With a collection called “Toxique, c’est chic”, which showcases the knitting techniques he perfected under Covid-19 lockdown at home, James Giltner is among aspiring designers stepping into the limelight in an unusual edition of Paris’ fashion week.
The 10 days of high-end catwalk shows usually held in the French capital will be replaced by online presentations and films, echoing a similar set-up in New York, London and Milan.
But as well as top brands, ranging from Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood to Dries Van Noten, students on the cusp of graduating from Paris’ Institut Francais de la Mode
(IFM) will also get a moment in the sun for the first time.
Their filmed catwalk show is set to kick off the extravaganza on Monday, billed as a tribute to the young “Covid generation” disrupted by the pandemic.
“Lately we’ve been really kind of pessimistic, especially in the fashion industry, knowing that many people are losing jobs, things are going a certain way, who’s really buying clothes - are there even events for people to go to?” Giltner said.
“I think the important thing is to kind of keep the dream alive.”
Giltner’s fantastical creations, with three-dimensional short dresses with silvery whirls recalling shells and molluscs, were heavily influenced by the knitting craft he explored in his bedroom during the pandemic, he said.
The 23-year-old added that he had sought to evoke how viruses and glamour co-existed with his collection.
For the master's students, who face a tough job market when they graduate, the streamed show will be a rare opportunity to reach a wider audience, and IFM head Xavier Romatet said the school had wanted to celebrate their work and creativity.
Some like Clement Picot, 23, have still managed to grab internships, and he is set to start one with French fashion house Givenchy this spring.
Picot, whose designs include glazed leather trousers and coats with huge, boxy shoulders, said he was enthusiastic about the online alternative to a catwalk show despite the initial disappointment, but hoped non-virtual ones would return soon.
“It would be a shame,” Picot said. “We must continue doing runway shows, it’s what fashion is all about.”
Paris Fashion Week runs from March 1-10.