“Fashion gives us the materials to think up the future with enthusiasm and energy” Pascaline Wilhelm

Première Vision Fashion Director Pascaline Wilhelm continues our series of interviews dedicated to the futures of fashion with a firmly optimistic view.  Hailing the creativity of fashion’s entire universe – especially its upstream sector – she shares with us a nuanced analysis of the progress that’s been made, and explains how the autumn winter 21-22 trends are already infused with the changes underway.

We’ve been expecting it for years now – promising this time it was really on its way… and now,  in spite of the unfavorable environment, the fashion industry has unquestionably taken a decisive step forward, positing it firmly in a new era. And the industry’s upheaval is due first of all to a new way of envisioning the digital universe.

The days when the world of digital technology stood in opposition to the real world are over. Today they’re deftly balanced together, each enhancing the other.

Images can reinforce, strengthen and help reveal how products feel. Software discloses the concrete reality of projects, to help us anticipate the expected results; and digital tools can multiply and speed-up discussions and meetings. Just as critically, ecological concerns infuse the entire creative process. The new color palettes offered up by chrome-free tanned leathers increase the number of creative developments – technology is giving rise to new generations of hybrid, high-performance, sustainable materials and more. And lastly, this ongoing revolution could not exist without the boldness and open-mindedness of the entire industry, particularly the upstream fashion sector, which has undergone a remarkable transformation in order to provide designers new fields for experimentation. The proof is in the full panorama of Autumn/Winter 21-22 trends, discussed in preview by Pascaline Wilhelm.

It’s not easy in such a disparate context to spot the emerging trends. How did you go about collecting the information?

It was quite a tour de force that bolstered the ties between all the Première Vision teams and our fashion experts across the globe. We couldn’t meet in person, but everyone participated, sharing their convictions in terms of ideas, colors, shapes etc. We worked on an initial set of leading ideas that we shared remotely with our exhibitors, holding webinars in seven languages so that all our partners – including workshop technicians and craftsmen who are not necessarily English-speaking – could benefit from our information, in their own language and at the right time. The rest, however, was complicated.  Some companies had difficulties reopening, others continued to operate but had supply problems, etc. Yet we have seen, everywhere, a strong creative energy to offer markets truly new ideas and products, in step with emerging trends.

Given the situation, a desire for reassurance seems natural…

In such a multifaceted world, we see a desire to get back to our roots, to focus on safe values, without taking any visual risks. We felt a touch of nostalgia everywhere, but the temptation to go back to the past has in no way diminished inventiveness or a desire to rework styles and colors in new and original ways. Softness -a bulwark against outside aggression – is visually expressed by very original muted chinés and blurry effects. Materials are sophisticated and familiar to all – Shetlands, Prince of Wales- but now they have thermal and breathable qualities that make them ever so modern.  

Is a desire for protection, which has been quite present in recent years, growing even stronger?

It’s still important but now we are looking for ways to protect ourselves with softness, with kindness. Caring is the antidote to the harshness of the world, although we still feel the need to isolate ourselves symbolically from reality. In practice, this results in materials that envelop the body in a sensual and generous way, with weaves that create hybrid mixes of wool and thermal synthetics that are enormously soft; leathers that are at once thick, puffy and extremely light. Protection is never aggressive – it’s welcoming. Here again, comfort is meant to be smart, with perfectly mastered high-tech processes.

You also noted an increase in fantasy, a desire to celebrate…

Opulence is making a big comeback, with a certain ambivalent dichotomy. It can be joyful and eccentric with incursions into parallel and virtual worlds that open the door to a new imaginary universe, but it’s also rich and ornamental with brass, shine, and sumptuous jacquards and velvets. It’s as if fashion were offering two ways to express oneself, inviting a rich and passionate lightness. 

Nature has been omnipresent the last few seasons. Is it still setting the tone?

It still retains its influence but is broken down in a new kind of authenticity, perhaps more ruggedness. Inspiration comes from pebbles and nuggets with incandescent materials, there’s a play on tactile and visual unevenness with artificially abraded, torn materials that shake up classic tailoring. This is a new and very interesting approach. The tailored grows casual while the latter becomes sophisticated, with a huge wealth of materials.

What are we seeing in terms of colors?

We’re seeing the emergence of fairly clear-cut positions with rich and contrasting harmonies. There’s an anti-gloominess activism, with very sensitive natural hues, warm earth tones, shadowy tones, graduated shades, patinas producing color effects whose power is enhanced by the use of light. At the same time, there are also very strong colors, including a wide range of reds that will make the season come alive with real panache.

Any special cuts or garments?

Autumn-winter 21/22 marks the return of more tailored constructions. A search for balance, new asymmetries with an offbeat use of materials and a taste for garments marked by protrusions inspired by the virtual world. There’s an interesting play on shapes: a pocket turns into a tote bag, heels rise up to become actual platforms, bags look really inflated, and accessories are more visible. In short, we expand, we get noticed! These powerful trends are going to gain ground at the expense of sport looks, a universe which is losing its influence. This testifies to the increasing importance of technology. Today, performance is an obvious fact, it’s everywhere – it doesn’t need to affirm itself and be seen.

To know more about the trends of the season AH 21-22 follow the seminars of the fashion team:

Join us online this 15th and 16th of September at 10am for the Season Trend Tasting and at 3pm for the Colors Trend Tasting.