Recap Paris Fashion Week Spring Summer 2024, or what luxury brands didn’t want you to see. Chronicle by Eleonora de Gray, Editor-in-Chief of RUNWAY MAGAZINE. Photo Courtesy: BFMTV / GettyImages / Dior / Balmain / Balenciaga / Valentino / Saint Laurent / Undercover / Ginevra Fatarella.
Introduction to Paris Fashion Week 2023 Spring Summer 2024 season
Paris Fashion Week unfolded like no other, and for someone like me, who has been attending the shows in Paris, Milan and New York for more than two decades, the changes were undeniable. Over the years, generations of the designers have come and gone, fashion brands have shifted their marketing strategies, and trends have cycled in and out.
This year, however, I felt like being squeezed into a small, detached community. The fashion world now seems secluded, detached from real life, and obsessed with superficiality. Fashion, once the vanguard of personal expression and innovation, now finds itself confined to a minuscule bubble. This bubble, removed from the concerns of everyday life, exists in a realm of superficiality that seems to have severed its connection with the real world and its people.
Personal style has veered into a circus of excess and vulgarity. The exuberant displays of personal style have transformed into a mere clowning, leaving behind the subtle artistry that once defined this industry. Brands, once revered and coveted, now pass by unnoticed, as the collective interest in them wanes to a whisper.
In this age of pressing concerns like climate change and environmental degradation, the fashion industry’s blatant ignorance is hard to understand. The presence of unknown “celebrities” at the shows only underscores the industry’s disconnect from reality, and is no longer amusing.
In these moments, I couldn’t help but ponder the roots of it all, trying to understand where we now stand. Paris Fashion Week 2023 left me feeling like a stranger in a once-familiar land. It’s time for the industry to rediscover its essence, reconnect with reality, and embrace the urgency of our times. It’s time to reflect on where we came from and where we’re heading. All these concerns raise the questions about the roots of fashion industry in 21st century, the principles on which it was founded, and the precipice upon which it should go.
As I reflect on this disconcerting transformation, I can’t help but wonder what happened with this industry and why it became so hopelessly degenerated. The Paris Fashion Week of yesteryears, characterized by its elegance and creative brilliance, seems like a distant memory. In its place, we now find ourselves in a world that often seems more akin to a circus than a celebration of style and substance.
History of fashion industry
From the dawn of human culture, our fascination with personal appearance has been evident. Clothing and jewelry, intricately designed, have long served as forms of self-expression and decoration. This concept of fashion has been intertwined with culture itself since its inception, reflecting the essence of human identity in its surroundings. The consciousness of our appearance has remained a central facet of our existence.
As societies progressed, and when we started to stample silver and gold coins to pay for the goods and services it became a turning point of our culture. This transition led to the stratification of human society into different castes. Fashion became a distinguishing attribute, a visual marker of one’s status. The more coins one possessed, the greater the ability to acquire exquisite artwork, to adorn oneself, and to distance oneself from the lower castes.
Time marched on, and the 18th and 19th centuries witnessed the rise of industrialization. Fabric and precious material production became industrial endeavors. However, the essence of how we approached fashion and designers remained unaltered. Tailors / designers continued to extend invitations to their distinguished clientele, inviting them into their showrooms to bring their self-image to life. Here, amidst the creative process, outstanding and unique garments were born, embodying the individuality and aspirations of those who wore them. This connection between fashion, artistry, and personal expression has transcended the ages, remaining a timeless facet of our culture.
First fashion show and First Fashion Week
The evolution of fashion took a significant leap forward with the pioneering efforts of Charles Frederick Worth, an English fashion designer who established the House of Worth in Paris in 1858. Worth’s visionary approach transformed the fashion landscape, earning him the moniker of the “father of haute couture.” He introduced the concept of seasons and orchestrated the very first fashion shows.
This momentous shift marked the birth of the fashion industry as we know it today.
