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Paris Fashion Week failed to meet the creative challenge of Covid-19 Quartz

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There is an old debate about whether fashion is art or design. Both can be concerned with beauty, but design has to work to be successful as well. A painting cannot serve any other earthly purpose than to reflect, provoke or inspire. A chair can be beautiful, but if you can’t sit in it, it’s not a very good chair.

The clothes are taken in the middle. Blue jeans sourced from sustainable workwear for minors, but a good deal of catwalk fashion does only the strictest job of preventing the wearer from going nudist and sometimes not even. For some designers, the lack of practical requirements allowed them to dream and approach pure art. Sometimes, however, fashion is the most relevant when it doesn’t forget that it’s there to be worn in real life. Now feels like such a moment.

Covid-19 has changed the lives of many designers, practically demanding, use all their creativity for clothing adapted to the modified lifestyles of their customers. So far, the industry has not offered much response.

Last week marked Paris Fashion Week’s first for women’s collections designed during the pandemic, and the overall impression was lackluster. People find out in group chats and Twitter feeds that digital shows are not as good as the real thing and the real thing is not as good as it used to be, Vogue noted in its Spring Trends Report. It turned out that instead of trying to come up with a way forward for fashion, the designers may have added a bit of stretch or volume to make the clothes more comfortable, perhaps thrown into a sweatshirt. fancy shirt, and otherwise continued as usual.

One of the dominant themes was the large sculpted shoulders. Chanel, designed by Virginie Viard since Karl Lagerfeld’s death last year, has showcased a number of off-the-shoulder jackets, little curly 1980s Mom bombers, as the New York Times fashion critic Put the. New creative chief Matthew Williams’ first outing at Givenchy featured what looked like dramatically geometric capelets. At Balmain, Olivier Rousteing proposed a palette of climbing pagoda shoulders. Rick Owens pulled out tops that looked like they were built on the reworked shoulders of sports gear.

In a case like Owenss, the collection could be strikingly both sinister and alluring. Yet over the seasons, it was often difficult to see how the clothes might be worn next year. Buyers stay at home, reduce their trips and have few opportunities to get dressed. Maybe the clothes will look great in store windows or in the occasional Instagram image. It left fashion irrelevant for life beyond a Zoom call.

To be fair, the pandemic has had a psychological impact that can naturally undermine creative energy, and there could be a variety of reasons for the response. The designers may have started sketching out their ideas at the start of the epidemic in Europe, before it was clear what life would look like several months later. They may have hoped that by the time the clothes hit the market months from now, Covid-19 will mostly be in the past, although experts think it’s unlikely.

Many also use the catwalks to make creative statements, not necessarily to showcase their wearable clothes, like Owens recognized. Maybe in-store shoppers will always find them in the virtual showrooms where they manufacture their purchasing decisions. In large luxury companies in particular, clothing can be compared to a marketing exercise deployed to define the brand image and juice sales of high-margin items such as bags and perfumes.

And then one of the great attributes of fashion is that it can provide an escape into the fantasy. Christian Dior made a name for himself in 1947 with an opulent, ultra-feminized silhouette that offered a new perspective after the tough years and rationing of WWII.

The question is whether now is the time for fantasy. It’s not just a fashion job, and practical considerations don’t have to equal creative constraints. One of Coco Chanels’ innovations was using the jersey, a fabric that was more commonly found in men’s underwear at the time, to give it a sporty and functional look.

Reuters / Benoit Tessier

Chiuris softer Dior.

A handful of designers have clearly made rethink their work and how it might serve customers in the current situation. Maria Grazia Chiuri, the current chief designer at Dior, has taken highly structured Diors clothes and softened everything. We had to approach this collection with a more design idea, it told Vogue. We live in a different way and remain more comfortable in our privacy. Our clothes must reflect this new lifestyle.

Not all buyers may like the result, but they should like her to think about how to design for their needs.

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