When a French designer hits the runway, fashion writers, celebrities, and well-dressed socialites pay the utmost attention. During Paris Fashion Week, all eyes are fixed on the capital city’s own designers, both long-standing, undisputed talents (Chanel, Ferragamo, Saint Laurent) as well as warmly welcomed new designers (Phoebe Philo, Kenzo Takada). Together, these designers continue to take Parisian haute couture to a new level. This dominance is historic: Paris has been home to the biggest, most creative, and most influential fashion houses for decades. And while not all the labels listed below are Paris-born and based, they all have their origins deeply rooted here. Hedi Slimane of Yves Saint Laurent may be from France and at the helm of a resolutely French line, but Vetements was launched (in Paris) by seven designers from across Europe. Whether founded in Paris or directed by a Parisian-born creative, any fashion-forward trip to the City of Light should include a pilgrimage to these brands’ flagships.
Yves Saint Laurent
After designing for Dior Homme back in the early ‘90s, France’s own Hedi Slimane is at the helm of another French fashion label. He has brought his unique perspective of the contemporary male and female silhouette to the streets, an aesthetic that is both rock-music grunge and unabashedly flamboyant. The edgy storefronts are decorated in marble, concrete, and chrome.
Kenzo Takada was born in Japan, but relocated to Paris in the ‘80s to begin his luxury line, originally limited to handmade womenswear. Today, the international brand delivers a youthful, urban spirit to high-end collections that translate effortlessly from the runway to the street. Look for Takada’s unmistakable Asian influences (Japanese flowers; natural materials), now in both men’s and women’s garments.
Before moving to London, Paris-born Phoebe Philo developed a penchant for slim silhouettes and clean lines. She has been at the helm of the old French house Céline since 2008, and her brainy-but-beautiful approach to fashion has made her a darling with the cognoscenti of style. Her designs are understated, perfectly cut, and have revived the classic label with a modern edge.
The anonymous seven designers behind this new label may have all received their educations at fashion institutes across Europe, but the accessible, no-frills designs are universal. While producing singular pieces that appeal to a youthful, global market, the anonymous team is determined to break with the seasonal and thematic conventions championed by the fashion week format. Look out for oversized collars on this season’s pea coat and cozier-than-thou sweaters with extra-long sleeves.
Possibly Paris’s most iconic fashion house, Chanel keeps making waves, thanks to its irrepressible creative director Herr Karl Lagerfeld. The historic Rue Cambon flagship is decorated in the maison’s signature black and white palette, and includes the immaculately preserved private apartments of the brand’s founder, Coco Chanel, at the very top of the cream-carpeted stairs. There’s no better place on Earth to purchase a perfect, Golden Era Little Black Dress.