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Showing Haute Couture with riots in the streets

In una settimana di profonda crisi, la moda dovrebbe farsi da parte?

Showing Haute Couture with riots in the streets In una settimana di profonda crisi, la moda dovrebbe farsi da parte?

When the announcement had been made a few weeks ago that both Celine and Alaïa were holding their shows on the same day, which was yesterday, the news had been greeted with the ironic amusement usually reserved for fashion's frivolous first world problems. Of course, no one could imagine what would happen two weeks later, with fashion week over, after the murder of 17-year-old Nahel at the hands of the police. Today the situation, for those who follow the unfolding events on Twitter or otherwise through social media, is alarming to say the least: burning buildings and cars, cars hurled at a mayor's house, street clashes, looting-all images of a nation on fire. And while political scientists and conspiracists crowd the web with their interpretations and analyses, in Paris one of the country's largest national industries, fashion, is not quite sure where to stand. Sacrifice hours of work, meticulous organization and huge amounts of capital in deference to the general atmosphere or carry on as if nothing is wrong, in the safety of the city center while columns of smoke rise miles away?

Yesterday the two brands that had organized concurrent shows each chose a course of action: Celine promptly announced the cancellation of its show, even publishing a message from Hedi Slimane in which, very briefly, he said that organizing a show at such a time is simply out of place and wrong; Alaïa instead decided to continue as if nothing had happened, walking at the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor while Patou organized its show at the Salle Wagram on the same day. Today the press has published reviews of both shows, and Haute Couture week would seem to have to continue uninterrupted with Schiapparelli's show - but how possible is it to follow the procession of these luxury gowns while, out there, the suburbs are revolting? The shift in the cultural thermometer is not just about fashion, it seems, but about the general population since several local sources say that riots and unrest are concentrating in the suburbs while leaving the central areas of the city fairly unchanged. In fact, sources close to the magazine speak of a general state of alert but without the riots actually reaching the central arrondissements of Paris.


Riots spread across France overnight, set off by the deadly police shooting of a teenager of North African descent on Tuesday during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb.

original sound - CGTN Europe

It is clear, however, that the relative tranquility of the central districts cannot obscure the broader social and political issues that these riots are putting under the gaze of French and world public opinion. For this reason, the timing of Paris Couture Week seems to be as tragic as ever-after all, it is certainly no longer a trade fair that can take place separately from the rest, but an entire media circus that brings to the city wasteful events, celebrities and paparazzi as well as members of the fashion world's most absurdly wealthy clientele. A perfect representation of the situation might be the now-famous photo of the Eagle Creek fires taken by Kristi McCluer in 2017 in which a group of Americans can be seen playing golf while, in the background, the entire side of a mountain burns – defined by The Guardian as a «visual metaphor for America». Will the shows of the coming days provide audiences with another and more current visual metaphor for our society? Or does that metaphor already lie before everyone's eyes? After all, the events of these days seem like a spiritual sequel to what happened with the furious riots of 2005, which erupted from a similar incident and ignited for the same (and apparent) reasons, namely the social unrest of the banlieues abandoned by institutions. Almost eighteen years later those problems seem to have shifted but not changed.

Meanwhile, as we write these lines, a 24-year-old firefighter trapped in a burning underground parking lot in Saint-Denis is being mourned, and some of the world's most celebrated stars are making their entrance, covered in feathers, silk and gold, at the Schiapparelli show. If at the beginning of Paris Fashion Week Pharrell's show had led some to speak of a fashion "bubble," the events of these days may in fact confirm that what separates fashion from the outside world is far more coriaceous than a fragile bubble - it is a wall, an insurmountable chasm that separates the artificial havens of luxury from an increasingly fragile, brutal and contradictory society. Not bad for an industry that, when it comes to performance activism, has in the past gloried itself in its ability to tell the times, talking about creative democracy, accessibility, plurality of voices. Not that fashion is supposed to save the world, for that there is politics, but after all it is only natural that, now that the voices coming from the street express a social anger that cannot be turned into a capsule collection with a progressive vibe, the fashion world will do its own accountancy and lock itself in its own palaces. Regardless of how the situation evolves, however, we seem to be able to read in the events of these days, the trajectory that the luxury industry will take starting in the coming seasons: disinterested in the things of the world, unperturbed as long as its profits remain unscathed, removed and unconcerned - perhaps, however, finally even less hypocritical. After all, fashion has always been a rich man's thing.