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Paris Fashion Week: Valentino puts on opulent study in black, as McGirr unveils McQueen debut

PARIS (AP) — The gilded salons of a grand 18th-century townhouse were the hallowed venue for Valentino’s latest fashion display on Sunday – an ode to black.
Maria Sharapova arrives for the Valentino Fall/Winter 2024-2025 ready-to-wear collection presented Sunday, March 3, 2024 in Paris. (Photo by Scott A Garfitt/Invision/AP)

PARIS (AP) — The gilded salons of a grand 18th-century townhouse were the hallowed venue for Valentino’s latest fashion display on Sunday – an ode to black. This monochromatic collection gleamed and glistened under crystal chandeliers amid myriad textures and materials, inspired by great artists such as the French master of black, Pierre Soulages.

Moons away, in the shadowy expanse of an icy-cold industrial warehouse crisscrossed by disused iron tracks and raw concrete surfaces, Alexander McQueen’s shivering guests huddled under blankets, buzzing with an air of electric anticipation. Because this wasn’t just another fashion show: it marked the first page of a new chapter for a house steeped in an iconoclastic history — and the debut of new creative director Sean McGirr.

Here are some highlights of fall-winter ready-to-wear collections:


Designer Pierpaolo Piccioli said he “approached black as a canvas, a starting point on which to build … silhouettes that could move while looking for lights around, to soak them in and reflect them.”

The couturier was fascinated by the color’s contradictions — used for uniform and individuality, representing sobriety and exuberance, lacking light yet soaking up reflections. It evoked the philosophy of Soulages, who died in 2022.

Thus, with a tinge of Valentino’s 1980s heyday and glamor, all-black looks sauntered by as daywear and evening merged indistinguishably owing to the color’s intense allure.

Signature house looks were reimagined with a modern flair — think a voluminous black rosette adorning a sleeve, or the delicate tease of skin beneath tiered silk, not to mention sporty A-line skirts accented with tubular ruffles.

Though feathers, leathers, sequins, and lace provided subtle textural tensions, they did not provide quite enough of a lift to stop the collection from falling into the danger of such one color-themed shows: Feeling one-note.

Nevertheless, the series of gowns that ended collection were a sublime study in chicness, such as one exquisite sheer chiffon floor-sweeping gown. Delicate baubles peppered were poetically dotted upon it like a constellation of black stars.


The pressure was palpable for McGirr, the relatively unknown 35-year-old Dublin-born designer, to unveil in this debut a vision and identity after 14 illustrious years of Sarah Burton. Burton, who parted ways with McQueen last season, had woven her narrative into the brand’s darkly romantic ethos after its visionary founder’s sudden, tragic death, leaving big shoes to fill.

Tagged “Rough opulence” and intent on “unveiling the animal within,” McGirr’s first foray resonated with the core tenets laid down by Alexander McQueen: a fusion of Gothic allure, a provocation, an ode to historical fashion, and the brand’s hallmark of dramatic tailoring.

The show unfurled with a model emerging from the shadows in a sinisterly twisted black laminated dress that seemed to swallow her hands whole — a striking image of constriction that reappeared throughout the collection. This binding theme was echoed in cords winding around slim-legged jeans and robust boots morphing into horses' hooves, trailing tails, and ominous broad leather coats.

However, designs occasionally verged on the obvious, with pattered historic Renaissance sleeve gowns and bulky “car tire”-like knitwear lacking the subtlety associated with his predecessor. Though the collection sparkled with promising moments of audacity, McGirr prioritized a play-it-safe approach over the risk of a misstep by pushing the envelope. Perhaps this debut may have benefitted from being presented in a less pressurized, lower-octane, and more intimate format?

Nonetheless, amid the collection’s somber reflections, a surprising undercurrent of delight and whimsy surfaced, most notably through the stirring melody of his compatriot Enya’s “Sail Away” filling the air. It infused the space with a buoyant optimism subtly echoed in McGirr’s oft-playful creations.


Mist-filled theatrics left Mugler’s guests in awe during the Sunday night spectacle, with dramatic staging that included cascading curtains, strobe lights and smoke machines to evoke drama.

Layers of curtains fell in the revamped Lycee Carnot school atrium, watched by VIPs such as Brooklyn Beckham, where models utilized shadows and light to enhance already striking looks.

Asymmetry, skin and corsetry were everywhere.

Since his debut, designer Casey Cadwallader’s approach has been starkly sexy, challenging conventional fashion ideals with a hard exploration of the human form. This fall was no exception.

Bras atop bare torsos paired with oversized black tuxedos. Mini dresses that clung to the body had loose, fluttering bands at the hem. Themes of concealment were prevalent, with sheer fabrics revealing nipples and strategically placed fabric sections only just providing modesty.

The American designer continues to make significant waves in the Paris fashion world.

This season again, he championed inclusivity, showcasing models of every ethnicity, size (including several plus-sized models), and a broad age range, highlighted by the radiant 63-year-old Farida Khelfa in a show-stopping, brilliantly vivid red fringed poncho-dress.

Cadwallader’s presentations are known as events that blend performance, art and fashion, incorporating digital elements to create engaging shows that resonate with a contemporary audience, ensuring that Mugler is once more a dynamic player in today's fashion conversation.

Thomas Adamson, The Associated Press

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