For over a year and a half, the global fashion industry — and haute couture in particular — has struggled without live fashion and film red carpet events. This week, haute couture designers gathered in Paris to show their new collections. Designers, buyers, and the international press assembled to see the 33 brands showing their collections on the runway.
The latest run of couture shows in Paris signaled a return to relatively normal, as the balance between digital and in-person events tipped in favor of the latter, and more international guests returned to the city this week to soak up the atmosphere. Balenciaga stole the show when the brand — led by creative director Demna Gvasalia — presented its first haute couture collection 53 years after the house’s founding designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga, closed his couture business in 1968.
Dior, Chanel, Giorgio Armani Privé, Balenciaga, Jean Paul Gaultier, Zuhair Murad, Vaishali S, and Pyer Moss all showed on physical runways, while Azzaro Couture was shown as a broadcast. Twenty-four brands ranging from Julien Fournié, Viktor & Rolf, to Imane Ayissi showed digitally, despite France loosening in-person pandemic restrictions. Digital presentations — which are cheaper and less work to pull off than runway shows — have become a common practice over the past year, and many in the industry are wondering whether they may become the norm.
Sixteen months after the pandemic hit Europe, the fall 2021 couture shows mark our semi-official “return” to live and in-person fashion shows. Many of us will still be viewing the collections online—we’re extra excited about Pieter Mulier’s debut at Alaïa and Demna Gvasalia’s first couture collection for Balenciaga—but for those lucky enough to attend IRL, the inevitable question is: What to wear? Will editors and influencers dust off the runway pieces and heels in the back of their closets, or will they be influenced by the casual, experimental looks we saw outside the menswear shows? Style du Monde’s Acielle is on the ground in Paris to find out. Scroll through her latest street style photos below, and come back for her daily updates.
The fall 2021 couture shows in Paris mark the first time in a post-lockdown world that shows are happening again on a major scale—think Dior, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Balenciaga (though some brands are staging super-exclusive shows attended by just a handful of journalists you can count on one hand). It’s also the first time in a while that designers and creative directors are opening their ateliers and backstages to meet people in real life again. Digital shows have their advantages, but a real-life couture week in Paris is an experience unlike any other. Here, a behind-the-scenes look at a historic couture week.