Walter Van Beirendonck, LGN, Y/Project: When fashion runs riot
Paris Fashion Week Men's truly took off on its second day, with uber-exciting presentations and shows. The three labels that brought Wednesday to a close -- Walter Van Beirendonck, LGN Louis-Gabriel Nouchi and Y/Project -- were especially intriguing, each broadcasting their message loud and clear with uncompromisingly vibrant collections.
To mark its return to in-person shows, Walter Van Beirendonck pulled out all the stops, cooking up a genuine show-performance at La Madeleine theatre. The public was left simmering in the moist heat of the small venue upholstered in red velvet, when the curtain rose. Enter a group of men clad in long black tunics, like a mysterious sect’s uniform, their faces hidden by large pointed hoods. One after the other, they each shed their dark accoutrements, which fly up in the air, unveiling the Belgian designer's outrageous creations.
The models took turns rocking up in outfits ranging from shorts fringed with fabric strips matched with oversize faux-leather raincoats, to white or gold total looks consisting of layers of glittering garments, cut in a material resembling thin, crinkly candy wrappers. Van Beirendonck’s menswear, with its statement sleeves, sometimes frilled and trimmed with shaggy fabric ends, like white angel’s wings suddenly sprouting through a black jacket, had a royal feel to it, hovering between superhero, gladiator, and the Sun King, as the shining star hanging on a model’s neck seems to indicate. A baroque look highlighted by golden-heeled shoes, ruffs, and shorts embellished with knots and ribbons.
One final twirl, and off they went. The curtain fell, to everyone's surprise. All over? Not at all! It’s just the end of Act One. Suddenly, another posse of models wearing multi-coloured outfits marches among the spectators and steps on to the stage in a frenetic carousel. The looks were sportier and more festive, featuring bold colours, knee socks and ample shorts, patterned tracksuits and cape-like shirts, the latter looking as though large colourful flags are unfurling on the models’ shoulders. Plus, of course, Walter Van Beirendonck's signature skin-tight jumpsuits in bold colours, covering the body from head to toe.
At LGN Louis-Gabriel Nouchi, the temperature rose by another notch with an extremely sexy, sensual collection. For next summer, the designer drew his inspiration from the novel ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, giving his own fresh twist to a saga of passion and betrayal. The collection seemed to be a snatched freeze-frame image of lovers precipitously fleeing the scene of their ‘crime’.
A t-shirt hastily draped over the shoulders looked like a bolero, a long white coat inevitably called to mind a hotel bathrobe, a red top-and-trousers knit set is gashed like a pair of laddered tights, while long, darker haloes on the chest and under the arms of a sweater simulate perspiration. The naughty rendezvous effect is accentuated by a make-up palette featuring white, black, red and quasi-fluorescent pink.
In a trompe l'oeil effect, a pair of hands lifts a corner of a blood-coloured shirt to reveal a bare torso. Shorts are worn low on the waist, affording a glimpse of an ultra-fitted bodysuit. The label’s underwear, launched a year ago, and the swimsuits introduced last season, were ubiquitous, quite the best-sellers for LGN.
Some of the models seem not to have had time to get dressed again. They barely managed to put on underwear and thin socks held up by suspenders, some of them worn also as garters. One of the models even sauntered down the runway stark naked under a long black bathrobe. The models, many of them LGN customers, each showing their personality with a great deal of courage.
“For me, this collection is a turning point, one at which I make choices. It's a genuine statement of intent. It's also quite radical, and a way to show our values. It’s very sincere. We dress a lot of different people, with bodies we do not usually see on the runways,” said Nouchi backstage. His is a reflection on the role of man, his erotic side, his desires.
The setting was different at Y/Project as the label took its audience to a bucolic garden, but the effect was no less stunning. The creations were sculptural and ironic, featuring draped fabrics, undulations and weird bulges, with accessories playing a starring role: from kinked, knotted-up handbags to amusing statement jewellery, such as the raised middle finger earrings, and belts that spiral all over the place, eventually winding up snake-like around the wrist.
In terms of ready-to-wear, thriving, much-in-demand designer Glenn Martens seems to have been working under the influence this season, focusing primarily on denim and trompe l'oeil effects. Two themes that he has extensively tapped working with other labels in recent months. Chiefly with Italian denim label Diesel, of which he is the creative director, and with Jean Paul Gaultier, for which he designed the latest couture collection.
Denim is indeed omnipresent at Y/Project, injected in large doses into the collection via an array of items, treatments and constructions, mirroring the anatomical trompe l'oeil effects introduced by Martens in the winter collection presented last January, in which he paid tribute to Jean Paul Gaultier and his 1990s clothes replicating the naked body.
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