There are always two schools of thought you will find yourself in. Optimism versus pessimism. The eternally hopeful or a full-blown gloom-monger. It’s precisely that dichotomy that springs to mind when reviewing the Paris Fashion Week A/W 23 womenswear schedule. This season two aesthetic revivals have risen above the rest; the Space Age and goth. The former, of course, falls under the optimistic category. Emerging in the mid-1960s, Space Age fashion looked towards a brighter future through radical silhouettes and the eccentric use of industrial materials. Pioneers of the movement included the late Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges, whose eccentric and experimental designs defined an era and continue to inspire today.
On the less optimistic side of the spectrum, Paris this season sees a proliferation of the 80s darkest subculture; goth. With its underground origins among post-punk club kids, the aesthetic pioneered by bands like The Cure and Bauhaus has been a constant reference in fashion throughout the decades. While the look has taken many forms, from Hot Topic mall rats to disciples of Rick Owens, there will always be some defining features. That is, no shortage of airy draping, a penchance for the macabre, and all-black everything.
Before you decide to pledge your allegiance as the ultimate optimist or Prince of Darkness-in-training, we've drafted your guide to the Space Age and goth fashions that'll define PFW this season.
GOTH'S NEW BEGINNINGS
There are two debuts in Paris that the industry is eagerly anticipating this season: Harris Reed at Nina Ricci and Ludovic de Saint Sernin at Ann Demeulmeester. The latter was a shock to the system with many questioning whether the burgeoning talent, best known for crafting crystal embellished men's knickers, could take on the quintessential goth label of the late 20th century. It'll be interesting to see how the young designer reinterprets the romantic draping that defines Demeulemeester's highly influential work.
The day after de Saint Sernin ushers in his new vision for the Belgian brand, comes another debut of sorts. Cult 90s designer Martine Sitbon makes her return to fashion on Sunday with the presentation of her new project dubbed Rev. Described as adaptations and re-editions of her archive, here's hoping she leans into her darker designs, defined by her use of crushed velvet and sheer panelling. For the uninitiated, the only crash course you need is to Google 'Martine Sitbon S/S 93'. Kate Moss smoking down the runway in a witch's hat. Enough said.
While our imaginations run wild about what those two could have up their sleeves, there are two designers whose dark-sided visions have piqued fashions interest for the last decade: Rick Owens and Demna. The former, dubbed fashion's Lord of Darkness has, of course, defined the modern goth aesthetic with his distinct draping and sportswear-inspired silhouettes. The latter has been known to reference more of the 90s goth aesthetic with references to metal groups like Rammstein. Hot off the heels of controversy, all eyes are sure to be on Balenciaga come Sunday to see if Demna is able to shake last year's scandals following the brand's two advertising campaigns which were accused of sexualising children and even making light of child pornography.
SPACE AGE THROWBACK
Alright, enough with the doom and gloom. Let's set our sights on a brighter future by looking at brands from the past. The trifecta of Space Age fashion; Paco Rabanne, Courrèges, and even Pierre Cardin, are set to show new collections this week. Paco Rabanne and Courrèges have already been on our radars with creative directors Julien Dossena and Nicholas Di Felice expertly reimagining the house's innovative codes for modern wardrobes. The real shocker of course is the return of Pierre Cardin. When the famed couturier died in 2020, it was his nephew and brand CEO, Rodrigo Basilicati-Cardin, that succeeded him. While the brand presented a tribute show last year, it'll be interesting to see how Cardin's archive will be reinvented as the label bids to compete with its contemporaries.
A BRIGHTER FUTURE
The original Space Age of the 60s was all about innovating with unorthodox materials and out-of-this-world silhouettes. Well, no one in Paris is keeping that spirit alive quite like Nicolas Ghesquière. From resurrecting Balenciaga in the 90s to his most recent collection as artistic director of Louis Vuitton womenswear, Ghesquière's oeuvre is defined by his futuristic take on fashion. At LV, the iconoclast's eclectic references have resulted in garments that always surprise. Who could forget those giant zippers in his S/S 23 collection? And while fashion loves its game of musical chairs, this year marks a decade of Ghesquière at the maison, so we wouldn't be surprised if he had a celebratory party trick ready.