Paris Fashion Week: Chanel and McQueen Give Us a Contrast in Modern Classics

Chanel Fall 2018 Paris runway
Photo: Pascal Le Segretain (Getty Images)

Chanel is the definition of classic. Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s longtime designer, has kept the label’s image moving by making modern classics out of tweed jackets, quilted leather bags and patent leather cap-toe boots, and by both adding sparkle to fabric and #BlackGirlMagic to the runways.


This season, a full-scale enchanted forest played host to a parade of ankle-length skirts and high-collar jackets with statement sleeves. Shoulders, one of the most important details of this fashion season, were treated with feathers, luscious gobs of fake fur or appliquéd felt leaves cascading down the sleeves that fluttered gently as models padded over the faux leaves that also carpeted the runway.

Gold boots, lurex stockings, supersized two-tone scarves in an autumn blaze of burnt orange and carmine red, and fingerless fuchsia or gold opera gloves added a shock of color against black, a very strong trend we’ve been seeing on the runways for fall.

Chanel Fall-Winter 2018 Paris runway show (FF Channel via YouTube)

In contrast, Alexander McQueen is a label that pushes the boundaries of fashion with a darkly romantic vision that makes both women and fashion more beautiful, and this season was no exception. Designer Sarah Burton showed primary brights against black butterfly prints, sharp tuxedos lined in brilliant hues like red, and deconstructed leather jackets that made the tried-and-true wardrobe staple into a truly modern, investment-worthy addition.

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2018-2019 Paris runway show (ChannelFF via YouTube)

Military jackets were transformed into eveningwear as they were cleverly extended into expertly cut tailcoats. And long before there were “waist trainers,” McQueen has made corsets like no other designer, this time sculpted out of leather. But it was the shoulders that were the focus (The Glow Up has said it in nearly every fashion review this season, and it holds true again for this collection), with pleated silk shoulders blown up like clouds of cotton candy, crafted with the kind of couture skills capable of transforming pure whimsy into complete sophistication.


Equally lovely was the diverse runway-model lineup, an array of skin tones from ebony to ivory, and the surprise sole addition of a plus-size model, one of the few full-figured women on the catwalk this season. While we still have a long way to go when it comes to truly inclusive representations of not only race but also size and age on the runway, Burton’s collection—which reinvented riot-girl gear, moto jackets and military uniforms—seemed to be in step with women marching to make changes toward parity, power and equality in the world at large.

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Veronica Webb

Veronica Webb loves Detroit, speaks French, is addicted to French fries, French fashion, runs an 8 minute mile and can never find her keys.