In the early 20th century, illustrious designers such as Jean Patou, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, Cristóbal Balenciaga, and many others graced the fashion scene. They were the creative minds behind stunning fashion innovations, masterpieces of artistry tailored for royal families, aristocrats, and the affluent bourgeoisie. This era witnessed the pinnacle of haute couture, where each garment was a testament to the craftsmanship and luxury that defined the industry.
Another pivotal moment emerged with the inception of the fashion week concept in Paris. Marketers recognized the power of showcasing couture items in public spaces, from racetracks to beauty salons, by hiring women to wear these creations. It was in Paris, that the industry’s first organized fashion week took root. In October 1973, Paris Fashion Week emerged as a groundbreaking event, organized by the Fédération Française de la Couture. It brought together Haute Couture, Ready-to-Wear, and Men’s Fashion into one cohesive showcase, setting the stage for the global phenomenon that fashion weeks have become.
These pivotal moments, from Worth’s innovations to the birth of Paris Fashion Week, have propelled fashion from a craft to a thriving artistic industry, forever shaping the way we perceive, consume, and celebrate style.
From Art to Extravaganza: Andy Warhol’s Fashion Revolution
In the 1970s, a remarkable intersection of art and fashion gave rise to what we now recognize as the “fashion extravaganza.” During this era, fashion transcended its conventional role as a mere commercial endeavor and blossomed into a dynamic realm of creativity and self-expression. It became an art form, driven not solely by profit but primarily by the boundless exploration of artistic possibilities. This transformative period marked a departure from traditional notions of fashion and instead embraced a new venture centered on the unbridled artistic spirit and the quest for self-expression.
In the 1970s, a prominent figure emerged who would forever shape the fashion landscape: Andy Warhol. As the pioneering pop art icon, Warhol began his career as a fashion illustrator, leaving an indelible mark on esteemed publications like Glamor, Mademoiselle, and Vogue. Yet, Warhol’s influence extended far beyond the realm of illustration; he was a trailblazer who seamlessly blended art and fashion.
Warhol’s legacy was defined by his innovative approach of transforming his artwork into tangible fashion pieces. Through his avant-garde art fashion shows, held at The Factory in New York, he introduced a fresh chapter in fashion history. These events unveiled extravagant and artistically crafted fashion creations, effectively blending the gap between the worlds of art and fashion, and blurring the boundaries.
Warhol’s innovation ushered in a new era of fashion, one that intertwined extravaganza with the expression of personal style through artistic designs. Fashion became a potent instrument for conveying feelings about the world, an artistic canvas to express one’s personality. It marked a shift, not just in attire but in the very way individuals communicated their views on culture, society, and the world’s challenges.
From that point on, the streets weren’t solely graced by elegantly dressed individuals; artistically adorned people emerged, prioritizing art over elegance. Their clothing choices became a medium for expressing their perspectives on society, ecology, and social issues, seamlessly integrated into their personal style.
This movement wasn’t ridiculous or detached; quite the opposite—it was a means to articulate a unique point of view on culture and society. The “fashion extravaganza” had arrived, and with it, a new way to convey deeper messages through the language of style.
I wouldn’t say that every extravagantly dressed individual was a great intellectual. However, it was undeniable that each one of them had a profound understanding of the meaning behind every art piece they wore. Their choice to wear extravagant garments was not for the sake of being noticed like a clown but had a specific purpose – to express their opinions. Each garment they wore was a deliberate expression, a statement, a meaning.
From Artistry to Profit: The Transformation of Fashion into a Luxury Money-Making Machine 1980-2010
Between the 1980s and the early 2000s, the fashion world witnessed a remarkable era marked by the great genius of designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Thierry Mugler, Franco Moschino, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, and many others. Yet, beneath the surface of this extraordinary fashion scene, a profound shift was taking place—an evolution from creativity and artistry to a relentless pursuit of profit, turning fashion into a veritable money-making machine.
