THE AGE OF STORYTELLERS. Creative directors of Paris presented a strong vision for the spring/summer presentations, through the eyes of their personal experiences
A look from Louis Vuitton’s spring/summer ’15 collection
In Paris, major fashion houses would have a design team to prepare a whole collection under the creative direction of a certain designer. This is why “creative director” is a more appropriate title to use when addressing these designers. A creative director has two main objectives when showing their seasonal offerings during the fashion week. One is obviously to produce high-quality, exquisitely designed clothes. The second one is to tell a new story every six months, both to act as a base for the whole collection as well as to accompany the clothes. Those stories sometimes stretch further than the clothes—they can stick for years after the clothes are no longer sold in stores and eventually become something the creative director becomes known for. At the same time, those prominent fashion designers carry a heavy burden on their shoulders, as they need to stay attuned to global demand while still holding firm to their aesthetics and the house’s signature. The successful ones are those who can accomplish both of the aforementioned goals; and their mark can be seen in the indelible menswear collections showcased in Paris this season, among others.
First and foremost, let’s revisit one of the hugely successful—although controversial—creative directors: Hedi Slimane from Saint Laurent. Many industry insiders were not keen to see the 180-degree turn in the historic and supposedly elegant house of Saint Laurent, brought about by Slimane’s debut collection as well as several of his subsequent creations. Only when sales increased did the critic start to view him as a game changer in the fashion industry—similar to what Riccardo Tisci did for Givenchy, which can be summed as “invent your own story, forget all the codes and break the rules.” This spring/summer, Slimane played his favorite card that he’s been using for several seasons: bohemian rock. The formula was predictable, from the lineup of skinny boys in skinny-cut pieces, to how the stage was set and familiar sound of rebels orchestrating their walk. To that extent, however, Slimane has written a believable story that turned heads and enabled the seventies vibe see the light of day once more. Yet again, he hit all the right notes with this particular collection, as his fascination with the music genre and its subculture lead to commercial success.
Kenzo got playful
Lanvin abandoned conventional suits
Enticing and viable stories also became the starting point for Raf Simons’ latest outing. Nevertheless, his approach was more personal and, to a certain degree, more genuine and real compared to the rest. Marking the 20th anniversary of his eponymous label, Simons recollected his personal history and put various mementos as accents on his clothes. Old photos of his parents, a shark and an astronaut might all have looked like random picks, but apparently each image represented people or memories that really mattered to him throughout his journey. The collection felt especially emotional for the creative director, who also holds the same position at Dior’s womenswear line.
Another leading brand that illustrated the experience of its creative directors—plural, as there are two of them—through its clothing was Kenzo. The “American in Paris” theme represented Humberto Leon and Carol Lim’s own life accounts as two Americans working in the French capital. They translated their fascination for French guys whose style they considered “irreverent, playful and always sharp” into a clever mix of silhouettes. Clearly, they emphasized the “playful” part, as is evident in the bold polka-dot motifs throughout the better part of the collection. Furthermore, there were exaggerated parkas, motorcycle pants and suede vests that referenced the culture of Parisians but were still in line with the house’s codes.
Hermès featured a lot of prints
Saint Laurent went for rock
But perhaps the most poignant story had to be the one told by Kim Jones from Louis Vuitton. The man is an avid traveler working for a fashion house with traveling DNA—what more could one ask for? This spring/summer in particular, he worked on something closer to his heart. The creative director was named after a character in one of Rudyard Kipling’s stories set in India, and now he finally got to travel to the country. Naturally, he drew in as much inspiration as he could from the subcontinent’s fascinating culture. Though it wasn’t exactly palpable, Jones approached the collection in the sense of how a Vuitton man dresses himself for the journey: military garb reminiscent of those worn by palace guards, jackets decorated with logoed mirrors and ’70s-inspired chevron-printed shirts, which will soon start flying off store racks everywhere.
Meanwhile, there was barely a hint of a story or poetic narration coming from Lucas Ossendrijver, the creative director for Lanvin. He instead conceptualized his collection as a response to the ever changing lifestyle of modern men who have abandoned formal suits and opted for sneakers in lieu of dressier shoes. The collection, as expected, was as real as it could get—both the clothes and the styling could readily be adopted for any man’s daily wardrobe. A similar approach was applied by Véronique Nichanian at Hermès. This time around, she uncharacteristically flirted with a lot of prints, taking viewers on a tropical journey to luxurious destinations. However, Nichanian’s prints were thoughtful and far from peacock-y. Understated luxury is her field of expertise and it has been widely reinterpreted and reworked by other designers. After all, the men in Hermès would want to be able to savor the pieces over and over again, so they have to be versatile and wearable however luxurious they may be.
Raf Simons‘ personal photos on the pieces
Dior Homme’s take on casual suiting
Surprisingly, one to follow Nichanian’s laidback, versatile style was none other than Kris Van Assche for Dior Homme. He created suits that were more relaxed and introduced a variety of easy attire while attempting quite a few brave moves: painted denim trousers and jackets, tank tops, pieces with striped motifs and sneakers. The overall vibe was heightened by monsieur Dior’s note being written all over some of the pieces. It read: “Traditions have to be maintained. In troubled times like ours, we must maintain these traditions, which are our luxury and the flower of our civilization.” Was it a call to go back to our roots? The statement was cleverly left open for interpretation.
As the fashion week came to an end, fashion was once again left to contemplate. Which show was the most memorable? Are trends still relevant? Have the menswear shows done enough to portray a dynamic shift, or have they merely brought more stories to sell clothes? But in the end, it all boils down to this: With or without a story, these designers have ultimately proven that in a world where streams of new clothes are unstoppable, strong points of view can still take the scene by storm. That is how one achieves success.