Fashion Week

Our Designer VPs on Their Favorite Paris Fashion Week Moments

Tricia Smith and Jennifer Wheeler enter the stylish back bar at Daroco looking like they just came off the beach in Saint-Tropez. Well, except that they’re in ankle boots and turtlenecks, trench coats and long sleeves.

The attitude, though—it’s pure relaxed satisfaction. Contented fulfillment. It’s a mood that isn’t necessarily native to this part of Paris Fashion Week. We’re on the tail end of the week and at this stage of the game, buyers and editors tend to be exhausted, a little cranky, and sort of overwhelmed by all the schedule-packed days they’ve just made it through.

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First two images by Jessa Carter

But this time has been different. “It’s just been such a consistently good season,” says Tricia, our executive vice president of women’s and designer apparel. And even more than that, she tells me that the entire industry seems to have banded together in a united front. There’s a feeling of camaraderie in the shows and in the streets.

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“It’s like everyone really wants to hold each other up,” agrees Jennifer, vice president of women’s designer apparel. From more white bandanas to all kinds of great color, this is how it went down and these are the moments that mattered most.

Saint Laurent’s Opening Intensity

Saint Laurent Paris Fall 2017

All remaining photos by Indigital Images

To hear our buyers tell it, Anthony Vaccarello’s second Saint Laurent show was loud, passionate and very, very strong. “I always relate YSL to parties, to evening,” he told Vogue.com. But from their point of view it was the kind of party that made the next morning seem like a good time, too.

Tricia and Jennifer can’t wait to get into the showroom to see, up close, Vaccarello’s rich, cozy-looking day pieces—brown leather jackets and soft white knits—and relate them back to all that gorgeous evening wear.

Givenchy’s Red-on-Red All-Stars

When a house is between creative directors, as Givenchy is after Riccardo Tisci’s recent departure, you just never know what the runway show will bring. Or, as it turns out, if the season will bring a show or not.

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Givenchy opted out of a live presentation this March, instead showing its novel approach to a select few insiders—our buyers included. As Tricia explained, the brand’s designers went through the Givenchy archives and revisited favorite looks but remade them in red, or mostly red. And lucky for them, she and Jennifer managed to get there when the hall was almost empty of other visitors.

“Walking through these looks when no one else was there—it was pretty incredible,” Tricia said.

Congratulating Dries 

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There’s never been any real limit to our adoration of Dries Van Noten around here, but the designer’s 100th show was a new high. In casting an all-ages team of models from throughout his career, he celebrated by showing a fall collection of deep sky tones, intricate patterning and vibrant prints from past collections on women who seem to truly represent our world.

Going backstage after the show to congratulate him, though, that was pretty exceptional.

Stella McCartney’s Dance Party

“Oh, what about Stella’s dance party?” exclaims Jennifer, happily remembering the George Michael boogie that broke out as the real finale of the British designer’s strong, menswear-leaning collection.

Stella McCartney Paris Fall 2017

Singing loudly and passionately along, the models reminded fashion that “you’ve gotta have faith.” The collection mirrored that attitude, providing a wardrobe of modern suiting that fits with one of Jennifer and Tricia’s larger takeaways: women are getting more and more—and more—comfortable wearing the pants.

Gentlemanly trousers, especially in loose, ’40s-cut shapes, aren’t just having a moment. They’ve truly arrived.

Dior Spreading Positive Vibes

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Maria Grazia Chiuri is one of fashion’s leading female voices right now. Her sentiment, “We should all be feminists,” rang thrillingly true within the industry, and outside, too. And she continues to march to that beat.

She told the press that her fall collection was about and for the future of the women’s movement—a sort of uniform for revolution—and Tricia and Jennifer said the mood at the show was positively positive, not just for women, but for the industry and the community. Like at Raf Simons’s Calvin Klein debut in New York, the house handed out white bandanas in an extra show of solidarity.

Friendly Exchange: Tibi

Tibi New York Fall 2017

One of Tricia’s #FashionFriends is Tibi designer Amy Smilovic. Amy showed her collection back in New York, but like so many other Americans she’s here in Paris presenting it less formally in the showroom setting.

Tricia said Amy is brainy and magical when it comes to trends and how-to-wear innovation; in fact, Tricia credits the designer with popularizing the contemporary off-the-shoulder trend. So, when the two friends got together earlier this week, they did more than go through the modular-like, mix-and-match collection; they broke into a spontaneous brainstorm about how to share the styling lessons of the runway with our in-store salespeople.

What’s the next cold shoulder? Amy says corsets are the thing, but hers are banded, knit and stretchy—and, as a result of this recent hangout session, a number of them are going to be exclusive to us. 

Balenciaga Goes Beyond

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The Givenchy team and Dries Van Noten aren’t the only designers who went into the archives this season; Demna Gvasalia did it at Balenciaga too, in honor of the house’s 100th anniversary.

First came the regular collection, although of course it’s anything but regular in his hands. Tricia noted how gifted the designer is at taking really directional ideas and making them feminine and elegant. She was excited by the mix of menswear fabrics and silks, and the way the hard lines around the shoulders gave way to flowing, fluttering asymmetry. The real trick and treat, she says, will be when she gets into the showroom; she can’t wait to see how the looks can be taken apart and viewed as individual elements of an overall wardrobe.

Bonus points if that wardrobe calls for evening wear. Demna’s backwards glance produced nine stunningly opulent couture dresses, remade in allegiance with Cristóbal Balenciaga’s originals. Quite a statement, coming from a guy some see as fashion’s most daring change agent.

Chanel’s Blastoff

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Everybody’s talking about heading for other life-supporting planets these days, and Karl Lagerfeld is ready to get people dressed for the journey. And give them some great handbags. Among Jennifer’s top moments this season, she counts the blastoff of Spaceship Chanel inside the Grand Palais.

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The song playing behind the rumble? “Rocket Man,” by Elton John.

Alexander McQueens Cornish Queens

But as some designers step into the future, others go backward—deep into their own cultural history. A prime example is Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton. Digging into the area of the United Kingdom called Cornwall (Burton is British, as was Alexander “Lee” McQueen, of course, but she shows in Paris), the designer mined a world of imposing stone churches and the good witches of paganism.

Alexander McQueen Paris Fall 2017

Her cutout lace dresses, structured knits and serious suiting were colored by woven and lace-up elements, fringe and symbols. Jennifer says there was a real reverence for McQueen’s historical, powerful runway, and the fashion press loves that Burton went back to the earth—back to nature, back to a primal sense of power and strength.

Maybe, after all, that’s the way forward.

EXPLORE: current-season designer collections

Go where we go, see what we see. Stay up to date with all our Fashion Week coverage and shop curated collections of our favorite designers at Nordstrom’s Fashion Week Central.

—Laura Cassidy