Two influential businessmen, Bernard Arnault (LVMH) and François Pinault (Kering), played pivotal roles in reshaping the fashion landscape during this period. They redefined the very essence of “luxury” by infusing substantial capital into the industry. In doing so, they empowered designers but also significantly inflated garment prices in the pursuit of brand prestige. This transformation gave birth to the concept of the “luxury brand.” Their approach, however, prioritized profit over creativity, a shift that carried with it dramatic consequences.
Behind the glamorous façade of fashion, we witnessed Thierry Mugler’s retreat from the scene, Alexander McQueen’s tragic suicide, and John Galliano’s battle with drug addiction, leaving Dior in turmoil. The industry’s backdrop became increasingly unforgiving.
The pivotal moment arrived between 2000 and 2010 when creativity took a backseat to production, marked by a relentless cycle of garments across four seasons. The emphasis shifted towards aggressive marketing strategies aimed at encouraging excessive consumption of luxury products.
In this new paradigm, “luxury” came to encompass not only exclusivity but also the use of exceptionally rare materials, including rare animal skins and precious stones. The fashion landscape had undergone a significant transformation, where the pursuit of creativity and artistic expression was overshadowed by an unyielding pursuit of profit and the commercialization of luxury.
During that era, the public’s fascination with fashion and fashion designers remained fervent, with a deep appreciation for artistry and creativity. Marketers didn’t yet need to employ tactics to entice the public to purchase these designs. Experts and media focused on offering insightful opinions about designs and garments, rather than simply generating buzz.
Luxury Brands and Changing Marketing Strategies 2010-2020
Between 2010 and 2023, the fashion industry underwent a significant transformation, reshaping the traditional dynamics of the fashion business. During this period, luxury brands made a strategic decision to take control of their narratives, eliminating the need for external experts or fashion editors. They prefer to offer their opinion about themselves to the public without interference from “outside”. As these expert opinions might not be convenient. They chose to communicate directly with the public.
And that’s how places of the experts took influencers. Luxury brands increasingly leaned towards self-centered bloggers and influencers who often seemed to prioritize superficial praise. Self-centered luxury brands gave preference to self-centered influencers, who are only able to say “WOW” about the collection and take selfies at the venue with a note “I was invited, WOW”.
The evolution continued as luxury brand marketers ventured into creating communities within social media networks. These communities strictly adhered to the prescribed marketing strategy, suppressing any form of critical reflection. They started to ban everything and everybody who don’t blindly follow proposed marketing strategy, or offer their opinion, the reflection on the proposed luxury products. Marketers don’t want to have a reflection, it slows down the buying process.
The core tenet of this marketing strategy boils down to this: “Don’t reflect, just buy. Don’t think about ecology, just buy, even if it’s made with exotic animal skin, it’s rare, it’s luxury, don’t think about how this rare animal was skinned, just buy, it’s luxury, don’t think if it’s bad copy of another luxury brand, just buy, it carries the label of our brand.”
These self-centered marketing strategies, coupled with an apparent disregard for responsible consumption, led to a waning interest from the public. Consumers began to disengage as luxury brands seemed detached from pressing issues like economic crises, food shortages, environmental challenges, global warming, and societal concerns. People, far from being passive consumers, sought more substantial engagement.
Luxury brands, in their pursuit of self-centered marketing strategies, inadvertently alienated the public. People desired respect and engagement from these brands, not just one-sided communication. The growing divide became apparent in the discrepancy between the millions of “followers” luxury brands amassed on social media and the limited comments, primarily consisting of surface-level praise.
Occasionally, a luxury brands managed to create a fleeting trend with a single product (Dior book-tote, for example), only for it to lose relevance one year after.
In essence, luxury brands found themselves in a declining bubble, gradually losing touch with the public’s evolving interests as fashion weeks came and went without being noticed.
Paris Fashion Week 2023 – Spring Summer 2024 season
While Milan fashion week, as always, is a great place of elegance and grace, this Paris fashion week left a very bad taste. Badly or weirdly dressed, rudely behaved people were ramping on the streets before the entrance to the shows, checking with their teeth huge fake “golden” necklaces, shaking some parts of their bodies, screaming, disfiguring luxury salons of the hotels with color spray bombs – that’s what Paris Fashion Week today looks like. So much for elegance and grace. Does this portrayal strike you as appealing?
