Fashion’s Millennial Problem – Cathy Horyn September 28, 2017 3:51 pm

Dior wants to reach them, but doesn’t know how. Plus: Lanvin’s decline, and deft touches at Margiela and Dries.

In 1968, France finally paid attention to its youth culture. It had no choice after the student revolution in May, but it didn’t like the idea. “France has never been a nation that encouraged its young to show that they were more free and alive than anyone else,” Gloria Emerson, a Paris correspondent for the Times, observed at the time. Girls didn’t get sweet 16 parties in France back then, and boys didn’t get cars.

But one of the first bellwethers of change was fashion. By 1965, a flock of cool boutiques had opened on the Left Bank, like Dorothée Bis. Yves Saint Laurent was revolutionizing haute couture with his Mondrian and baby-doll dresses. Even earlier, in 1960, he had rattled the old guard by showing a luxe motorcycle jacket at Christian Dior.

I’ve been thinking about the difference between then and now because the Paris spring 2018 collections began with a lot of talk among fashion cognoscenti about what the millennials want. A general concern over how to reach this new generation has been in the air for the last couple of years, but it seems to be reaching a crescendo lately. Everyone wants to skew younger, but what does that mean exactly? The question seemed most urgent at Dior, where Maria Grazia Chiuri filled her runway with jeans, mary janes, sparkly minidresses, and tulle skirts opening in the front over underpants that people afterward said were for millennials.

The clothes were certainly cute, and, in my opinion, this was Chiuri’s best collection since she became creative director of the 70-year-old house a year ago. She won on sheer variety. All those Desperately Seeking Susan skirts were charming, yes, but more interesting were the one-off looks, like a pair of gold Chinese pajamas, a patchwork granny skirt, a sleek red leather coat, and a boxy, Amish-looking pantsuit shown with a skipper. Chiuri is the fourth or fifth designer this season to base her collection on an artist — Niki de Saint Phalle, known for her bulbous sculptures and mirrored mosaics — and, as she has done a couple of times at Dior already, Chiuri attempted to call attention to the inequality of women. She opened the show with a model in a top with the words: “Why have there been no great women artists?” It’s also the title of a scholarly essay by Linda Nochlin which was left on every seat for guests to read at their leisure.