Back to the Salon
This NYFW we’re returning to old luxury.
On the 12thof February 1947 Christian Dior presented his first collection at 30 Avenue Montaigne. The location was strewn with flowers by Lachaume. Models slowly processed and twirled from room to room. A captive audience watched, and ‘The New Look’ was born. Shows were then (and remain) by invitation only, however the invitation list was infinitely more exclusive.
The front row was made up of editors, movie stars and royalty. They took notes, on paper no less. This ethos wasn’t exclusive to Dior; Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, all showed in their salons. Other wealthy buyers came to private viewings, in house models showed designs hand-picked based on the clients age and taste to be custom made and fitted. Ready to Wear wasn’t a popular concept. But as designer’s exposure spread, fashion became more accessible and more and more invites were sent, the nature of fashion shows changed.
Venues got larger, and the crowds trying to get in continue to grow. Fashion shows at the highest level have become beautifully theatrical events, with modern-day Chanel shows taking over the entire Grand Palais with stunning sets. At the lowest they are starkly lit runways with stone-faced models, all showing the same angular walk. Somewhere between Linda Evangelista and now models lost that powerful strut. And gone are the gliding, smiling models, engaging with the audience around them. Outdated.
Or so we thought until New York fashion week in February 2018; when Cinq a Sept, a French brand with a reputation for lavish staging, managed three different shows in the span of 90 minutes. All while guests sat at food laden tables. For a beautiful instant, the style of a salon show was back. It was a fleeting visit, before a return to the norm for the rest of the week. But maybe some of its magic hung in the air. Almost exactly a year later guests were invited to visit Ralph’s Café. A scaled down fashion show in a recently opened café space of Ralph Lauren’s Madison Avenue store. Models came down the grand staircase and sauntered gracefully among tables to an evergreen soundtrack like Fred Astaire’s ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’. Showing a limited palette of black, white and gold. Opening with wide-legged trousers and exquisite blazers and culminating in a finale look with a floor length gold cape. The emphasis was on vision and intimacy.
It’s hardly a coincidence that recently two of the biggest fashion moguls have chosen to convey a message of sizing down. At Chanel’s most recent haute couture show, Lagerfeld staged a significantly smaller than usual show, exuding serenity. While Armani’s Prive collection assumed the appearance of an old-fashioned salon show. If we now include Lauren among them, these godfathers of fashion have a unified message: breathe, take it all in. Lauren’s collection had the sensitivity and ladylike elegance reminiscent of the original collections that floated around atelier salons of the 50s. The refinement and attention to detail was everywhere, calling to mind the dream like luxury of those original shows.
I’m all for it.