PARIS — Think the only two options left in fashion are comfortable work-from-home options, or fantasy dressing while waiting for better days? Not for this slew of designers who showed you’re only ever a snap, a zip or a twist away from a new outfit with the transformable, multiwear styles they showed during Paris Fashion Week.
Whether it’s emerging into the world again with best foot forward or staying in a while longer without giving in to the sirens of sweatpants, a driving idea was that clothes should rise to any occasion.
With living in a phy-gital manner the new normal, offering easy-to-wear options that covered multiple scenarios felt like a natural progression, on an equal footing with looser fits, softer tailoring and comforting textures.
“There are so many things that are complicated right now. Fashion and our wardrobe can’t be one of them,” Lutz Huelle said. “I wanted pieces that had the ease of sportswear because dressing shouldn’t require a second thought.” They are the kind of clothes that would look just as good lounging at home, taking a video call or out on the streets — with bonus points for machine-washable, easy-to-maintain materials.
In particular, designers looked at easing the transition, without compromising on pulled-together poise. “I wanted to show things that would stimulate people and ease them back into normal life,” said Ujoh’s Mitsuru Nishizaki, offering quasi-monastic gender-free separates with a dash of sportswear and an airy palette. They were meant to be worn as single looks or dissembled into more relaxed variations depending on one’s mood and formality.
Occasionwear was never something Johannes Boehl Cronau, whose brand Ioannes launched in 2018, liked. Changing outfits over the course of a day felt like a passé habit, as well as one that took up too much mental space. “The woman I design for isn’t that preoccupied about putting her looks together,” said the Paris-based, German designer, who has been incorporating details such as ribbons that transform a long-sleeved cozy sweater dress into a more trendy off-the-shoulder version.
“Offering multiple wears for one piece is a reflection of the many lives a person has, but also of how comfortable they’re feeling at any given moment,” he added. For fall, the possibilities of a shirt-cum-slipdress that could be doubled up or worn on either end felt like a fresh and enticing design opportunity and commercial proposition.
Letting the wearer determine the exact combination of items came across in Calvin Luo’s “Front Row Project,” in which 100 women who epitomize the brand — editors, buyers and brand devotees — were invited to style their own looks from his collection. A savvy option would be the work-appropriate little black dress that could be separated at the flick of decorative metallic closures into a midriff-baring brassiere and skirt.
And even though Rok Hwang was betting on women wanting to strike out in fierce, feminine tailoring come fall, he aimed to allow them to personalize each style depending on situation and mood, often coming up with such combinations during fittings, he said in an email exchange. Case in point: his take on a trenchcoat composed of gabardine layers that can be unbuttoned to create a halter top, dress and kilt, one of many recombinable sets.
Clever ways to get more use out of a garment may been the goal of Andreas Aresti, but experimenting with multiple wears also became a fun challenge that he is keen to share with the Lourdes customers. He even claimed that a deceptively plain one-sleeved item look could be worn 19 different ways.
Sustainability also appeared as an underlying motive to offer transformable garments.
Over the first lockdown in France, Victoria Feldman and Tomas Berzins had an awakening on the carbon cost of their work, after tallying that each collection involved up to eight trips, often by air. Not only did this push the Victoria/Tomas duo to set up production in France, but they also came up with another way to reduce their footprint — reversible clothing.
To make sure their “two visions are reflected perfectly in one piece,” as Berzins put it, they spliced contrasting textures in a double-sided lineup that exuded street savvy with a genderless bent. A shirt and trousers ensemble printed with a blown up knitwear pattern was striking, while boxy suit jackets with crinkled tulle applied on one side carried a smart elegance whether cinched at the waist or not.
Beautiful People’s Hidenori Kumakiri took a cue from a world currently upside down for a wardrobe that could be flipped on its head and worn either way. His fascinating and functional transformations, taking an item apart and putting it back together with a twist — literally at 90, 180 or 270 degrees — were applied to anything from wool peacoats and crisp white shirts to harem pants and cocktail dresses. The result was as quotidian as a trenchcoat that transformed into a mermaid dress or as spectacular as a ruffled dress that shared a passing resemblance with not one, but two 1950s Balenciaga gowns.
“People tend to think sustainability is all about materials or reducing waste, but it is also about offering multiple uses for one garment,” Kumakiri said from his Tokyo studio, noting that reducing the number of items in collections actually led to an increase in sales.