Alive butterflies dying in the skirts of Undercover
One might argue that this approach aims to capture the attention of the younger generation, Generation Z. This emerging generation is actively seeking their role in the world and is deeply invested in various social and ecological issues. However, one cannot help but question whether the placement of hundreds of live butterflies within bubble-skirts is an effective means of conveying a message about the need to protect the environment. But what about these alive butterflies dying in the skirts? Brand Undercover showcased this unconventional concept as part of their Spring Summer 2024 collection.
Acquisition by LVMH Spanish factory specializing in the skinning and treatment of exotic animals
What about Bernard Arnault’s recent acquisition through LVMH, involving a Spanish factory specializing in the skinning and treatment of exotic animals to produce luxury bags? Interestingly, Pharrell Williams, the newly appointed artistic director of LVMH menswear, displayed a keen interest in this venture. He has a particular fondness for luxury bags from crocodile and python skins, along with a penchant for fur from exotic animals. In July, he unveiled and auctioned several crocodile bags and fur coats, each fetching a staggering million-dollar price tag. This extravagant move occurred shortly after President Joe Biden reached out to him, reminding him that he is American, and the ethical treatment of animals upheld in the United States. Yet, Pharrell Williams thinks that he is no longer American, he is LVMHian, and therefore seemingly immune to both official and unofficial correspondence from animal rights organizations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which is funded by President Joe Biden himself.
A member of PETA, clad in imitation python skin and faux blood, attempted to draw the public’s attention outside the Louis Vuitton store on Champs-Élysées in a bid to raise awareness. However, the protestor was promptly and unceremoniously removed by the police. This expulsion occurred shortly after the protestor attempted to engage passing by people urging them to consider boycotting Louis Vuitton due to concerns about the brand’s treatment of exotic animals.
Someone told us that we have the right to express an opinion, that we live in democracy? However, it appears that Louis Vuitton’s domain might not be as receptive to such expressions of dissent.
Pharrell Williams October 15 – interview to Business Of Fashion. He talked about his vision about fashion and the future of Louis Vuitton. Pharrell wears a bomber out of crocodile skin, son of… pharaoh.
Bright future indeed.
Peta protester at Hermes show
During this fashion week, PETA advocates took part in protests at various shows. One particularly dramatic moment unfolded at the Hermes show when a PETA supporter emerged from the audience and walked onto the runway, holding a sign that called for an end to the use of exotic animals in the production of luxury Hermes products. The sheer audacity of this act left a lasting impression on the audience.
Unknown “celebrities” at the Paris Fashion shows
From the dramatic to the utterly absurd. Whenever we receive official images from a luxury brand, I invariably examine the roster of celebrities invited to the show. It’s a rare occasion indeed if I manage to recognize one or two individuals out of the fifty “celebrities” in attendance. It begs the question: Who exactly are these people? What are they famous for? And why did the luxury brand go to the trouble of covering their hotel expenses and meticulously styling them to embody the essence of the new collection, when their identities remain largely unknown to the public?
I inquired about this matter with a public relations officer who shed light on the subject. According to her, most of these special guests typically comprise actors, singers, or influencers. Their presence is believed to bestow significant value upon the brand, as their followers may reproduce their style choices and subsequently make purchases. And their presence gives enormous value to the brand, as people who follow them will see their look and also buy it. Do they really? It takes so much more than that!
Therefore, by the reasoning of a public relations officer, if an actor from a unknown Netflix series, viewed by, let’s say, 100,000 people, were to be invited to a fashion show, it’s presumed that this would result in a gain of 100,000 new followers for the luxury brand and, potentially, additional customers.
Well, I have to disagree, as I believe it doesn’t align with reality. Furthermore, I’d also have to add here that this actor, or singer, or whatever doesn’t post anything on his instagram—the primary gauge of fame for public relations officers. And there’s very tiny chance that someone on the planet earth would google this person and his whereabouts during fashion week in Paris. So we ended up watching countless unknown people sitting in front rows and dressed conspicuously, yet garnering minimal attention. No one took photos of them except the official photographer of a luxury brand.
