The world has some incredible fashion capitols with storied history behind them — think Milan, New York, London — and some of these cities are known just as much for their fashion as they are for their politics. But if there’s one city that truly puts the rest in their place, it’s Paris, the true fashion empire. Paris isn’t just known for its local designers — rather, it’s the hub of all things couture. It is the city that drips with sophistication and just teases all of its visitors with the luxuries of fashion. It’s no wonder that its fashion week is one of the most anticipated.
Paris Fashion Week attracts audiences from all across the world. Year after year, collection after collection, the week presents the season’s best and often launches new names within the fashion industry to unmatched heights of success. But Paris Fashion Week 2021, where all the designers’ fall collections dropped, looked incredibly different from years prior.
So how did Paris Fashion Week adapt to the limitations of the coronavirus pandemic? Were the new collections just as show-stopping as years past? Wonder no more, here are the best moments from Paris Fashion Week 2021.
The Louvre might be closed, but that didn't stop this designer from using the halls as a runway
The coronavirus pandemic put a lot of things on pause, and one of the limitations that’s still in place all over the world is the closure of museums. One such museum that’s still impacted is the Louvre, arguably one of the most important destinations for art in the world. So how did the museum, and Paris Fashion Week, adapt to the pandemic? Storied designer Louis Vuitton used the empty museum as a runway.
As noted by Harper’s Bazaar, Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière used the museum’s halls to present the newest collection, and it truly didn’t disappoint. He took inspiration from the Greek antiquities in the Louvre, and with it, took Louis Vuitton’s ready to wear fall 2021 collection to new heights. “Since we are all in a motionless situation, we have to double our imagination of inventing an extraordinary journey,” Ghesquière told Vogue. He said that being in lockdown “nurtured [his] decorative instincts,” and inspired a new approach to the fall collection. The show truly was one for the books.
Street fashion throughout Paris Fashion Week turned so many heads
Perhaps the most important part of Paris Fashion Week, aside from the coveted runway shows of course, is the street fashion that attendees wear while going to the week’s standout events. And while a lot of Paris Fashion Week 2021 was virtual, the editors, models, and locals truly brought their A-game with their outfits.
According to Vogue, off-duty models and figures of the week sported some of the trendiest looks, setting the stage for what most of us will be wearing this fall. Vogue reported that relaxed fitting jeans and combat-style boots were all the rage, in part because of the cold weather, but mostly because both items are very on-trend. The models that were brave enough to face the cold weather in mini skirts opted for “retro knits” that are very indicative of the ’70s, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, there were a lot of designer sneakers worn. It certainly seems like heels for everyday life has come to an end, at least for now, and we for one are not complaining. One more trend that the street fashion brought? Oversized leather jackets, so get yours now.
Don't think a Paris Fashion Week runway show can happen in snow? You're wrong
One major challenge for Paris Fashion Week 2021 was the coronavirus pandemic, but if anything, the absence of crowds inspired designers to break outside of traditional catwalk environments.
As noted by Harper’s Bazaar, Miu Miu took things to the next level and filmed their 2021 runway show in the Alps. Yes, the actual mountains. The Miu Miu models traveled to the mountain town of Cortina d’Ampezzo and walked on top of the snow and terrain as part of the show. Filmed and played at Paris Fashion Week (and available on Vogue’s website), the runway show was a visual spectacle that dazzled viewers. “I walk a lot in the mountains and when it’s bad weather, it’s difficult,” Miu Miu’s designer, Miuccia Prada, told Vogue. “Little by little, I realized what I was trying to say: Bravery. The dream to do something that’s important and difficult. The clothes are not romantic but the spirit is.”
This collection, and the setting of the runway show, was as amazing as it was original.
This designer's blend of masculine and feminine defied expectation at Paris Fashion Week
The line between what clothes are deemed masculine and feminine are truly starting to blur, and designer Jil Sander truly embraced that fact for Paris Fashion Week 2021. As noted by The Cut, Jil Sander worked with Lucie and Luke Meiers to create a collection that was as brilliant as it was simple.
The designs in the fall 2021 collection were very scaled back. Sanders, unlike other designers, didn’t try to make up for in-person runway shows with over the top designs. Instead, she opted for soft colors like rose and lavender to evoke the soft color palette of fall, and chose subtle detailing instead of outrageous patterns. To put it simply, Sanders — with the combination of silk and leather, lace and rigid blazers — redefined the lines of traditional masculinity and femininity; her collaborators, Lucie and Luke, spoke to Vogue about the process. “It’s a time of change for everybody,” Lucie explained. “To be able to achieve change you need to feel empowered to do so. The way you dress changes the way you feel about yourself.” Love to see it.
