Paris Fashion Week: What strategies did the big brands have?
In Paris, for the last week of Fashion Month, luxury players hit hard. As the sector records dazzling post-pandemic growth, its fashion brands demonstrated their power during Paris Women’s Fashion Week, which ended on October 4.
To make the most of the visibility offered by Fashion Week, the labels have multiplied viral images by linking, more than ever, their strategy to know-how, creativity and surprise celebrities. Let’s decipher the shows whose eminent marketing power transforms brands into luxury superstars.
Since Maria Grazia Chiuri took over as creative director of Dior in 2016, the Parisian house has become one of the most successful of the LVMH group: growing from 2.2 billion euros in sales in 2017 to 6.6 billion euros in 2021, as estimated by Business of Fashion. For its spring/summer 2023 women's show, Dior therefore continued the theme of its winning recipe: the exploration of feminine power.
In just a few years, Dior has embraced the new wave of feminism driven by the ‘#metoo’ movement, which was sparked by the Harvey Weinstein scandal in 2017. As soon as she arrived, Grazia Chiuri introduced the ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ t-shirts (still on sale on the e-shop at 750 euros) and brought the brand into the sphere of pop and unabashed feminism to which global stars like Beyoncé contribute. The subject of the feminine is now expressed in the storytelling of all Dior women's shows, which are particularly numerous: six since January 2022.
This season, the question of feminism took shape in the figure of Catherine de Medici. With this great lady of the French kingdom at the centre of inspiration, the artistic director used the opportunity to cleverly surf on the corset trend and propose a modernised version.
But beyond the feminist message, the show highlighted the know-how of the house. The demonstration of the technicality of Dior’s workshops was nestled in the work of delicate lace in black raffia and in the search for a way to transform the structure of 16th century dresses. To these feats were added Grazia Chiuri’s pragmatic pieces and several bras, a product that sticks to the new sexy trend.
Finally, the brand did not forget to seduce its Asian and American customers, the two largest markets of the LVMH group, by playing the card of Parisian charm through the motif of a map of Paris. The show was also broadcast on the Meta Ziwu metaverse platform, created by the Chinese giant Baidu.
On September 30, by making a live spray dress on star model Bella Hadid, the French brand secured one of the most impressive Media Impact Value (MIV) of Fashion Month. A video of the performance, which took place at the Musée National des Arts et Métiers in Paris, quickly went viral, propelling Coperni’s name far beyond his community.
However, it was not the first crazy idea of artistic director duo Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer. Relaunched in 2019 with the support of Tomorrow London Holdings, a consulting agency for young designers, Coperni had made a lot of news in 2021, with a ‘drive-in fashion show’ that guests attended from their cars, with the headlights on to light up the catwalk.
"Social media is everything to us," said Sébastien Meyer in 2021, in an interview for FHCM, noting that the brand was born on Instagram and found its first retailer on that app. Today, it is distributed via its own e-shop and has a wholesale network worldwide.
With this new masterstroke, Coperni has managed to capture the attention of Gen Z while strengthening its identity and therefore its differentiation: that of a futuristic and innovative brand, which collaborates with manufacturers – this season with Fabrican Ltd – to propose the materials of tomorrow.
On the product side, Coperni bets on luxury’s growing segment – accessories. The show included their best-seller, the Swipe bag, available in an 18-carat gold version, as well as new models: the Lady Bag and the Vanit-e bag. There are also glasses with a 1990 aesthetic and a choker necklace in an earphone style.
The silhouette is also very 90's – the trend of the moment – and is combined with the purity of Coperni. There are a few lingerie dresses, cut-outs on the hips, cargo pants and crop tops. A simple wardrobe intended for a young clientele.
Balmain's spring/summer 2023 fashion show at the Jean Bouin Stadium was the latest in a series of shows guided by an entertainment marketing strategy aimed at uniting its community – professionals and consumers alike – around a festive brand image. For the occasion, the label and its influential artistic director, Olivier Rousteing, surprised everyone by closing the event with special guest, singer Cher. The American star will be accompanying Balmain for the launch of a new line of leather bags.
The Parisian house's event brought together the haute couture and men's/women's ready-to-wear collections, incorporating the craftsmanship of the former into the latter. Notable elements were the use of quilting, draping and braiding, as well as sculptural pieces and prints inspired by Renaissance masterpieces – some of which recalled the work of Jean Paul Gaultier, with whom Rousteing recently collaborated. To this controlled opulence, typical of Balmain, fluid pieces and oversized cuts were added here, signature characteristics of the designer’s style.