Charlotte Casiraghi for Chanel and deadly fear to be BORED
During this fashion week I had a chance to see the interview of Charlotte Casiraghi, a prominent figure in Chanel’s marketing campaigns. She recites the poems at Chanel podcasts, to the clients and so on. She is a model, socialite, writer, editor, equestrian, journalist, film producer, and humanitarian. She is the second child of Caroline, Princess of Hanover, and Stefano Casiraghi. She is eleventh in line to the throne of Monaco. In short she calls herself Princess of Monaco, and she represents Chanel. During the interview, the conversation once again delved into ecological crises, social concerns, and fears about the future. At a certain point, a journalist posed a question about her personal fears. In response, she shared a unique concern that struck a chord with her: “Today, there is a fear that worries me more then anything else, it is the fear of emptiness, the fear of BOREDOM.” This statement reached a wide audience, as it was broadcast to several million viewers in France. Several media noticed detached face of Chanel. How do you think it works for the reputation of this luxury house?
A Deluge of K-Pop at Paris Fashion Week
This time around, we witnessed an unprecedented influx of K-Pop boys and girls among the invited guests. This new wave of VIP attendees seemed to have replaced the influencers. K-Pop, short for Korean Pop, brought an endearing element to the scene. However, it was apparent that many of them neither spoke French nor English, leaving little room for meaningful interaction. Their primary focus appeared to be showcasing themselves in their cute outfits rather than paying attention to the presented collections or the shows. And it gathered lots of very young people at the entrance to each show who were curious to see them.
Even in front of the Pierre Cardin show, I was taken aback by the enormous number of young people gathered. To my surprise, when I asked about their presence, many among them were unfamiliar with the legacy of Pierre Cardin. Their primary motive for being in front of the entrance for the show was to catch a glimpse of K-pop figures who might make an appearance. The same scene I noticed before every show, with a multitude of enthusiastic, young attendees cheering not for the designer, but in anticipation of a potential K-pop performer.
This strategy serves as a means to garner “free” clackers, benefiting the official video recordings. However, in terms of what it contributes to Paris Fashion Week or the designers themselves, the answer appears to be “NOTHING.”
“Free” clackers for Balmain or algorithm recognition for Dolce & Gabbana
Many designers took plenty of videos of these young “free” clackers, like Olivier Rousteing from Balmain, for example. After his massive fiasco in the United States and budget cuts, he opted for a public spectacle. Just two weeks prior to his show, he made headlines by claiming to the media that his entire collection had been stolen at the airport, a statement that, of course, raised eyebrows among journalists and the public. It is probably true as all pieces of Balmain designed and produced in China. But we never had a follow-up about what actually happened , and if the “thieves” were finally caught.
Olivier Rousteing is known in the professional world for reproducing the pieces of Chanel, Thierry Mugler, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Moschino etc. During the fashion week, he unveiled a collection comprising approximately 60 pieces, which looked almost exactly like pieces of Dolce & Gabbana from Devotion collections.
Olivier Rousteing might have forgotten that Instagram has a feature that checks and tags products, even providing store information. Every image we posted on our Instagram recognized by Instagram algorithm as Dolce & Gabbana providing the addresses of the stores where to buy. This raises a straightforward question: How can Rousteing still be the creative director of this fashion house?
Balenciaga and Merlyn Menson rhapsody
Balenciaga’s Spring Summer 2024 collection, under the direction of Demna Gvasalia, has taken a deeper plunge into a realm of what can only be described as sheer absurdity and provocation. The notion of a “concept” in this context appears to be a thinly veiled excuse for what can only be termed as a deformation of fashion and a descent into perversity. Balenciaga’s Spring Summer 2024 collection seems to revel in controversy for the sake of it, with a mishmash of influences and choices that defy comprehension. It’s a collection that raises serious questions about the direction of the fashion industry and its responsibility to promote positive and meaningful cultural discourse.
