Inside Paris Fashion Week: Wild, Inventive—and Always Shocking

RIS—Forget Cabaret. If there’s a dominant trend in Paris, it’s how extravagant and theatrical Fashion Week has become. The Spring ready-to-wear shows, which wrapped up on Tuesday—as the country mourned the loss of its former leader Jacques Chirac—proved the point.

Think a skateboard-meets-dance inspired performance from the Japanese tech whiz Issey Miyake. The Paris regular dressed models live on the runway. Clothing descended from metal contraptions hanging in the rafters, decking the models in bouncy dresses that showed off Miyake’s technical artistry.

The designs folded flat but sprung into life on the body. Then there were the deformed Marie-Antoinette style creatures who wheeled prams through the historic interiors of the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts for the freakish Thom Browne show.

Meanwhile, India’s fashion giant, Manish Arora, showed off a fashion-week installation that included sassy drag queens wearing make-up richer than his customary, psychedelic Indian embroidery; hippie boy performers with loud tattoos, singing soppy songs; and a perky hostess with green hair and matching pointy glasses.

And who could forget the edgy Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia’s finale for Balenciaga with its shimmering, oversized, golden ball gowns fit for Versailles? Yes, some of this season’s ready-to-wear looked more like couture.

In some cases, the shows eclipsed the designs—as when prankster Vitalii Sediuk latched on to Justin Timberlake s ankle, and when comedian Marie S Infiltre real name Marie Benoliel stormed the runway at Chanel, only to be marched off the runway by Gigi Hadid.

But, even beyond the entertaining nature of the shows, Paris debuted some wild and weird clothing creations, proving it is still the fashion capital of the world. Some of our favorites:

Manish Arora

We’ve heard of buying shoes to match your outfit, but how about matching make-up and hair plume? Consider this colorfully embellished, full-length cream dress, decked in unicorns and stars, worn with matching face paint.

Demna Gvasalia

The edgy streetwear designer, who joined Balenciaga as Artistic Director in , sent a series of outlandish ball gowns down the runway—some worn by male models—that were gigantic, loud, and bold. They were the finale to a collection inspired by workers, which included both suits cut in varying proportions, and shimmering, skin-tight bodysuits featuring tiger stripes.

Issey Miyake

The veteran Japanese designer knows a thing or two about applying technology to fashion to create mesmerizing pieces that double as design objects. This season, he also created one of the most memorable shows at an edgy performing arts center where local performers go to practice. Miyake’s models danced and skate-boarded their way through the venue, celebrating the joy of spring in bright, bouncy pieces.

Thom Browne

Who could forget the platform Beetle shoes this season, worn with pastel suits that looked like they had been etched upon the body? Or the weird and wonderful deconstructed crinoline designs, matched with school-boy ties and skeleton-like bodices, and paired with lavish hair-do’s worn under net veils, to create one-off pieces for Spring at Thom Browne?

Dries Van Noten

What would Patsy and Eddy, the rebel stars of the hit British sit-com Absolutely Fabulous, have made of this season’s surprise collaboration between Belgian Design sophisticate Dries Van Noten and the flamboyant Christian Lacroix? Think bold Dries prints and OTT Lacroix skirts and big accessories.

Maison Margiela

The house that bears the name of Belgium’s weirdest living designer, Martin Margiela he’s been a recluse since , is these days designed by infamous Dior expat John Galliano, who dedicated this season to the ordinary men and women who worked to fight the Nazi occupation of France.

Louis Vuitton

Presenting eccentric designs that were beautiful but not too crazy was how Louis Vuitton closed the week with the last show of the season on Tuesday. Think an elegant checked blouse worn under a busy metallic tank-top etched in zigzags, and demure black trousers.

Rahul Mishra

India’s rising star showed just what you can do when you harness the craftsmanship of the people of the small villages of India, and match that with his eye for international design. You can’t get more beautiful than this with embroidery and fluffy, hand-sewn layered cuts.

Vivienne Westwood

If you want eccentric, you can’t go wrong with the grande dame of Punk and New Wave fashion, Vivienne Westwood, whose house is designed these days by husband Andreas Kronthaler. 

Comme des Garçons

There isn’t anybody like the Japanese design genius Rei Kawakubo when it comes to creating art-like fashion. She doesn’t often say much. But consider this season’s examination of a boy who becomes a woman. This operatic collection—inspired by Kawakubo’s collaboration with Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth for an adaptation of Virginia Woolf s novel Orlando, to premiere in December in Vienna—featured rich materials, odd puffy shapes, deconstructed designs from yesteryear, and red dreadlocks that poured like blood over the costumes.

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