‘Stranger, sadder and more surreal’: how the war in Ukraine transformed the fashion shows

Low-key looks might just be the next big thing, after the Paris and Milan fashion weeks put the post-pandemic party on hold

At the end of London fashion week last month, I wrote about how this season was going to be all about the return of the party dress. People like me hold up fashion to be a kind of divining rod for the coming public mood, so I think it is best to admit that I called that one spectacularly wrong.

Just hours after Milan fashion week began, Russia invaded Ukraine. Coco Chanel once said that “fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”. Great when the world is emerging from a pandemic and life is looking exciting again, and fashion can nurture feelings of hope and optimism by selling delicious new frocks as if they were chicken soup for the soul. Not so great once war breaks out. Military tailoring? I’ll pass, thanks. But it’s fair to say party dresses haven’t been flying off the shelves, either. Which made for a strange mood at fashion week. Tricky to pitch next season’s wardrobe as a fun thing to think about when the immediate future is quite so frightening.

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