Mud pits with giant flowers, the best backdrops for the S/S 2023 runway
Flowers, mounds of mud, a cardboard grotto – an eclectic range of show backdrops provided a transporting backdrop for this season’s runway shows, which culminated earlier this week in Paris. Throughout the fashion capitals, Wallpaper* selects the best sets and locations for Spring-Summer 2023 shows, from Loewe to Balenciaga.
The best sets from the S/S 2023 show
The invitation for Jonathan Anderson’s latest Loewe collection was a single red anthurium flower, delivered to attendees in a slim white box. On their arrival at the show area – installed in the equestrian arena of La Garde Républicaine – the guests were welcomed by this same anthurium flower, here overlooking the blown fiberglass track. “A product of nature that looks like an object of design, and treated as such,” the designer said of its visual appeal. As such, it reappeared in various forms – like a bodice, springing from a shoe – across a collection that saw Anderson explore silhouette and form. “An emphasis on line, color and form,” Loewe said. ‘The reality of the garment, in tension, with precision.’
A vast mud-filled pit provided an unexpected lead for Demna’s latest Balenciaga collection, a collaboration with Spanish artist Santiago Sierra (the natural scent was enhanced by a fragrance from longtime collaborator Sissel Tolaas, inspired by the decomposition). It set the stage for a provocative collection from the Georgian designer, who has played with dystopian tropes in recent seasons. This time he said the set was a metaphor “for seeking the truth and being down to earth” – part of a collection that explored the battleground of individualism. ‘Every day becomes a battlefield to defend [your] unique identity,” he wrote in a letter before the show. “The more you try to be yourself, the more you get punched in the face.”
This season, Acne Studios celebrated ten years of exposure in Paris with what creative director Jonny Johansson called a “twisted wedding party.” “The most iconic event I’ve ever imagined is the wedding. For me, it kicks off a lot of aesthetic choices – what’s the most interesting event that people are used to participate, to celebrate something?’ he said Wallpaper*.As such, the all-pink exhibition space – housed inside the “iconic institution of Paris”, the Palais de Tokyo – featured beds with crinkled satin sheets and shell-encrusted candelabras created by nail artist Sylvie Macmillan, he set the scene for a collection that played with the kitsch archetypes of romantic nuptials: wedding night sheets, the bride’s shoes, the bows and the pretty flowers,” Johansson said.
For his second collection at Bottega Veneta, Matthieu Blazy collaborated on set with 82-year-old Italian designer, artist and architect Gaetano Pesce. Consisting of a cast resin floor and 400 chairs – each entirely unique, with naive hand-drawn designs, from smiling faces to cartoonish handbags – it was an example of Pesce’s humanist style, which contrasted to repetition and mass production. “As a designer I do originals, not standardized sets, it’s the old way – it’s the new,” Pesce said. “This space is a tribute to diversity. It is about the human being; We’re all different. We are all different and that is our main quality – otherwise we are just a copy. We’re all originals, and that’s one of the themes of my design.
Gucci S/S 2023 runway set. Courtesy of Gucci
Halfway through Alessandro Michele’s final show for Gucci, the central wall rose to reveal two identical fashion shows had taken place at the same time – right down to the models, who were identical twins. Titled Twinsburg, after a town in Ohio that hosts an annual gathering of twins (where most of Gucci’s designs have been spotted), the exhibition space itself featured a portfolio of images by the photographer Canadian Mark Peckmezian of faces duplicated in various expressions. “A reflection on how identity is understood through the presence of the other,” Gucci said of the images, which reflected the exploration of individualism that ran through the show and the collection. “It’s the illusion of sameness,” Michele said. ‘The illusion game of a cracked symmetry. Twinsburg plays this game, creating tension in the relationship between the original and the copy.
