The runways of Paris have felt heavy this season. But among the inky overcoats with bold shoulders, the long black leather jackets and solemn silhouettes that encase the body like armor, a lighter trend was taking flight: feathers.
At Loewe, goose plumes were densely layered to create long-sleeved tops, shorts and pants; at Victoria Beckham, a large ostrich feather rippled out from under trench coats and pantsuits or was tucked into the plunging neckline of a floor-skimming evening dress.
In his debut collection for Ann Demeulemeester, Ludovic de Saint Sernin presented identical looks at the start and finish — a fluid silk maxi-skirt and feather bandeau in leather resting across the model’s breasts (intended, he said, to look like a writing quill). At Chanel, large marabou clusters fluttered from a simple black knitted shift; and at Valentino, feathery crests stood at attention to accent crisp poplin shirts, thigh-skimming miniskirts and a showstopping black and white diagonally striped coat.
Feathers have long been fashion week favorite for designers. But at a time when the world feels increasingly somber and austere, their presence offered a soft and airy contrast to much of the grounded and wearable clothing on display — and a particularly poignant nod to those dreaming of escape.
This was on display in the ostrich feathers that trimmed sharp suiting and fluted sleeves on cocktail gowns at the Turkish label Dice Kayek, whose creative director, Ece Ege, said she had been absorbed by the devastation caused by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last month. A similar notion was at the heart of the latest collection from Bevza, a Ukrainian label that has shown at New York Fashion Week in recent years.
“In our world of oppression, pressure and anxiety, we need freedom, lightness and the ability to fly,” said its founder, Svitlana Bevza, who was showing in Paris for the first time. “We need wings, to soar above the chaos and glide to freedom.”
Minimalist white minidresses came with detachable winglike sleeves. A black sheath had capped shoulders that were finished with ruffling silk “feathers,” hand-cut in Ms. Bevza’s Kyiv atelier, amid air raid sirens and blackouts.
For centuries, feathers have offered the promise of transformation. But there is a price to pay, especially when there is still widespread evidence of cruelty in the global down and feather industries. Stella McCartney tried to point this out at her show, which took place against a backdrop of galloping horses at the École Militaire, France’s oldest riding school.
“There’s so much leather and feathers on the runway, especially in winter, and I just wanted to show that you can do it in a different way,” Ms. McCartney said after her show, which included crocodile-effect AppleSkin from apple waste and a white handbag made from Mylo (a material made from the fungus mycelium).
In time, they too may take off.