Paris: A season of assemblage and authenticity
It’s been an exceptionally busy menswear season in Paris, with multiple debuts, and more importantly, multiple influences – often within the same collection.
Houses like Balmain and Sacai both impressed with clothes that managed to assemble a myriad of styles – frequently within one single garment. Elsewhere, the season represented a return to authenticity, a yearning for nature – seen in a Marcel Pagnol moment at Jacquemus, the oceanic-influenced show by Jason Basmajian at Cerruti and an homage to Peruvian culture in Kenzo.
No house in fashion resonates so much with nighttime as Balmain. Under the creative leadership of Olivier Rousteing its guiding light is dark glamour: rarely more so than in its latest menswear show, a frank, fun and fantastic exposition of rocker and dance chic.
Rousteing is also very much in the right house, with a management that believes and supports him. The day of this show, Balmain launched its own app; this week it will return to the haute couture catwalks after a decade-long hiatus. The app is designed to allow the Balmain Army access to the house’s couture atelier. On Wednesday, Olivier will stage that couture show inside a brand new flagship boutique on the hottest retail block in Paris, the rue St Honoré, right opposite the Hotel Costes, the city’s ultimate fashion inn. For an audience of less than 150. No wonder the app will be handy.
What makes Rousteing a great designer – for that’s what he is – is his special ability to synthesize styles, references and cultures into a powerful, punchy statement. He will never be a quiet designer and we should be thankful for that, especially if it leads to telling collections like tonight’s show.
Presented inside a looming concrete space for indoor tennis, redone with its entire floor surface in reflective silver. The collection was an homage to Michael Jackson and packed in all sorts of references: military, punk, rock dandy, urban dandy and rapper, yet still managed to be a coherent collection. Plus, it truly achieved Rousteing’s goal, of making a collection worthy of “the self-assured strength of today’s urban nonconformists.”
“I wanted a fashion melting pot,” smiled Chitose Abe in the backstage of her latest assemblage collection staged amid high security inside the Galerie Courbe of the Grand Palais.
Few designers have had as much influence on fashion this decade as Abe, whose interweaving of cuts, materials, epochs and concepts have seeped into scores of other collections.
This season she mingled and mixed with great self-confidence. Abe rolls out hers shows with different themes, including transparencies, grays; high-performance leggings; puffers, animal prints, fake furs and checks. And slashing in tulle, lace and houndstooth with herringbone and lady-like tweed.
All very disruptive dandy and rebellious lady, seeing as it was a co-ed show opened by Kaia Gerber.
Moreover, Abe also managed to toss in four different collaborations: Sacai eyewear by Native Sons, custom beaded Beats X wireless earphones; Nike x Sacai sneakers and outerwear and, even, rather bizarrely, tees and hoodies from a collaboration with Bar Italia. The legendary bohemian café in Soho.
“I used to go there as a student and the mix of people and characters always made me think of freedom,” smiled Abe, surrounded by a huge gang of fans after a thoroughly excellent show.
One of the season’s best shows has to be Kenzo, which referenced the art of Peru, and the Tusán people, the community of Chinese descendants from which hails Humberto Leon, one half of the Kenzo design duo with Carol Lim.
The result was a magnificent mural inside the depths of the Carrousel du Louvre, a recreation of a work by artist Pablo Amaringo. An unknown artist to Eurocentric novices but clearly a great one
And this in turn led in an impressive collection by the design duo that included some wild Andean fuchsias, pinks and indigos, along with the fuzzy textures one associates with Peruvian wools.
City clothes with a hiking twist – including recycled raffia pieces and quirky polar fleeces, and a series of cloudy earth prints.
A co-ed show with guys in sleeveless khaki parkas; cleverly draped city jackets and padded high-altitude trenches done in the same potpourri of colors as the mural – bitter lemon, blood orange, inky blue and washed out cerulean.
And gals in huge striped down jackets; brilliantly marbleized fake-fur rock goddess topcoats and gutsy velvet skirts, again referencing Amaringo’s art. All capturing the multiplicity of origins of Latin American people.
“At a time when the movement of peoples and the spread of cross-cultural dialogue marks our daily lives more than ever, our interest in telling personal stories at Kenzo has never felt more appropriate,” said the design duo admirably in their program.
Simon Porte Jacquemus named his latest collection, and magazine-style look book that went with it, Le Meunier, in an obvious reference to Marcel Pagnol, the great French novelist, playwright and director. Like Jacquemus, a fellow Provençal, Pagnol even had a film named La Belle Meunière, an operetta about composer Schubert falling for a beautiful girl near a windmill.
The honesty of country living was the theme of this show, as a score of models gathered around a rustic table, groaning with huge wheels of cheese and hefty loaves of bread, consumed by the model millers in the show.
Jacquemus millers sauntered over to their table at this “breakfast” show in workerist denim jackets and pants – with one-foot-high roll-ups and saddle stitching; multi-button windcheaters; and lightly padded tunics. For assignations with the pretty Meunière, they donned bitter orange and ecru suits cut with overlapping jackets. The palette was earthy – burnt orange, sandy soil, dusty flesh and raw leather. Especially, as the designer dreamed up a whole series of harnesses, chaps and shoulder bags in rawhide.
One couldn’t really get a good look at the clothes, as the models ambled through a standing audience. Not perhaps the best way to show a collection of menswear, yet somehow one knew that Pagnol, with his themes of family and village bonds and the renewal of provincial life would have very much liked this collection by Jacquemus.
An urban explorer moment at the house of Cerruti, where designer Jason Basmajian was inspired by a visit to the exhibition Oceaniai n London’s Royal Academy.
The result was one of his strongest collections to date, emphasizing sophisticated sportswear: bold padded parkas with patch pockets; a perfectly cut high-collar Chesterfield coat paired with a cotton waistcoat/top; broken-pattern Aran sweaters and super-hero giant-sized, plasticized canvas trenches. Plus his Dixon of Dock Green cape-like raincoats were ideal for any 21st-century Blade Runner.
Basmajian also included a capsule women’s collection of crisp mannish suits; an improbably large trench coat or two; and flawlessly cut redingotes.
In a word, a not terribly revolutionary collection that was plausible, polished and often very elegant. Good to see the house founded by the great Nino Cerruti in such safe hands as Jason Basmajian’s.
Yet another debut, though in a familiar haunt, as the husband and wife team of Lucie and Luke Meier staged their first menswear runway show for Jil Sander in Paris.
The duo has gained a justifiably positive reputation in Milan for reviving Sander with an approach that manages to combine cerebral with romantic. They attempted something similar again on Friday in their show inside the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, a site of many shows every season.
There was a good deal to admire – from the voluminous dry wool coats to the precise dark raspberry trench coats. However, too often the clothes look twee, even pretentious; from the clown-like patent leather pyjama suit, all the way to the rather odd medieval rubber booties.
Nor were they helped by a wardrobe malfunction, when one coat literally fell off the model’s shoulder. Even if they had a charming finale of flowing silk capes. However, as someone old enough to have attended founder Frau Jil Sander’s debut menswear collection these clothes didn’t really contain the requisite Sander DNA.
A worthy collection, but worthy never won the race, or any prizes.
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