Chanel truly outdid itself with a '70s inspired runway show at Paris Fashion Week
If there’s one designer whose iconic branding makes it noticeable even to those who don’t consider themselves fashionistas, it’s Chanel. The iconic looks, the toast of sophistication, are easy to spot — and the designer label didn’t disappoint during 2021’s Paris Fashion Week.
As noted by Vogue, Chanel used the Grand Palais as their runway. The resulting show felt as grand as it was intimate, with the new designs being featured right up close to the camera. Additionally, the ambience not only focused on the detailing of the ’70s inspired designs, but also gave the viewer a chance to appreciate the artistry of the runway in its entirety. “I wanted to show in a small place, a club,” Chanel’s artistic director Virginie Viard, said. “I don’t like big rave venues; I prefer that kind of place that is more intimate. Karl was always telling me about the shows he staged in the ’70s with the girls getting dressed on their own in a restaurant in Paris,” she added, explaining the influence that Lagerfeld had on her process.
Dior embodied feminism during this groundbreaking Paris Fashion Week runway show
Dior took feminism and ran with it during Paris Fashion Week, and the results were truly inspired. According to Harper’s Bazaar, Dior’s designer Maria Grazia Chiuri took inspiration from her new book, Her Dior, and used the 2021 runway show to confront the relationship that women have with themselves, the mirror, and power. The show took place in the empty Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, but unlike the heavenly, golden aura that the hall often gives off, Dior took the location and created a dark, ominous, and confronting tone.
Chiuri worked with artist Silvia Giambrone to bring a vision to life; gone were the angels and cherubs of the Hall of Mirrors, replaced with thorns that provided “a commentary on patriarchy and female self-perception.” Giambrone also covered the mirrors in the hall with a wax coating in order to distort the models’ reflection, yet another nod to the theme of perception. “[Giambrone] sees the relationship we have with the mirror as an attraction, but at the same time, repulsion,” Chiuri told Vogue. This standout moment was truly something.
This designer took work-from-home to the next level with these Paris Fashion Week looks
We all resorted to sweatpants during the coronavirus pandemic. And while it’s hard to imagine workwear that emulates the comfort of the couch, that was a sentiment that Joseph Altuzarra became keenly aware of. He told Vogue that his fall 2021 collection was, “Comfort, but make it fashion,” and that’s a sentiment that we can really get behind. His runway show during Paris Fashion Week 2021 featured a number of loosely fitted suits, soft materials, and specific tailoring that all contributed to “loungeability,” all designed with the idea that clothes should be accustomed to the environment that we’re in, not the other way around.
Altuzarra also highlighted the fact that his fall collection will help people transition back into wearing formal clothing, a reality that so many of us are dreading. So not only are we huge fans of Altuzarra for this approach to clothing, but the designer label is getting a huge amount of uptick given the fact the Vice President Kamala Harris is a fan. Altuzarra told Women’s Wear Daily that online sales have been doing “really well” given the boost from the VP.
Givenchy left nothing behind during its runway show at Paris Fashion Week
If there was one designer during Paris Fashion Week 2021 that left nothing out of the designs, intention, and runway show, it was Givenchy. The label’s mastermind, Matthew M. Williams, designed the fall 2021 collection with the TikTok generation, Gen Z, in mind.
As noted by Vogue, Williams’ looks were based on the idea that Gen Z “mirror themselves in them,” and that the generation’s monopoly on self-reflection was enough to command a runway at Paris Fashion Week. “At the end of the day, it goes back to instinct and what I desire. I’m not so strategic. Hopefully the customer likes what I like,” Williams told Vogue.
However, as the storied fashion magazine pointed out, the collection seemed very intentional. The looks consisted of skate-inspired silhouettes, monochromatic ensembles, and pops of color. Vogue put it best: the entire collection is “Insta-worthy,” and given the money that can be made on apps like TikTok, don’t be surprised if some of your favorite young creators opt for a couple of Givenchy pieces.
Gigi Hadid had a standout moment during Paris Fashion Week 2021
Gigi Hadid has a jet-setting life that we all, admittedly, are a little jealous of. And to top it off, her partner is a former member of One Direction — she’s living the dream that so many of us had in middle school! So if we couldn’t be bigger fans of her already, well then it’s safe to say that Gigi blew us all away during Paris Fashion Week 2021.
According to People, Gigi opened and closed the Versace fall/winter 2021 runway show — which in and of itself is amazing — but she was just six months postpartum. Yep, you read that correctly. Gigi welcomed her daughter, Khai, with partner Zayn Malik on September 21, 2020, and by March of 2021, she was back on the runway looking drop dead gorgeous. Her Versace looks were just as iconic as she is, and the ensemble she wore to close out the show — a long-sleeved black gown with sheer paneling — was to die for. To make an iconic moment even better, Gigi’s sister, Bella Hadid, walked in the show too. Love to see it.
