Paris menswear Friday: Paul Smith, Dior Men and Comme des Garçons
Fashionistas roamed across a steamy Paris on Friday, beginning their day in a disused post office with Paul Smith, moving to a holy site for a rural gent Dior Men runway and pausing for a claustrophobic building site for Comme des Garçons.
Dior: Gardening in Granville, thinking of Charleston
Kim Jones returned to Christian Dior’s roots, quite literally, in a poetic menswear show staged in an exquisite recreation of the founder’s family villa in Granville.
Models exiting on to the runway from a half-sized version of that Normandy villa, located on a bluff over the Atlantic Ocean. Marching on a catwalk of freshly laid grass through a 50-meter-long garden with real flowers. And marching towards Sussex, and a very careful mock-up of Charleston, the home of British post-Impressionist painter Duncan Grant, the inspiration for the show.
In a season where many designers have expressed a longing to return to the country, this was the purist expression of the call of nature.
Horticultural chic from the opening beige rural gent suit and the gardener’s apron, cut as an asymmetric top to ingenious knits with embroidered grounds-man to designs.
While the ideas of Grant, a star painter in the Bloomsbury group, appeared in intarsia bucolic sweatshirts or shorts, worn over leggings.
Marching through the soil in wellingtons cut like Chelsea boots, wearing mini saddle bags with garden lattice finishes. The same finishes seen on hiking boots and sneakers.
“We are mixing the utilitarian, natural and gardening elements with stylized New Look and Duncan Grant artworks – an idea of the casual with the formal at once. There is an idea of the passage of time, the changing weather and light of the seasons, as well as continuity, artistic community and the legacy of Christian Dior,” explained Jones, who first visited Charleston at the age of 14.
A Scotsman, who like Jones had spent much of his youth abroad in the Commonwealth, Grant lived early on in India and Burma; Kim in Africa.
Known for good looks and famous lovers - from Lytton Strachey to John Maynard Keynes, the single most influential economist of the 20th century – Grant also had a four-decade relationship with Vanessa Bell, as they ended up living in Charleston.
Kim’s long-standing collaborator Stephen Jones got into the gardening groove, preparing a whole new hat – a blend of panama over baseball cap. Once again, some were given a lattice finish.
Another key element about the Jones era at Dior, is the cool new tailoring, full of visual puns and sartorial tricks. His best idea this season, the double lapels, made in second sleeves. Sounds tricky, and it was, but the cutting was so good it had great impact. Or a remarkable series of sleek double-breasted suits faded at seams or shoulders, as if a print had been jolted half way through a photocopier.
“There is the idea of a private, countryside life, lived casually in more utilitarian clothes – focused on gardening, walking and fishing – contrasted at the same time with the more elegant and formal Dior codes,” added Jones.
Backed up by a great soundtrack by Michel Gaubert that included Cowboy Lullaby by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and staged inside an enormous tent built in the gardens of baroque Val de Grace church. All told, a Bloomsbury and bucolic display, where one could almost hear a bubbling brook, or roar of the Atlantic. Celebrated with a huge cheer, by fellow Brits David Beckham and Naomi Campbell, sitting front row.
Comme des Garçons: Oleg Popov-meets-Grock
Just when you thought you might expire from all the banal luxury street wear and post pandemic poise, when along came Comme designer Rei Kawakubo with some rather divine disruption.
Like quite a few recent collections, Rei played with the concept of the clown, using a blend of humor and nostalgia to create fashion poetry.
In case you did not get the message, she put freakish face masks on many of the cast, and then sent her hair department into overdrive. Creating waxy stalagmite hairdos so high their scraped the ceiling of the abandoned office building near the Opera, where the show was staged.
Added to that, boyish shorts were paired with flared top coats; and pants were cut tetrahedral and finished below the knee. But though willfully eccentric, the results were often beautiful. Every so often, there would be a more restrained Edwardian gents coats with patch pockets or a harlequin patches. But the heart of the matter were the master clown fantasies; rich visual stimulus after all the menswear merch of the past week.
No final tour by all the models; no bow from the designer; no water handed out in the sweltering, low-ceilinged concrete show space. And, after consideration, this critic realized he had just witnessed his 50th Comme des Garçons show.
Perhaps not a classic collection by Rei. But, at least, it felt like a moment were fashion truly met art. And we thank her for that.
Paul Smith: Work and play
A major 80s statement by Paul Smith, though nothing nostalgic about the result – lightweight tailoring lovingly made, where the guys look bound for the beach side.
“It’s encouraging to see people in tailoring again, though in lighter weights that are easy to wear,” explained Sir Paul backstage, standing before his run off show photos.
Staged inside a condemned post office in the 11th arrondissement, the show had plenty of zip, many finished with arty references – from beautifully floating dusters and trenches, to a perfectly cut suit with a rusty air brush finish. A show that began and ended with Mark Rothko-worthy color field print sweaters.
All made in a great modern palette of lavender, pale gray, pistachio and an impressively dull navy. Mixed up in great jungle print coats and party shirts.
“Liquid fabrics wrapped around the torso, and 80s references like the wide lapels and low collars made with high notches,” enthused Sir Paul, inspired by gallery visits, art installations and 80s air brushing.
“A day in an art gallery, in clothes you can wear. I am quite pleased with this collection,” he chuckled, before suddenly handing critic Luke Leitch a pair of socks, and emitting a huge cackle.
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