Paris Fashion Week Fall 2023: Power dressing’s rise, streetwear’s decline


Paris Fashion Week | Courtesy of Loewe ©

Lauren Lee

Paris Fashion Week is typically the most anticipated of the season, held after New York, London and Milan with top designer shows like Miu Miu, Dior, Balenciaga and many more.

The Paris shows presented novelty moments, from Miu Miu’s viral underwear look to Loewe’s “Polly Pocket” pieces. However, many designers decided to trade post-modern style for powerful, wearable classic-inspired looks.

Louis Vuitton’s women’s creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière was inspired by the concept of classics for his fall collection. He posed the question, “What is French style?” answering “classicism with a twist.” His collection was not a revival of tradition, but instead an attempt to define and innovate current fashion.

Luxury fashion’s transition toward practical style aligns with consumer trends. With an increased consciousness for sustainability, many consumers intend to subvert the trend cycle and buy long-lasting pieces that are considered “classics.”

One example of this shifting favor is the rise of the luxury label The Row, a champion of timelessness and quality. Mainstream fashion saw the same trend with brands like Aritzia, Reformation and Everlane — anchored in staples and basics.

Many of the Paris shows experimented with classics in power-dressed silhouettes. Power dressing emerged in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, as women entered the workplace and used their office fashion to declare their authority. Certain power dressing elements from the runway, like ties on women and everyday suits, have been adopted as mainstream trends for some time now, but the appearance of strong shoulder pads indicated an ‘80s-specific inspiration.

As power dressing has popularized in luxury fashion, streetwear has declined. Luxury’s interest in streetwear has been waning for years, especially after the death of legendary designer and former Louis Vuitton men’s creative director Virgil Abloh, who founded the massively successful streetwear brand Off-White.

 “I would definitely say [streetwear is] gonna die”, Abloh famously said in 2019. The designer challenged the then-staples of streetwear.

“…How many more t-shirts can we own, how many more hoodies, how many sneakers?” Since Abloh’s prediction, streetwear’s opposing force, classic tailored fashion, has risen.

Balenciaga’s Paris show was held on March 5. The brand has been at the forefront of streetwear-inspired luxury fashion since its creative director Demna Gvasalia was appointed in 2015. The Kardashian favorite has sold several viral items, such as the “pantashoe” and platform crocs. Despite this, Balenciaga has received backlash for their unwearable gimmicks and recently, controversial advertising, which has prompted Gvasalia to redirect the brand.

The criticism and announced redirection turned all eyes to Balenciaga this season. “…Fashion to me can no longer be seen as an entertainment, but rather as the art of making clothes ”, Gvasalia commented on the collection ahead of the show.

The collection lacked the deconstructive, streetwear-inspired pieces Gvasalia is known for. Instead, it consisted of tailored pieces like highly-structured blazers and draping dresses with pronounced shoulder pads. Gvasalia’s redirection of Balenciaga fits seamlessly into the overall trend of power dressing classics.

The Balenciaga show was received tepidly as the fashion world acknowledged Gvasalia’s safe attempt at a reset. However, if fashion continues to favor wearable classicism as it has recently, there may be space for Gvasalia’s  “new Balenciaga” to thrive.