The Spring Summer 2024 collection by Balenciaga seems to be another departure from conventional fashion. It appears to embrace elements of subversion, incorporating different influences and unconventional choices. Fashion is often a reflection of cultural and societal shifts, and designers like Demna Gvasalia are known for their ability to provoke the controversy.
Balenciaga’s Spring Summer 2024 collection, under the direction of Demna Gvasalia, has taken a deeper plunge into a realm of what can only be described as sheer absurdity and provocation. The notion of a “concept” in this context appears to be a thinly veiled excuse for what can only be termed as a deformation of fashion and a descent into perversity.
What truly boggles the mind is the decision to enlist known critics and journalists to strut down the runway. Cathy Horyn, a respected fashion critic and journalist from The New York Times, Diane Pernet, American blogger known for her Spanish black aesthetic, and even Demna Gvasalia’s own mother were among the unexpected “models.” The inclusion of Amanda Lepore, a performance artist, and Loïk Gomez, husband of Demna, known as BFRND, a techno-symphonic music artist, adds a layer of bewildering randomness to this spectacle.
And then there’s the unsettling choice to close the show with a Balenciaga bride, who looked like a “new bride” for Marilyn Manson. Manson, whose actions have inspired murders in the United States, should not be glamorized in any fashion context.
One might still think that this is all “an artistic expression”. But the result is here and as simple as that: thousands pieces of Balenciaga have been marinating at the stores like Saks, Bloomingdale’s for the last couple of years. No one wants to buy them.
I make this “special addition” on November 11, simply to show the point. Saks Fifth Avenue recently sent to all their clients a newsletter about Balenciaga 834 pieces on massive sales 30-70% off. I could spot pieces shown in May 2022 from the Balenciaga x Adidas collection and so on. Saks like many other department stores don’t know how to get rid of this massive “unwanted” Balenciaga stock of clothing.
And that’s the reality of it all. But apparently Balenciaga and parent company Kering are trying to hide these results.
Dior Spring Summer 2024 Ready-to-Wear “Sorcery and Monsters, or Modern-day witches enchant”
Dior’s Spring Summer 2024 collection, “Sorcery and Monsters, or Modern-day witches enchant,” is a bewildering departure from the brand’s typically elegant and sophisticated aesthetic. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s vision of witches turning into monsters is, unfortunately, executed in a manner that lacks taste and refinement. The feminist messages plastered on the walls, while important, feel out of place and forced, attempting to compensate for the lack of coherence in the designs. The statement, “Fuchsia with yellow is not a marshmallow; it’s my way to highlight what is wrong and what is right,” feels more like a desperate attempt to salvage a collection that falls short of expectations. The color palette of ash, chamomile, and love potions only serves to make the collection appear even more grim and unappealing. The transformation of Dior’s iconic Mille-fleurs pattern into a dark motif lacks the sophistication that one would expect from the brand.
Where it’s dark there’s always a light at the end of the Paris Fashion Week
I want to end this little philosophical / historical chronicle on a positive note. Several collections presented this fashion week captured all my attention, and blew my mind. Noteworthy among them were the collections by Valentino, Saint Laurent, Elie Saab, Schiaparelli, Givenchy, and Anrealage.
Collection of Valentino for Spring Summer 2024 is a masterpiece that combines elegance, youthfulness, and a profound message of empowerment. One of the standout features of this collection is the presentation of nakedness as a natural state rather than a means of provocation. This approach challenges conventional notions of fashion and the female form. Fabric is sculpted into seamless three-dimensional forms using the innovative technique known as Altorilievo (High Relief). These naturalistic forms, inspired by Baroque motifs, frame the naked body, blurring the lines between clothing and the body itself.
Valentino is an Italian fashion house, and Pierpaolo Piccioli is an Italian fashion designer. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assert that Milan has become the contemporary world fashion capital. It’s the place to visit if one seeks elegance, grace, and the most remarkable artistry in fashion.