In Paris, the catwalk makes way for merchandised fashion

The dawn of e-commerce sparked a novel way of buying fashion. Online stores weren’t concerned with merchandising, or how clothes looked hanging side by side on a rail. They could buy separates straight off the runway, without needing to invest in full looks. We all like to be visually stimulated when we scroll, but to be sure, on a website you don’t need to display more than three items in a row. This simultaneously fueled the era of must-haves, item-driven it-things, like double g logo belts, or the latest handbag craze.

In runway presentations designers have the opportunity to show their uncompromised vision to the world. It need not be driven by commercial constraints, these can limited to showrooms, where more expansive collections are shown, where fabric options, colour variety and storytelling come into play for buying retailers, bricks and mortar et al.

So it was to my surprise to see the Dior ready-to-wear collection feature such heavily merchandised styling on the runway. Patterns and fabrics repeating over and over in multiple looks. Cohesive yes, exciting, no. Was it to drive a point home? Not likely when the print is a check sans frisson. It began with Look 7, a cute capped-sleeve wool-checked dress with a front button closure. The fabric returned in the next look in a cape jacket and shorts, then again in a calf-length bias cut skirt. The purchasing department perhaps had lots of rolls at the design team’s disposal, because it also came in a micro mini, and returned again as a boxy jacket.

With so many look, patterns are bound to repeat

With an 85-look collection, there are bound to be fabrications repeated. But do we need to see them all, in a motley of guises? And what does that say about sustainability, commerciality and being a visionary on the runway? There were plenty of recurring motifs proposed by Dior for Fall 20, a subsequent check had just as many exits, which perhaps suggests Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri doesn’t feel a need to edit.

At Saint Laurent, there was a similar story of a one-note collection, although here it wasn’t via different guises, but the repetition of mostly one look: latex leggings worn with a chiffon blouse and blazer. The leggings, shown predominantly in black and then repeated in rich jewel tones like purple, fuchsia, emerald and candy-apple red, featured in 29 looks. The jackets, in various iterations, came in a velvet-collared tartan option, but also in double-breasted cashmere, houndstooth and fine wools. It also featured in a tuxedo style, in ochre, two-tone and in a dreamy Yves Klein blue. All impeccably tailored. All worn with the same glossy leggings.

Anthony Vaccarello, YSL’s creative director, did drive the point home, unlike at Dior. He cemented a silhouette, albeit a singular vision, capturing a mood which is at the same time new and true to the brand.

Image: Dior AW20

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