Fashion Week in Paris, and internationally, is understandably becoming a self-parody as the world's gaze shifts more to the event itself rather than the frocks being jettisoned down the runway. Comedians were invited to present the basic equivalent of a Netflix comedy special while wearing a designer's collection of what looks like clothes from Uniqlo meets Party City. Underwear and rolls of fabric were used to attract the eye and possibly disdain at J.W. Anderson. K-Pop stars were showered in the cold glow of the camera flash to throngs of adolescents who were only present for the star energy in front of the majority of the major French heritage houses : It may be perceived from someone on the inside as the solidification and confirmation of a new era of fashion, where naturally, clothes only serve the role of a social movement that's much deeper than the hues of the finest silk from China : Materialism. Materialism has reached heights that would seem to harold the beginning of the end of times, but others will argue that at least it's keeping an industry alive that would have otherwise disappeared somewhere in the early 2000's. Are there hidden gems among these collections? Of course : The talent behind the scenes still makes use of a vast array of knowledge on special artisanal techniques and new technical ones - but there seems to be a paradigm shift when it comes to the way that European and American consumers, men in particular, are thinking about fashion. Fashion has become like a Kaws doll : it's funny, it's cute, it's expensive but accessible, and it's collectible. One can resell on Vinted, or Grailed, and "low-key" display that they have disposable income - very disposable, given that the prices have tripled since 2005. If you have ever watched "Lunatics" on Netflix, the image of DJ QUNT comes up quite a lot in my mind - with either one of the sampled remixes of Elton John & Britney Spears or Dua Lipa - who cares anyway. That said, a lot of men, do not associate themselves with that lifestyle, and that's nothing new - except that it is beginning to take on more important proportions. For these customers, there exists a plethora of new local tailors, or garment / accessory makers specialized in unique products. Instagram and other social media outlets (ultimately TikTok) have opened up the flood gates for small business owners to pursue a larger target audience of consumers. For some it seems to work, while for others, they can't get past a certain rate of "interaction". It seems as though between these two worlds of small business owners (tailors) working on high quality fabrication, and fashion designers, working only for the re-post, that they could both benefit mutually from interaction. The tailoring "Sartorial" world lacks the star quality / sex appeal that the Fashion world lacks in credible clothing for self-respecting men. Whether those two worlds will ever collide again remains to be seen, as the masses seem to be driving culture more and more to the brink of extinction, preferring to wear a black sweatsuit that says "Givenchy" on Tuesday, and a neon green sweatsuit that says "Louis Vuitton" on Wednesday - but, to every extreme shift of culture, there is another one to counterbalance. My lingering thoughts after this fashion week remain the following : Why it gotta be so extra? & : Is being shocking or gender-fuck even interesting / anti-system anymore?
Bode, the Brooklyn based menswear brand, was a breath of fresh air among the other "relatively new" niche brands. Photography alone doesn't do justice to it, which is more of a piece-by-piece affair. Delicate embroidery, reminiscent of alpine journeys, mixed with swaths of tightly woven velvets and wools, help add a certain palpable value to this collection. The designer, Emily Adams Bode Aujla (!), requires that all of her pieces incorporate a certain level of artisanal intrigue - quilting, embroidery, lace, crochet, hand-knits, and recovering fabrics from flea markets and dead-stock, are regulars in her collections. This season did not disappoint, and all these details add a certain unique effulgence that many other brands lack. A total look seems a bit too much, but perhaps a pair of trousers embroidered down the sides, or a coat with French imperial braiding would be a lovely addition to the closet for next season. Another detail that I loved : the pairing of Ghillie shoes and opera pumps with transparent black socks - ultimate chic.
Saint Laurent was my favorite show this season, unapologetically chic. The total opposite of seemingly every other fashion house. Classics re-imagined in a sexy and elegant way, actually empowering the wearer for the streets of any major capital city. It's bitchy, cold, sharp, inteligent, Parisian, and Yves Saint Laurent, all at once. Anthony Vaccarello is bringing us Saint Laurent in a way that we haven't seen for a longtime. The previous collections waned a bit, and struggled to enthrall us as they were a bit too simple - a chiffon printed shirt with snug black leather trousers, or bedazzled tight little jackets, were the only previous offer. With the past two men's shows, however, Vaccarello has really brought back the aggressive French glamour that was missing for so long. High waisted pleated voluminous trousers, coats practically touching the pavement, simple dark sunglasses, and thickly coiffed sleek hairstyles - Anthony Vaccarello has a unique vision of gender fluidity, and it is one I can really get behind : indeed, he believes that the outfit / uniform should be wearable on either a woman or a man, without having to pander to gender stereotypes, otherwise said, the menswear is perfectly passable as menswear, or womenswear, without having to scream that it's gender-fluid. How futuristic.