Prada S/S 2023 runway set. Courtesy of Prada
Earlier this year, Prada set the backdrop for its menswear collection with an expansive rendering of a paper house, complete with cut-out windows and doors (in its simplicity, it was reminiscent of a child’s drawing). For their women’s show, a darker, more disturbing atmosphere – the white paper had been reversed into black; through the windows eerie videos shone. These shorts were a collaboration with filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn – who also collaborated more generally on the show’s direction – and captured domestic scenes, from a woman taking off her shoes to the underside of a mattress. “Although the collaboration is about the runway rather than the collection, we were inspired by the collaboration, by its take on Prada,” said Raf Simons, the house’s co-creative director with Miuccia Prada. “There is a mirror of cinema in the collection, fragments that bear witness to a larger whole. Different bodies of work, within one body of work – oscillating between disparate form languages.
A “pulsating monstrous flower” (as the house described it) served as the backdrop for Louis Vuitton’s latest collection. Created by Algerian artist Philippe Parreno, the sprawling tent-like construction featured rows of flickering light bulbs and slowly rotating mirrors – the effect resembling a fun hall of mirrors. It was a reflection of the collection itself, which played with proportions and scale, from enlarged versions of the house’s monogram and hardware (zippers, eyelets, etc.) to oversized accessories. “It is a stylistic exercise that re-evaluates the proportions of the garment and its complements, an exercise in which the codes of femininity upset the scale,” read the collection notes. “The infinitely large and the infinitely small come together in silhouettes, inviting a second look.”
This season, Miuccia Prada collaborated with Chinese artist Shuang Li on the show’s set, creating a dark space lit by digital screens that played repeated short films reminiscent of computer screensavers or stock footage ( light wind turbines, rotating planets, a bouncing 3D shark). The book was a commentary on the idea of the “wireless cloud” fallacy, which is actually supported by “thousands of miles of undersea cables that populate the ocean floor” (indeed, the seats black cylinders were reminiscent of these cable pipes-like design). “Shuang Li’s work explores this tension between material and immaterial and its obfuscation,” Miu Miu said in a statement. “Messages lost in transmission do not simply disappear but, imagined here, can take on another form, punctuating the sky.”
The cinematic inspirations behind Virginie Viard’s latest collection for Chanel were two-fold – first, Coco Chanel’s suits for Alain Renais Last year in Marienbad (the new wave… the night, the feathers, the sequins, the heels’). Second, contemporary actress and house muse Kristen Stewart, who, according to Viard, “is closest to Gabrielle Chanel, at least to my idea of her.” “She understands Chanel, her clothes. And with it, it becomes even more modern. The two reunited in a short film by Inez & Vinoodh with Stewart, which sees her emerge from the Parisian arthouse cinema Champo after a screening of Last year in Marienbad. In the vast performance space – housed inside the Grand Palais Éphémère – floor-to-ceiling screens immersed guests in the film, spinning around the audience in a dramatic celebration of the power of cinema.
This season, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski imagined her wife for spring-summer 2023 during a ‘rave in the desert’ – ‘the sounds radiating from behind the hill follow the drift of dawn: she never has anything felt so beautiful. The show’s setting itself evoked a desert scene – although in typically luxurious style, with a stretch of beige carpet evoking sand – its focal point was a recreation of a sand dune, around which models circled in loop. As the show progressed, it came alive with trippy color projections. “The colors of the landscape came to life and began to move,” the collection notes describe. ‘Glitter like liquefied.’
Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest Dior show allowed the designer to continue a tradition of collaboration with international women artists. This time it was Eva Jospin – a French artist known for her intricate cardboard sculptures, which often feature bas-relief elements – who created an intricate cardboard “cave” evoking the Baroque caves that ran through the center of the track. The collection itself leaned into the Baroque styles of Florentine noblewoman Catherine de’ Medici who brought Burano lace, the corset and wedge heels to France through her marriage to King Henry II – elements that Chiuri reinterpreted through a 21st century lens.
Courrèges S/S 2023 fashion show. Courtesy of Courrèges
A sand-covered annular track – reminiscent of a beach – served as the setting for Nicolas Di Felice’s latest Courrèges collection, which he says was about “time passed, looking forward, looking back” ( the creations of the collection have forged a link between the sensuality of the Belgian designer minimalism and the futurism of the eponymous founder of the house). As such, sand flowed from the ceiling onto the track below; the effect was something like being suspended in a giant hourglass. “Looking at the past as we look at the idea of the future,” read the collection’s accompanying notes. ‘Like a way to create at the moment.’ §