Owned by the Qatari fund Mayhoola, Balmain relies on the global clout of its shows to maintain its superstar brand image and expand into other markets. The company recently announced its entry into the beauty and fine jewellery segment.
True to his taste for provocation, Balenciaga's creative director Demna Gvasalia paraded his 75 silhouettes through the mud, North of Paris in Villepinte. The ripped and stained looks follow the launch earlier this year of fashion accessories in the same vein. The ‘Paris Sneaker’ in particular, a sneaker with a worn look and sold for more than 1,000 euros, or the ‘Trash bag’, which as its name suggests, is similar to a garbage bag. Both have created controversy, making their images a viral topic. This creative and strategic act is typical of Gvasalia, whose fame rests, among other things, on his mania for upsetting conventions and the idea of good taste.
It is interesting to note that the worn aesthetic of this summer proposal coincides with the launch of the Kering Group brand on the secondhand market. A kind of clever innuendo that even timeworn Balenciaga items can have the value of a new product.
Streetwear, hoodies, jogging suits, bomber jackets and baggy items were a big part of the collection, as were the brand's signature tailoring and oversized cuts. Elegance was found in long pleated, draped or sequined evening dresses that contrasted with the muddy decor.
In terms of accessories, Balenciaga occupies the category of ‘fashion bags’ in this market, like Jacquemus, but at lower prices. Included on the catwalk were the brand's best-selling Cagole-bag (priced from 1,950 euros), travel bags and a large collection of image bags: cuddly bags and a bag-glove worn on the shoulder.
Apart from the collection itself, the models had also left an impression. Their rebellious and angry attitude was quickly turned into a multitude of memes on social media, while the opening of the show by the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, was as much a surprise as it was causing a stir.
Unlike Balmain and other luxury heavyweights, Balenciaga marks a clear difference between ready-to-wear and haute couture shows. While in the latter, the know-how is expressed through ultra-modern pieces that refer to the brand's archives, the latter does not particularly highlight the technicality of its studio – except for the final look of the SS23 show, a dress made of the patchwork from its Lariat bag. The objective here is more the creation of impactful images intended to be appropriated by the public on social media. For Gvasalia, fashion is first and foremost a ‘visual art’, according to the show notes.
The creative director's artistic approach is in line with the exclusivity sought by the Kering Group, which saw 17.6 billion euros in sales in 2021. In the words of its 2021 financial report, Balenciaga is working to "concentrate the wholesale business on a small and highly qualitative number of partners”.
Among the plethora of emerging talents on the Paris Fashion Week calendar, three stood out with a singular offering: Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Ester Manas and Botter.
Ludovic de Saint Sernin: chic and sexy
Anchored in a genderfluid discourse, the young eponymous brand Ludovic de Saint Sernin has built its identity on sexy clothes and its signature piece: a lace-up brief. Five years after its launch, its spring/summer 2023 show expanded its offering beyond party wear and marked the brand's entry into the underwear segment with a cotton line studded with crystals. It builds on the brand’s relationship with Austrian jeweller Swarovski, which it has worked with for several seasons.
The brand also organised a post-show presentation to show its iconic crystal pieces and the entire SS23 collection to as many people as possible at the Swarovski flagship, on the Champs-Élysées.
Ester Manas: plus-size radicalism
Although born in bad timing, in 2019, just before the pandemic, Ester Manas has held on. The women's ready-to-wear brand, whose identity is defined by a plus-size offering and a one-size-fits-all concept, announced via its runway show a collaboration with the successful Danish label, Ganni. The project will be unveiled in the summer of 2023.
Ester Manas is an exception in an industry where most luxury brands only skim the surface of the body-positivism issue for marketing reasons, if not completely ignore it. The cast of its spring-summer 2023 show included all body types and pragmatically demonstrated the adaptability of its designs in stretchy materials.
Botter: protecting the oceans
In January 2022, Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh left their positions as artistic directors at the house of Nina Ricci with a view of growing the unisex brand they launched in 2017: Botter. The spring/summer 2023 show confirmed the seriousness with which they take their mission, that of developing an innovative label capable of creating, says the website, an "impact movement" relating to environmental protection and that of oceans in particular.
"For this spring/summer 2023 collection, we wanted to explore the idea of bringing water to the catwalk," the duo said in a runway note. The focus translated into surprising details like aquarium gloves made of condoms and ice cube bags. The summer collection also included clothing made from algae fibres and ocean plastic. The brand is working with biology researchers to study the possibility of growing algae into yarn.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.