Up until now, Julien Dossena’s Paco Rabanne collections have been refracting a myriad angles on his modern-romantic ideas about French girls in the ’70s and ’80s; clothes for parties and disco nights, frequently with glimpses of goddess-y off-world futurism about them. So it was a surprise change of tack for spring, to hear him speak of “chaos, a little violence, and anger” and “radical sensuality.”
On a metal gridded runway his models strode out in heavy chain-lashed combat boots, babushka headscarves studded with metal grommets, and a wardrobe cut from latex and lace in searing colors, interspersed with lashings of black and bondage harnesses. On the soundtrack: a woman’s voice repeating “I’m going to make you sweat.”
We were definitely somewhere a lot heavier than the happy, hedonistic Paco Rabanne disco this season. All the skills of the house went into fabricating a collection which called on the traditional playbook of subversion: grunge slips, punk kilts, fetish rubber, and wipe-clean raincoats, intersected with the house signature silver chain mail.
Dossena said it was his reaction to watching “the war in Ukraine—and even though it wasn’t at the same time (as I was designing), what happened two weeks ago in the US; that now women may be forbidden abortion.” Were the headscarves a direct reference to seeing distressed Ukrainian grandmothers on newsfeeds? It was more a combination of “Queen Elizabeth and fetish,” he claimed. But all of the toughness was completely intentional. “It’s about this feeling that there’s going to be a fight, and it’s going to be a long one. So, it’s about expressing that passion and giving clothes for the moment to prepare to fight, because that’s what it’s about: no apologies.”