Zendaya set the tone on the front row in the hottest of hot pinks).
The whip-smart elements of an equestrian uniform - the jodhpurs, the riding boots and the quilted jacket - were present and correct at Hermès.
For AW22, Andreas Kronthaler looked to the world of theatre. 'It's there where everything is possible. We need space where people express themselves freely without censorship. If you lose that, you don't have culture,' read the show notes, which also catalogued the designer's tapestry of references: The Golden Coach, a film by Jean Renoir, and Jean-Antoine Watteau's L'Enseigne de Gersaint. The result was a collection where each look was worthy of being pored over for much longer than the time it took to walk up and down the runway.
The 'thrill of kink' was felt at Loewe - where tactile fabrics such as leather, felt, latex, tweed, knit, silk and resin made for a tantalising collection of clothing as art. Minidresses were moulded into cars, a set of lips became breastplates, spike-heeled pumps decorated sculpted dresses and balloons were inflated on sandals. Genial.
Isabel Marant wanted to focus on the act of getting dressed as a 'simple and comforting gesture' for AW22. Cue Y2K references, including double denim, furry sweaters, gilets and sweatpants that were made for the woman who doesn't want going out to slow her down.
Gabriela Hearst continues to do things differently at Chloé. This season, she introduced a new way of structuring the creative process by choosing to focus on a specific climate solution - in this case, rewilding - as well as an overarching aesthetic reference (Franco Zeffirelli's 1973 film Brother Son, Sister Moon). 'Climate Success', a range within the collection that depicts landscapes as catastrophes such as forest fires, melting glaciers and droughts on prints, intarsia knits and hand-painted accessories, is in aid of a programme launched by Conservation International, the Indigenous Women Fellowship.
For AW22, Coperni presented a collection that was an ode to youth. 'It's a trip down memory lane but also an idea of what will be,' read the show notes. The catwalk, lined with grey lockers, became school hallways, 'a place where teenagers grow, constantly doubting themselves, searching for their personal style, a time when falling in and out of love, losing and finding, are the acts that mark their coming of age.' There were thigh-high socks, patent loafers, undone laces and the kind of cut-away minidresses that would fit right into the wardrobe department of Euphoria. Nostalgic and yet now.
Olivier Rousteing's models looked ready for a motocross rally at yesterday's show, with padded leathers, strapped closely to the body, that were made to last. But of course this is Balmain - so as well as being crash-proof, these 'leathers' were super sexy (minidresses with sculpted shoulders and short hemlines) and at times extravagant (ball gowns with breastplates).
For AW22, Johnny Johansson meditated on the art of 'emotional patchworking': 'When I was a kid, my journey into fashion started when I started cutting things up and putting them back together. This collection is about creating from what is around us, making something new from something familiar.' As well as literal interpretations - including a spectacular strapless ball gown made of upcycled denim patches - this also referred to the designer's method of stitching, mending and repairing. 'It is not destructive or anarchic – it is about the act of putting things back together.'
For AW22, Charles de Vilmorin found himself evolving towards 'classicism, a sense of mystery but also lightness,' for the woman who wears Rochas, 'at once strong and poetic'. He became enthralled with the idea of 'winter black', which was the dominant colour on the catwalk, gravitating towards its 'absolute precision'.
There were plenty of thigh-highs on the streets of Milan, but none quite like the pairs at Courrèges, where almost every single look was worn with a pair of spike-heeled boots that stretched all the way up the leg.
Victoria Beckham wore slick vinyl trousers on the front row at Saint Laurent; a show that looked to the wardrobe of Nancy Cunard, the activist publisher who dressed audaciously ahead of her time. The biker jacket - a hero of this season's street style scene - was elongated into outerwear; fuzzy coats were shrugged over wide-leg pants; and shiny tights were worn with buckled pumps.
With a front row like no other - Rihanna, Blackpink's Jisoo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Anya Taylor-Joy, Yara Shahidi - Maria Grazia Chiuri delivered a collection that was all about 'clever clothes'. Dior's Bar jacket was revamped using a technical fabric, thanks to a collaboration with D-Air Lab, and emerged with airbags on the inside of the iconic tailoring. Elsewhere, Chiuri gave us cult accessories in the form of knee-high rain boots, graphic compression socks and kitten heels with embroidered ankle straps. Oh, and don't forget the trend for corsetry, which made its presence felt in laser-cut leather and denim.
Off-White's tribute to Virgil Abloh - the visionary and trailblazer - opened Paris Fashion Week. RiRi watched front row; Serena Williams walked; and Naomi Campbell, wearing a top hat and crystal collar necklace that spilled over her bare skin, wore an outfit that encapsulated the designer's breathtakingly original approach.