Paris Fashion Week launched Monday with touches of scandal and grief, as Balenciaga tries to move past recent controversies while Vivienne Westwood and Paco Rabanne hold their first shows since their founders' deaths.
The womenswear week in the French capital caps a hectic February for the fashion world, following on the heels of New York, London and Milan. All eyes are on Balenciaga -- which was on a hot streak until late last year, with innovative catwalk shows and celebrity superfans driving up sales. It came to an abrupt halt after a spectacularly ill-considered ad campaign that appeared to reference child abuse, featuring children with teddy bear bags that had studs and harnesses, and surrounded by adult items including wine glasses.
Balenciaga also had to cut ties with Kanye West -- who modelled for its last show in Paris in September -- after the rapper's controversial comments about Jews.
The scandals hit the bottom line. Coupled with a slump at Gucci, parent company Kering saw fourth-quarter revenues slump by seven percent. Profusely apologising in the pages of Vogue, Balenciaga's creative director Demna has vowed to abandon his provocative approach and get back to basics at this week's show on Sunday.
"I have decided to go back to my roots in fashion as well as to the roots of Balenciaga, which is making quality clothes -- not making image or buzz," he said.
There is also interest in how Schiaparelli, led by US designer Daniel Roseberry, follows its eye-catching haute couture show in January when the use of fake animal heads sharply divided audiences.
Before then, the opening day focuses on young designers before the big-hitters such as Christian Dior and Saint Laurent return to the catwalk on Tuesday.
Wednesday will see the first show from the house of Paco Rabanne since his death at the age of 88 earlier this month. And the first Vivienne Westwood show since the dame's death in December will be held on Saturday. Her label's designs have been overseen by her widower, Andreas Kronthaler, for several years.
Pierre Cardin is also returning to the official calendar for the first time in 25 years, following the death of its founder in late 2020. The new collection has been put together by the label's in-house team rather than collaborating with an outside designer, so as not to "distort Pierre Cardin," its director Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin told AFP.
Fashionistas are also excited to see the first collection from hot young French designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin in his new role at Belgian house Ann Demeulemeester, previously known for its minimalist and monochrome aesthetic.(AFP)