Two years on from France’s first pandemic lockdown, Paris Fashion Week is almost back in full stride, with the vast majority of houses returning to live shows.
The women’s autumn-winter week kicks off on Monday with all eyes on Off-White, presenting the final collection by its founder Virgil Abloh, who died from cancer in November at 41.
Abloh, a former Kanye West collaborator, turned Off-White into one of fashion’s fastest-growing brands and was recruited to head menswear for Louis Vuitton before his career was tragically cut short.
Louis Vuitton, which has a majority stake in Off-White, believes the brand can continue to grow in Abloh’s absence.
“Off-White is in the position that Dior was in 1957 (when its founder died),” Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke told Business of Fashion.
“The question is: what has the founding father left? If the legacy is rich, authentic, and steeped in values that go beyond fashion, the odds of turning a passing into something eternal are spectacular.”
Off-White is returning to the catwalk for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic struck — and it is not alone.
Of 95 houses on the official Paris calendar, only 13 have stayed fully online for this fashion week.
The biggest names, including Dior, Chanel and Hermes, are among 45 brands holding live catwalk shows.
Saint Laurent, which had dropped out of the official calendar during the pandemic, vowing to set its own schedule, has returned to the regular line-up.
Others are doing a mix of online films and in-house presentations for buyers and press—a concept that was devised during the pandemic and has remained popular with several houses such as Japan’s Issey Miyake.
Students of the metaverse
Before all that, students from the French Fashion Institute will get things rolling with a digital presentation focused on fashion for the metaverse.
“The metaverse is in the process of being built and it will keep growing. It’s important to be in it,” said Laure Manhes, who is studying for a master’s in accessories.
There are logistical advantages to breaking down barriers between real and virtual clothes, she added, since digital fashion allows youngsters to gain a foothold without the expense of making real clothes.
“It’s good to have visibility online when you’re starting out. It’s easy—these are tools that we know how to use well.”
Physical fashion will not disappear, she added: “But it will evolve in line with this new way of thinking and communicating.”
For another master’s student, Lou Comte, the virtual realm offers a chance to mix different artistic styles in their work: “It’s a chance to open up the field of what is possible and reach more people.”