Sports and Suits – Athletic fashion and crisp tailoring take center stage as newly instated creative directors make their long awaited debuts
Change, in the world of fashion, is inevitable. Of course, as the famous saying goes, “fashion changes, but style endures.” So, for this spring/summer season, we once again see plenty of welcome change on the runways of Paris; but at the same time, the city manages to present all of these new changes in its own, timeless way.
Something Old, Something New
For spring/summer 2019, Paris Fashion Week Men’s saw quite a few new faces—or old faces in new roles. First and foremost—and the talk of the entire fashion world for months after the show ended—was Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton. The mid-2018 show was, essentially, the biggest test to his credibility as a creative director. Even today he has no shortage of detractors who would constantly tell anybody willing to listen about his lack of formal training in fashion. But, boy, were they proven wrong that day.
Besides showcasing Abloh’s ability to design for a fashion house as celebrated as Louis Vuitton, the show also highlighted his ability to set a tone and tell a story. The show opened with a series of pure white looks—a clear nod to Abloh’s own Off-White brand—which progressively grew into a kaleidoscope of colors, the way a beam of white light does as it hits a prism and blossoms into all the colors of the rainbow.
As for the clothes themselves, there was a strong—and not unexpected—sports and utility vibe to them. But sharp tailoring was also in abundance, married beautifully to color blocking and exotic materials. More importantly, Abloh also incorporated Louis Vuitton’s identity as a luxury accessories brand into his designs in the form of holsters, a harness here and a zippered vest there, and so on. And the final touch? Clever references to “The Wizard of Oz” spread across a number of looks.
You can’t really talk about how Virgil Abloh elevated street wear for his debut with Louis Vuitton without mentioning how his predecessor did in his new role. The legendary Kim Jones, it seems, is doing great at Dior Homme and has embraced the maison’s couture spirit. He also paid homage to Monsieur Dior himself through tiny flowers that mimic the patterns and colors of Monsieur Dior’s porcelain dinner service, Toile de Jouy patterns that hark back to Dior’s first ever boutique, the bee motif used by Dior in 1955 and plenty of other nuances.
Dior Men’s collection in its entirety, however, highlighted Jones’ understanding for the need of balance—between wild creativity and creating something that we all would aspire to wear one day. So, you had Baroque-printed shirts and translucent plastic outerwear, and you also had the Oblique double-breasted jacket and embroidered topcoats.
While street wear and athletic touches are becoming ever more pronounced, spring/summer 2019 will be a season for tailored suits. At least that’s what Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garçons thinks. Anybody who has seen her runway show in Paris, though, would certainly agree with the name she chose for her Homme Plus collection: Crazy Suits.
An iron cage at the end of the runway symbolizing conformity to the traditional ideas of masculinity, huge gold chains with animal parts—there was a lot of playful symbolism at play here. Yet, Kawakubo never really strayed from the traditional conventions of suits and dinner jackets. Perhaps she just wanted to have fun and let loose a bit.
A similar yet deeper appreciation for tradition was apparent in the spring/summer collection from Hermès. Not that this comes as much of a surprise, as the house is the master of the long game, and Véronique Nichanian certainly knows how it’s played. She knows that Hermès never really has to reinvent itself from top to toe and brings about change while maintaining the core of the brand.
Look close enough and you can spot some sporty influences, a track suit or two; but even these were ultimately made for understated leisure using only the finest étrivière lambskin. This is the kind of menswear that will never elicit a sense of shock and awe, but at the same time is a collection that men of all generations will easily gravitate towards. This is what “timeless” actually looks like.
And then we have Lucas Ossendrijver at Lanvin who looked at all the changes in today’s world of fashion, and instead of going left or right, went up. In other words, his focus was to elevate, to create elegance and sophistication. The range of Lanvin’s spring/summer collection was quite expansive, from work jackets with smooth evening trousers to check shirts paired with loafers that adapted the sole of high-tech sneakers.
Perhaps “balanced” would be an apt description of Lanvin’s collection. It’s not exactly formal, but not overly casual; it doesn’t really have a strong narrative theme, but it has plenty of personality. This is, then, what “elevated” actually looks like.
A Touch of Pop
Of course, Paris Fashion Week Men’s spring/summer 2019 had plenty of other highlights. There was fluorescent blazers and metallic knitwear at Raf Simons, soft tailoring at Acne Studios, an experimental expression of utilitarian motifs in GmBH’s debut and many more. But perhaps our look back at the whole affair wouldn’t be complete without Balmain, who, for this season, embraced the undying legacy of the King of Pop.
Being the only creative director of African descent in Paris long before the Virgil Abloh came to prominence, Balmain’s Oliver Rousteing had plenty of reason to find inspiration in the songs of Michael Jackson. Naturally, the unmistakable combination of black leather shoes and white socks was prominently on display as a clear node to Jackson’s most iconic look. For the most part, however, the collection played with Jackson’s signature sequined jacket, red leather biker jackets and monochrome cricket blazers. The T-shirts also became crowd favorites. Above all else, however, it was, for the most part, a wearable collection. Perhaps not for everyday use and most definitely not for work, but it isn’t too hard to imagine wearing one of these new pieces from Balmain on a weekend around town.
Good Night, Paris
Milan has always been a strong bastion of fashion, while London and New York are growing more influential every year. Yet, the influence of the designers, directors and creators of Paris remains unchanged. Timeless. The fashion scene of the city will always change; no one is denying that. But, once again, when it comes to style, of playing with wild creativity while respecting commercial reality and the tastes of the average fashionable gent, Paris will always be in a class of its own.
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