H&M Studio F/W 2016
H&M Studio F/W 2016

I could have used a B12 shot or something to stay awake through the bulk of this afternoon/evening’s presentations. I’m very well aware that Ralph Toledano, President of Fèdèration Française de la Couture, has said that, “there’s nothing wrong with the status quo.” Paris, like Milan, won’t be adapting a current-season show schedule as New York and London are looking to do. Yet, there clearly is something wrong with the status quo if the king of fast fashion, H&M, takes a prime show spot on Wednesday evening and, arguably, presents more interesting styles than the previous four shows. Remember, this is the same H&M whose production facilities have been charged with using child immigrant labor and maintaining unsafe working conditions. While H&M had cancelled contracts  with the worst offenders, conditions for garment workers piecing together these all-too-cheap clothes remain deplorable. If that’s the status quo, then we all should be dissatisfied.

The styles making their way around the circuitous runway were distinctly American, partly because of their cultural appropriation of Native American icons and beadwork, but also because of other touches that were uniquely American. For one, we can be sure this was the only show where models wear bras under sheer tops. There were also more American models in the lineup than we’ve seen elsewhere, but that is actually a plus as it meant this was also the most racially diverse casting we’ve seen of any Paris show. Granted, this is only the second day here, but Paris doesn’t seem to be inclined to address that issue at the moment.

Styles had a definite 1970s feel to them, which is in line with what we’ve continued to see all season. Both dresses and slacks were very full and very flowing. If the fabrics seem a bit light for a fall/winter season, remember that this is H&M, where styles are expected to move off the shelf quickly, so that six to eight weeks later an entirely different collection may be on store shelves. H&M also boasts stores in both hemispheres, so where it is cool in one, it is warm in the other, creating a need for a year-round approach to clothing.

The hats were a big hit in the lineup though they tended to not exactly fit all the models well and caused some balance issues at times. Dangling fringe on the final few items was also well accepted and long scarves were hits the moment they hit the runway. Parisians seem to really enjoy scarves this season and are very creative in how they wear them.

Everything else, though, was a matter of styling. There were no new silhouettes, no fashion statements we’ve not seen multiple times before, nothing to make this a must-buy collection. Styling is what H&M does and to call their creative team designers is misleading. The collection is very practical and, predictably one that is likely to sell extremely quickly. Giving credit where it’s due, this team knows what to put on store shelves.

But there was laughter rippling through the audience at times, and I fear they were laughing at H&M, not with them. More than a few models stumbled and twisted ankles on their walk, and one poor girl fell not once, but twice during the finalé walk thanks to problems with her hat. There was also the curious instance of a mature model, the 16th look in, who appeared confused, missing her first turn on the runway, and walking slowly and looking slightly disoriented the rest of her walk. While I applaud the label for casting older models, her subsequent absence from the finalé leaves open questions about the woman’s health.

We’re still early and there are a number of shows tomorrow that have the opportunity to change the flow of boredom that was present today.  But the very fact that there is room on the Paris schedule for multiple retailers, not designers, tells us that the status quo is not well. Not well at all.

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