Cher steals the Balmain show at Paris fashion week
The biggest star of Paris fashion week was not on the front row but the catwalk itself. Cher, pop legend and new face (and elbow) of Balmain’s new handbag, walked the show’s finale wearing a silver spandex bodysuit, black platform boots and with cheekbones that could cut Comté.
The show took place in the Stade Jean-Bouin stadium in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, chosen for its capacity rather than its location. The audience was made up of almost 8,000 people, members of creative director Olivier Rousteing’s so-called Balmain Army, who bought tickets by donating to Red . The event was called a festival rather than a show with good reason. They even provided snacks.
Democracy – and food – is not the norm at Paris fashion week where closed doors, champagne and front row scrabbles are par for the course. But Rousteing’s commercial success – he is entering his second decade at the label – is largely based on giving people what they want. And this season, that meant over 100 different looks including dresses woven from straw and raffia, bustiers made from sustainably-harvested chestnut bark, blazers emblazoned with Renaissance imagery and of course, Cher.
Rousteing’s collection, which veered dizzyingly from ready-to-wear to couture, addressed his fears of “a dystopian future”, prompted by France’s recent spate of droughts and wildfires. “I’m certain that I was not the only one asking fundamental questions about the possible dystopian future awaiting us,” he said. Balmain is not a label known for nuance – the final look was a silk dress covered with flames – but the sentiment was there.
One designer well versed in addressing climate changes through her clothes is Gabriela Hearst, creative director at French label Chloé, whose mythical “Chloé girl” customer will also be doom-dressing for spring 2023.
Following last season’s “chapter” on rewilding, a comparatively gentle show which featured melting icebergs on totes and beautiful knits, Hearst’s attention moved to eliminating fossil fuels and fusion energy. This collection was particularly inspired by both the function and the shape of a tokamak, a complex machine designed to harness the energy of fusion.
On the catwalk itself, the clothes were more wearable than tech, with sweeping coats and capes made from raw silk and linen, finished with blink-and-you-miss hardware fastenings. Trousers were wide, suit jackets were bulky and crochet dresses were floor-skimming. Proof that the Y2k trend is going nowhere? Rave trousers, so called by Hearst in her notes, were finished with eyelets. As with the rest of Paris, there was also a lot of leather – from biker jackets to babydoll dresses to vests. Everything came in white, black or red except for a bright fuschia suit, inspired by the colour produced by plasma fusion.
Showing the collection in the Pavillon Vendôme, a 19th-century events centre (and former home of poet, Baudelaire), the staging itself was almost too dystopian. A Tron-esque light installation looked impressive but meant the clothes could only be seen on one half of the catwalk, leaving the audience at times in the dark. Still, with fashion playing catch-up when it comes to a global understanding of climate change, perhaps this was the point.
• This article was amended on 29 September 2022 to correct the spelling of Olivier Rousteing’s surname.