At Paris Fashion Week, Stella McCartney is 'Woke,' Giambattista Valli Responds to the Right

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Stella McCartney

Politics in the form of pretty dresses.

Paris woke up to the Oscar news, winners, speeches, gowns and snubs, having missed the awards due to the time difference (and some plain indifference). Reaction to the winners was mixed, with one editor musing that “it seemed like they voted for who they thought they should vote for,” while front-row fashion favorites Greta Gerwig and Timothee Chalamet had been overlooked.

No one seemed to be buzzing about the red carpet though, even designer Giambattista Valli, who dressed Zendaya in an asymmetrical chocolate chiffon confection. Instead, the designer said he woke up to the results of Sunday’s election in Italy.

“I was kind of upset. It’s been 20 years that I’ve lived in Paris but I don’t believe that Italians are like this,” he told Pret-a-Reporter of the parliamentary victories of populist, anti-immigrant and anti-EU parties in his native country. He said he is “shocked” about the worldwide lurch to the right and designed this collection as a response.

Last season was devoted to the Paris protests of 1968, and here he turned his eye to the spiritual seekers of the 1970s who journeyed to Marrakech or Madras in search of new ideas. “It’s really sort of a clash of cultures, a much more spiritual collection about sharing and being open and having a big landscape of the mind.”

He showed lots of high-necked, long-sleeved flowing dresses – which we’ve seen all over the runways this season – in shimmering floral patterns. Striped and plaid trousers as well as clashing colors of orange and green or pink and brown, as well as a tougher denim jumpsuit look. Many of the styles were shown with flats, which he said was meant to give a sense of ease.

If Hollywood showed its values Sunday night, Stella McCartney put hers on display Monday morning. Ethical fashion was the order of the day. Compostable invitations arrived last week along with a pair of socks made from up-cycled materials.

McCartney has never wavered from her vegetarian vision, foregoing any fur or leather and using sustainable and nontoxic materials. She’s even devoted the front page of her website to interviews with eco-warriors such as Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson to promote causes close to her heart.

But at the moment, McCartney is in negotiations to buy back 50 percent of her company from Kering. The luxury giant also owns Gucci, whose more-is-more-is-more aesthetic has been raking in the cash for the conglomerate while sales of McCartney’s more restrained vision are said to be flat.

It would be a shame for Kering to let the brand go at a time when more and more consumers are becoming conscious of the environmental issues that she has long championed.

McCartney showed a collection that was a balanced blend of street and sweet femininity, alternating between suits and delicate dresses. Lace corsets were undone in the back, a chunky gray sweater slit open to reveal a sheer lace skirt and long trousers had zip-away panels. Her new menswear was also strong, a blend of tweeds and track pants.

Lizzo’s lyrics pumped through the gilded halls of the Palais Garnier “Where the hell my phone?” and “What these Louboutins for?” she seemed to be commenting on our consumer culture. And if we weren’t sure, the closing song was the line from Tiga’s “Woke” on repeat: “On the beach at night alone I threw my telephone into the sea.” That cue may have been missed by the audience, who were busy posting to Instagram.