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Last Looks: Yesterday’s Runways at CHANEL and Valentino

Karl Lagerfeld following the spring 2016 fashion show in Paris

Images: InDigital

No place in the modern world gets to the heart of our insecurities and aspirations like an airport. There are strangers, scrutinizing bureaucrats, delays, altered routes and luggage. But airports also incubate our anticipated destinations, planned experiences and possible memories. At the Grand Palais in Paris this week, CHANEL erected a flight terminal for its spring 2016 show. But it was Valentino that brought our global wanderlust to its tricky conclusion.

Paris Fashion Week Spring 2016, Chanel

CHANEL‘s show at an ersatz airport traversed worlds, existential and terrestrial. Graphic suits, variously tailored with exacting trims, approximated a steward’s uniform transformed into Coco’s signature tweed power suit. That working woman yielded to a leisure traveler, comfortably clad in billowing print skirts over voluminous pants, head capped and waist cinched with the tie of a shirt or jacket—streetwear for the airborne. Mademoiselles in porkpie hats and shield sunglasses arrived in demure dress suits cut from pretty prints or in white with floral ruffles. Mixing high and low designs, such as denim with metallic dinner jackets (Karl Lagerfeld often juxtaposes luxury and the mundane), brought the show up where the air is more democratic.

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Paris Fashion Week Spring 2016, ValentinoBeing a traveler is rife with potential cultural conflicts. So it must be knowingly that designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli tread into Africa’s difficult past with European visitors for Valentino‘s spring collection based on that continent. The clothes were undeniably as stunning as the inspiration was controversial. Simple caftan dresses in renaissance, peasant shapes interspersed with beaded frocks that bore feathered fringe. Silk chiffon gowns, cut as modestly as a pilgrim’s, emerged with quilted patches or craftwork jackets. Warrior garb in leather and netting introduced an edgier element. The designers pointed to Picasso’s African masks, which once shocked Europe. Valentino certainly scandalized Twitter with their amalgam of such appropriations.

Shop: current season Valentino 

— Britt Olson