Among the artful chaos of projections, filmic pictures and illustrations were calf-length coats, perfectly cut in a modern spirit, as a leitmotif of the Paris Autumn/Winter 2019 collections.
When I asked about the power of the coats she had sent out for the Miu Miu collection, Miuccia Prada was as oblique as ever.
“It was about taking care of your own life – and camouflage,” she said, adding, “The struggle of protesting and taking care of the environment.”
The message started with cloaks that opened the show, and models wore little else other than thin, flower-sprinkled tops and sheer black stockings rising to brief navy shorts. For the first quarter of the show, that tailoring was the anchor amongst little slip-on dresses, some transparent, others shaded with sheer black fabric and bearing more of the embroidered flowers.
Then came the war, or rather protection clothes, mostly in camouflage prints in a line-up, including a tufted woolly print for a coat in that distinctive olive green. Even when the colour was just a slip-on sleeveless coat over a cheerfully red-floral pattern, there was still the faint whiff of battle.
Prada mentioned the protection that a cape offers, suggesting those historic pictures of warrior men, even if her offer was for young women. Perhaps Ms Mui Mui is growing up. Or maybe the Prada vision in these unsettled times was to make the collection quiver with the drumbeat of war.
Thom Browne: Fluidity in identity
The businessmen walked purposefully towards a modernist glass office, where each model hung up a coat and sat down at a historic, old-style typewriter. Wait a minute? Haven’t I seen this Thom Browne menswear show before, a decade ago, at the Pitti Imagine menswear show in Florence?
And wait another minute! Aren’t these women dressed up as men in classic tailoring?
Indeed. The designer admitted that the ‘men and women’ wearing their beige raincoats over suits, white shirts and dark ties were entirely female.
“It was really just celebrating the classic jacket and trousers, done with a really beautiful masculine sensibility but, really, beautifully tailored on a woman,” he said.
And the set had indeed been used before.
“It’s actually the tenth anniversary of a show I did in Florence and it was really a celebration of that anniversary and re-introducing the jacket and trousers to my girl,” the designer explained.
Browne is an impressive tailor, and this straightforward women-dressed-as-men show seemed like a clear step forward. Last season, he was accused of sexism at his first show since a new financial collaboration with the Ermenegildo Zegna group.
This collection was masculine in all but name, with collar and tie (with the Thom Browne logo as a clip) and trousers cut off around the knees. Furry patches and some intense white stitching served as decoration, as did a whimsical leather handbag in the shape of a dog.
Technically, the show was perfectly orchestrated in shape, and in grey and black checks or stripes. Prince of Wales checks and pleated skirts added a sense of genuine womanhood.
But Browne was frank in his fluidity of sexual and gender identity in some outfits by using self-portraits of Romaine Brooks, an early 20th-century American artist. The current runways are filled with gender play. If a subject is in the air, it is always in fashion.