This designer evoked a sense of travel and wanderlust during Paris Fashion Week
We’re the first ones to say that not being able to travel amid the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic was rough. No long weekend road trips, no vacations to Cabo, no planes, no trains, nothing. It’s been difficult, and at times really isolating, and that’s exactly what designer label Balmain had in mind when curating the runway show at Paris Fashion Week 2021.
As noted by Harper’s Bazaar, the label used the largely empty airport runways of Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to create a visually stunning and very emotive show. Not only did the setting lend itself to that feeling of escapism that we all love, but the clothes themselves were very indicative of travel. From cozy sweaters that will be perfect to lounge around in to literal flight suits and pilot-inspired bomber jackets, Balmain knew that its collection would speak to people unlike ever before. “I don’t know where we’re going,” Olivier Rousteing, the genius behind the collection, told Vogue. “But I do know that we are going somewhere. The point is not the destination but the actual going — the journey, the leaving, and the escape.”
The '90s were all the rage at the Schiaparelli show at Paris Fashion Week
The ’90s were truly iconic. The fashion was bold and expressive, and while some modern designers have opted for stripped back designs, Schiaparelli hasn’t back down from standing out. According to Vogue, the label’s fall 2021 collection that debuted at Paris Fashion Week 2021 was daring.
The genius behind the looks, Daniel Roseberry, told the fashion magazine that while the influence of the label’s creator, Elsa Schiaparelli, was “loom[ing]” over, he went to new heights to pull the label into the mainstream. “I really like the freedom in which Schiap explored things,” Roseberry explained. “You know, while Chanel was making buttons made out of double C’s and it was very much an exercise in branding, Schiap’s buttons were peanuts and wrenches and hammers and birds and insects … People know they can go other places for more polite designs.”
It’s no wonder, then, that Roseberry’s designs for Schiaparelli are a hit with the likes of Lady Gaga (who wore one of his looks while performing at President Joe Biden’s inauguration). The sentiment behind the looks? “It’s about how can we own that thing for ourselves?” Roseberry added.
This designer used a film to accompany their Paris Fashion Week display
Paris Fashion Week 2021 looked different than previous years. To that end, many designers relied on videos to make up for the fact that in-person runway shows were limited, but in doing so, they created visual spectacles that were truly stunning.
Designer Thom Browne’s fall 2021 collection and runway show not only used a camera crew, but took things to the next level. The designer literally created a film incorporating his designs, and it was truly inspired. “If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it,” he told Vogue. “What’s the point otherwise?”
The film’s settings were largely centered around the snowy white of winter, and Browne was inspired by the activities that so many of us associate with the season: skiing and ice skating. So it comes as no surprise that Browne tapped Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn to appear in the film. Vonn stunned in a corseted gown adorned with a bow and suit detailing, the look serving as a genuine blurring of the genders. Browne told Vogue that “gender really doesn’t matter,” and if you’re going to do a bow, commit to the look.
Coperni used dozens of cars and an empty arena to create a spectacle at Paris Fashion Week
Perhaps the most standout moment of Paris Fashion Week 2021 was the Coperni runway show. Not only was it the closest thing to an in-person show, but the label took the runway to new heights. According to CNN, Coperni’s co-founders, Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, used cars to fill the spaces that would traditionally be occupied by rows of people. In doing so, the runway show became a sight to behold.
36 cars, holding 70 spectators, arrive at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris to create the scene. The cars’ headlights lit up the runway as the Coperni models showed off the fall 2021 looks. The massive arena, the piercing lights from the cars, the nighttime setting — every element came together and created a standout show. Vaillant told CNN that the idea came together as the label was working around the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic. The “car audience” was the “best way to do something [creative] while being safe at the same time,” he said, and the visual spectacle of the show truly did not disappoint.
This designer called upon Gwen Stefani to inspire at Paris Fashion Week
The restrictions that we’ve faced, even when it comes to seeing the people we love, have come with a steep emotional cost. That was something that Bruno Sialelli of Lanvin was accurately aware of, and as such, he used the Lanvin fall 2021 runway show to bring back the sense of friendship and frivolity. “It feels radical,” Sialelli told Vogue. “Going into a fabulous hotel and dressing up and having a party with friends was something so normal not long ago. Now, you feel challenged by it.”
The film that Lanvin put together for Paris Fashion Week depicted a group of young friends returning to the Shangri-La Hotel in Paris after a Lanvin-sponsored shopping spree. The film then follows the friends as they have a good old-fashioned dress-up session, all set to Gwen Stefani’s Rich Girl. “My understanding of fashion was very linked to singers and actors I had been watching,” Sialelli said. “Now, in my 30s, I’m fascinated with that period of my life, because whatever you’ve been fed as [a] kid will follow you for the rest of your life. This collection is very personal to me.”
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