Morning Chronicle - Paris Fashion Week kicks off in 'solemn' wartime mood

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Paris Fashion Week kicks off in 'solemn' wartime mood
Paris Fashion Week kicks off in 'solemn' wartime mood

Paris Fashion Week kicks off in 'solemn' wartime mood

Two years on from France's first pandemic lockdown, Paris Fashion Week is almost back to full attendance, but the war in Ukraine led organisers to strike a sombre tone as shows got underway on Monday.

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"War has brutally hit Europe and plunged the Ukrainian people into fear and upheaval," said Ralph Toledano, president of France's Federation for Haute Couture and Fashion, in a statement on the first day of the women's autumn-winter collections.

He urged attendees in Paris to experience the shows "with solemnity, and in reflection of these dark hours".

The conflict will cast a pall over a fashion week that had looked set to return to almost pre-pandemic normality, with only 13 of the 95 fashion houses on the official roster staying fully online.

Another bittersweet note was set for later on Monday when Off-White presents the final collection by founder Virgil Abloh, who died from cancer in November at 41.

The US designer, 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.

The biggest names, including Dior, Chanel and Hermes, are among 45 brands holding live catwalk shows in the coming days as pandemic restrictions ease across Europe.

Saint Laurent, which had dropped out of the official calendar during the health crisis, 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 developed in the last two years 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 got things rolling with an online presentation that merged real (albeit wildly avant-garde) clothes with digital creations ready for digital living.

"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 shows will not disappear, she added: "But it will evolve in line with this new way of thinking and communicating."