Jonathan Anderson is a designer who takes design very seriously, apparently. He has been convincing us for many years now that fashion design can be elevated into the art-sphere. As difficult of a pill to swallow that may be for many people in the fashion industry, he somehow does it in a somewhat credible way. In this Loewe show, he continues to present very few pieces of clothing, but styled in an unusual and thought-provoking way. He was quoted as saying "I think - I hope - that we're going into a period where it is about being uncomfortable in design, that we are trying to find something new." - quite a heavy reflection and statement, but totally suited to the world of Anderson, and perhaps very valid to us all. In a fashion world where copying existing designs has become the industry expected norm, the idea of creating something new has become somewhat novel - i.e. the dream of the 90's. Whatever one's opinion may be, piece by piece, I find many possible new purchases. Long floor-touching coats cut raw from the hide, airy suits paired with (unfortunately) fake fur cowls, and thick fabrics usually reserved for hunting coats in the depths of Scotland worn as jackets. It is imperative that designers like Anderson continue the pursuit of New, and I look forward to trying out these coats in the meantime.
Norbert Stumpfl released another perfect collection for Brioni, despite some of the looks feeling a bit too sportswear. Otherwise, elegant cashmere coats draped over pairs of pleated trousers and thin leather belts felt to be what one may desire now. Acceptable, simple, and expensive elegance. The color palette was an pleasing mix, strong neutrals is my best way of describing it. These looks seem to focus more on being comfortable but elegant all at once, a more visually pleasing solution to Loro Piana. Despite the safety net, there were daring full moiré suits here and there, which I found very chic. The Brioni man is definitely feeling good, and looking great.
Officine Générale, a somewhat high-street brand, had a bit more presence than usual this season on the runway. Almost a feeling of old Prada & a more minimal version of Stefano Pilati. In any case I felt it pertinent to draw attention to the brand. Somewhere between tailoring and mass-market, there are some nice pieces to be found and desired among these looks. A toned down and lovely color palette of navy blue, black; white, and variations of gray, enhanced with touches of canary yellow, pastel vibrant pink, and sky blue, give the distinct feeling of elegance, but very wearable. The high waisted pleated and bellowing trousers are on my shopping list.
Admittedly, Ernest W. Baker has a tendency to feel too young. The models have a bit of that David Sims punk look from Arena Homme magazine, the vibe is too-cool-for-school, and a bit overly romantic in a new-wave kind of way. Now that I've said that, I would like to say this : I love the coats and jackets in this collection. There is a very male-version of Chanel happening here, albeit not as well executed as it could be, frankly the offer on that is quite limited outside of this designer duo. I love how they play with the clichés of chic, and present a version that we can take a part, or take it as it is. I enjoy this all over white snow bunny look for skiing in Gstaad this February. Or what about that glaringly 1980's leather trimmed red coat for a galant evening out on the Champs Elysées? The collection has appeal, and we will continue watching.
Dries Van Noten in the past few years, since Covid just about, has become a love and hate relationship for me. The brand is practically a Belgian heritage house at this point, and the Dries-ismes come back every season. The streetwear meets sartorial sprezzatura vibe has always been pleasant to look at (and more so to wear) but maybe it's too prevelant now - or maybe Raf behind Prada is driving the image of Belgian fashion (yes I am comparing the two) into the ground. In any case, I thought it still notable to discuss this show from Dries. Compared to the past shows, it was nice to see a lot of coating and concentration on the power of form and fabric. Gorgeous camel coats, slick trench coats, mariner style jackets, knits with plunging necklines, and three belted high-waisted trousers were my favorite pieces from the show - along with the very snug double breasted sport coats with 8 buttons. That said, there were a few looks that could go - in particular the extremely oversized suit jackets that keep coming back since about 5 years now. Dries seems to be good starting point for young men who are used to wearing streetwear and want to begin wearing more tailored looks.
Raf Simons seems to share the same opinion as Jonathan Anderson when it comes to pairing down looks to a bare minimum. The overall takeaway from this show was : a dark suit with high-impact shirt collars, or an open knit cardigan over bare skin. And of course, as we have grown accustomed to with Prada and Church's, the clown shoes. Between the two designers however, I think Jonathan has more aplomb in his opinion as Raf has never actually been an openly intellectual designer. His design was for the wild youth in the stifled bourgeoisie of Europe in the 1980's - it was the Banksy equivalent of dressing. Banksy is the best equation I can make for his work - it's accessible intellectualism, contemporary easy commentary, and it is considered high-art by people who aren't in the art world. Raf joining Dior years ago seems to have been a decisive changing point for him : Already used to designing lines for the well heeled and distinctly New York / Tokyo wearers of Jil Sander, Dior was a turn for the worse. A very commercial machine that imposed glamour and sequins on to a designer who was used to Bauhaus style minimalisme and rage against the machine, his reputation declined and after a few years, he was released from the helm of the house. Moving towards Prada afterwards seemed like a daring move for Miuccia, but nonetheless it does get a lot of lip service - and even their rumored endless quarrel seems to serve the brand in this era of any press is good press. The suits on offer in this show were often a bit wonky, with forms that resemble a walking pizza box or a spare-tire cover on the back of a jeep, but others were quite elegant in that sharp minimal "Gattica" kind of style. Small shawl collars, or more nautical collars, made a notable appearance, somehow melding the worlds of Prada and Simons into something a bit more new. The abuse of applying the Prada logo here-and-there; however, was distracting and ultimately unsightly. Logo-mania was fun 10 years ago but now it just feels like a forced advertisement. Fortunately, some of the suits didn't seem to have that triangle stitched onto them.