There's change in the air at fashion week. It's not just the never-ending shuffling of schedules, where Gucci skips Milan to show in Paris, or the constant merging of men's and women's collections. There's an aesthetic shift going on, too. Designers who made their houses rich by putting whacky sneakers, luxury tracksuits and viral graphics on the runway are starting to tire of them.
They say fashion is a pendulum — when hemlines go up, they must come down — and that means that while the world was going mad for streetwear, a backlash was inevitable. The runways of Paris have been heavily focussed on tailoring this season, and while tailoring has been modernized and reworked in the menswear sphere for a while now, this season signaled a full-on revival of the suit.
Many of this month's fashion shows were unisex (the dedicated men's shows were back in June) as schedules are merging to reflect changing shopping habits. That means both men's and women's looks echoed this change in direction, signaling the dawn of a new era where the suit is once again a signifier of chic, glamor and refinement.
Here's eight of the best tailored looks of the recent SS19 fashion shows in Paris.
If anyone's gonna make a convincing argument for the suit, it's Haider Ackermann. While the world went mad for luxury sneakers, Haider stuck to his ultra-chic archetype, where suits are styled with roomy silhouettes, whacky fabrics and next-level detailing. This number shows how a suit can look simultaneously chic and relaxed — flowing pants that pool at the ankle, with a double-breasted blazer removed of its formality by popping just one side of the collar.
When the first-ever Celine menswear look marched down the runway, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd accidentally walked into a Saint Laurent show. Hedi Slimane's debut collection for the house caused outrage among industry figures, as the designer trod the same highly successful commercial formula of black suits, black shoes and blacker sunglasses. Here, Slimane revived ’80s chic by pairing a double-breasted blazer with a skinny tie, glossy python shoes and pinstriped shirt.
Demna Gvasalia's Balenciaga was at the forefront of the luxe-street wave, what with his Bernie shout-outs, ridiculous sneakers and internet-breaking Crocs. His SS19 show for the house, however, noticeably bucked the streetwear trend, and was completely lacking in the sneakers, tracksuits and viral, meme-y graphics that made Balenciaga one of Paris's must-see shows. Here, Gvasalia mixed a bright red double-breasted suit with a glitzed-up tee and square-toed dress shoes.
For his celebration of sportswear as empowerment, Virgil's Off-White women's show included a sporty combo of blazer with cropped, form-fitting pants, which echoed the cycling short craze that the women's scene has gone nuts for recently.
At Givenchy, Clare Waight Keller was thinking of androgynous muse Annemarie Schwarzenbach when designing her unisex show, and basically caused a sartorial earthquake when she paired a lavender power suit, with broad, pointed lapels with white Chelsea boots.
Where most unisex shows see girl's in guys clothes but not vice versa, John Galliano's Margiela show ran on a two-way street. Galliano put feminine signifiers on men, and as you'll see from the above look, the designer subverted what's normally a masculine signifier by pairing a blazer with brocade trousers and a sheer top.
It wasn't just Celine that looked back in time for its tailoring. Gucci's Alessandro Michele went full-on ’70s, with this suit that sported flared leg, prince of wales check and boat-sized lapels. Michele turned the nostalgia up to 11 by layering the two-piece with a striped, v-neck sweater.
Nicolas Ghesquière's womenswear show for Louis Vuitton (Virgil Abloh only handles the house's menswear) featured a section of masculine looks that could easily have been mistaken for men's pieces were it not for the fact that they were presented in a purely women's show. This particular look featured a white blazer with enormous lapels layered over a similarly crisp white turtleneck and sharp, black pants. While it's not known if these pieces are destined to cross over into Abloh's menswear, it just goes to show how the lines between men's and women's collections have become almost invisible.
Here's the four best looks from Balenciaga SS19.