Paris Fashion Week Goes Dark at Givenchy, Elie Saab

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Givenchy Fall/Winter 2018

Brutalist Berlin inspired Claire Waight Keller's sophomore season.

The red carpet has already moved on from its Time's Up blackout, but there would have been plenty of strong choices in Givenchy and Elie Saab's dark and moody collections presented over the weekend at Paris Fashion Week.

We’re in an all-about-the-'80s moment, fashion’s most decadent decade, and Givenchy designer Claire Waight Keller, now in her sophomore season for the house, looked to brutalist Berlin for her inspiration. She came back with something dark, sensual and subversive.

The designer has clearly moved on from reigning as the boho queen of Chloe to carry on the darker torch of former Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci (who has since moved to Burberry in the latest round of designer chess). The house turned the halls of Paris’ massive Palace of Justice into a dark and broody maze, with models walking among dramatic curtains of black, slate and bruise blue as spotlights followed them down the runway.

Waight Keller looked to the rock 'n' roll, David Bowie "Heroes" aesthetic of Berlin at its most dangerous — and most creative — peak. Noomi Rapace was in on the vibe, too, as she sat front row with a new hot pink shaved 'do.

To the haunting notes of Stranger Things' opening credits, Waight Keller started with louche faux furs cinched with patent belts before moving into sharp-cut dresses that wouldn’t be out of place on the Stasi spy drama Deutschland 83. Yet she stayed just shy of the exaggeration of the era.

Pencil skirts and oversized animal print sweaters followed, with both men and women in shiny pleated trousers. Those might be a harder sell, especially in purple and teal and outside of the fashion set.

If Waight Keller set out to create a signature accessory early in her tenure (which she did so successfully at Chloe), she surely succeeded with the shoe shown here, a low-slung, zipped ankle bootie that was shown in various stages of done, undone and folded, and worn with pants and gowns. It's a chameleon shoe, changing with the occasion and the mood, much like the woman who wears it.  

Men’s looks were largely tailored, save one puffy white coat that was the lone salute to fashion’s current obsession with streetwear. The oversized equipment handled bags carried by men will surely cross over as well. 

A few dresses and gowns were shown toward the end of the collection: sharp-edged sequin columns before moving into fringe and cocktail confections with large bows and ruffles. Those may get red-carpet play from the bold and the brave, but the simpler looks will be snapped up more quickly.

Black was also back at Elie Saab, who turned from the sweetness and light of his Roaring '20s couture collection to the dark side. The red-carpet regular looked to Vincent Van Gogh’s watercolor florals for his signature embroidery, and while some gowns were sheer and there were touches of blues and burgundy, the collection was predominantly in black.

It reflected a bohemian spirit by way of buttoned-up Victoriana and Stevie Nicks with top hats and lace head wraps. It was a gothy, glamorous collection with balloon sleeves, ruffles and pussy bow neck ties, full of fringe and velvet. It was all rich fabrics, dramatic details and romantic layered looks.

The long sleeves, high collars and, yes, pussy bows, reflected a new modesty that feels slightly protective in the wake of #MeToo. Sparkly thigh-high boots contrasted high slits for a peekaboo effect — look but don’t touch — without revealing too much.

While the world is frenzied over athleisure (so much so that riot police nearly had to be called in to deal with the crush outside the Off-White show, held just hours after designer Virgil Abloh's sneaker drop), Saab provided an antidote to all the casual dressing, with his only nod being sequined T-shirts paired with ball skirts.