Fashion dispenses a happy little pill

PARIS – It’s probably unsurprising that an undercurrent of conservatism has been seen in the menswear shows here, a link linking histori...

PARIS – It’s probably unsurprising that an undercurrent of conservatism has been seen in the menswear shows here, a link linking historic brands like Dior and Hermès, where designers Kim Jones and Véronique Nichanian have produced collections fall who showcased their design chops by doubling down on heritage.

An inveterate and long-time traveler (he has often said that he worked mainly to finance his wanderlust), Mr. Jones often operates in a geographical thematic. Last season was a collaboration with Travis Scott, inspired by the rapper’s hometown of Houston. (The collection was postponed indefinitely following the Astroworld Tragedy.) This time Mr Jones took a detour to safer territory and, for a 75th anniversary tribute at home at Dior Men, chose as his destination – drum roll – Paris.

Mr Jones’ City of Light was evoked as a place of Gallic elegance and sophistication with an ensemble that not only replicated the gilded Pont Alexandre III bridge for its backdrop, but exploited just about every French cliché of the postcard holders.

Think (beautifully) tailored coats in slate or dove gray, some with an intricate draped wrap down the front. Think blazer coats with white stitching and cut as if to reveal the selvage of the fabric. Think slingback suede Birkenstocks with the Dior logo on the sole. Think, for Pete’s sake, of berets.

Certainly, the berets are the work of Stephen Jones, the inspired British hatter who has worked with Dior for a quarter of a century. It’s also true, the tourist shops all along the rue de Rivoli still sell five-euro versions of this felt crepe for the head. However, it is clear that Parisians wearing berets are rarer than Parisians walking in the street with baguettes under their arms.

Ms. Nichanian, too, plays on these French idioms, but at an even higher (and more expensive) level. Season after season, she makes clothes adapted to the customers of a brand that started in 1837 as a saddlery and remains a supplier of goods for a traditional horse-drawn carriage trade. (Well, sort of: the company’s famed Birkin, the Brabus of handbags, has now been joined by the rocka new improved version ostensibly for guys.)

The presentation took place in a national furniture warehouse and against the backdrop of projecting tapestries from state collections, and before that Ms Nichanian spoke to reporters about her intended “dandy effect”. In theory, that means a collection typically aimed at young men that everyone in the business has tried to transition from hoodies to suits. Here, one has been rendered in a two-button calf leather with a wide leg that made you wish Miles Davis was alive to rock one. Davis, however, would certainly take one of those silk-and-cashmere scarves that Mrs. Nichanian would replace with a tie and tie it outside his shirt.

Elsewhere on the list were designers with all sorts of promise, but also with positions and ideas. At GmbH, Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby produced a finely crafted collection that seemed destined, as usual, to influence the designers of much larger houses. Whoever threw away Virgil Abloh’s latest, and predictably, dismal collection for Louis Vuitton, for example, must have had an eye on the tracks of GmbH.

Diversity is a signature of GmbH. The same goes for references to Islam, here in the form of calligraphic texts of the kind that Ottoman soldiers would slip under their armor like talismans. In the field of ideas, Mr. Huseby and Mr. Isik constantly confront the tensions between their lived realities as a racial mix (Isik is Turkish and German, and Huseby is Norwegian and Pakistani), cisgender queers and the wider culture. .

Unlike past seasons, there were few “unisex” shows and a certain collective amnesia about the goal of subverting gender binaries. That said, the GmbH show contained elements that could initially be construed as transgressive (thigh-high boots worn with shorts under perfectly fitted one-and-a-half-chest blazers) until one viewer recalled that museums are full of of images of 16th century leggy guys in slacks, codpieces and tights.

“It’s the most formal collection we’ve ever done,” Mr. Huseby told “But I think it’s also the most evil and sordid in a weird way.”

Hybridity, while a different genre, is more than a buzzword for British designer Grace Wales Bonner, whose award-winning work has consistently undermined the inherent tensions of racial, cultural and gender intersection. In Mrs. Wales Bonner’s collection, which drew on her background of mixed race and Afro-Caribbean ancestry, there were wardrobe suggestions for a return to a somewhat remote space: the office. In particular, a zip-front denim jacket paired with wide-cuffed trousers presented a plausible solution to a work uniform. Although the Wales Bonner digital show was shown to both women and men, there was little to suggest there was really any need to define a difference. Anyone could wear it, including skirts.

When we think back to that strange liminal period — not yet above the threshold of a pandemic — two designers will likely stand out above the rest for their sheer, unpalatable individuality. One is Rick Owens, who, sitting on a few steps of the Palais de Tokyo last week, uttered the following statement: “Men are pigs.”

Yes and?

His show, titled “Strobe,” was inspired by the designer’s recent trip to Egypt and featured models wearing hieratic headdresses that were a cross between a sculpture by Dan Flavin and a billboard at Just Bulbs. In many ways, the collection was clearly commercial. (For all his catwalk antics, Mr. Owens is a shrewd merchant with a solid harmless knitwear business.) Balancing the metal-bonded overshirt and bare-chested modeled by Mr. Owens’ friend, Tyrone Dylan, there had lots of sheep and down jackets. Some featured Ming the Merciless shoulders inspired by Golden Age Hollywood, filtered through the sensibility of 1970s designer Larry LeGaspi. Some had zipped executioner hoods.

What’s undeniably cool about Mr. Owens is how insistently he carves out his own distinct aesthetic space. The self-proclaimed “flamboyant small-town sissy” from Porterville, Calif., took the underdog and propelled her into the middle of the mainstream. Although speaking of this specific collection, he might as well have stated a credo when he remarked backstage, “I decided to go straight to the Id.”

Likewise, Jonathan Anderson at Loewe has no trouble confronting the dominant culture. In this case, it was the vaporous butch futurism of the “metaversehe vamped up with a handcrafted collection based on a technology that was itself once considered revolutionary: fiber optics.

Mr. Anderson sent models from a forest of colorful ribbons dressed in sparkly jumpsuits and jumpers lit up from below with skeins of LED lights. As a funky counterweight, it showed rubbery translucent flashing raincoats worn over what appeared to be Y-fronts; shearling coats with exposed innards; and T-shirts, their fronts printed with faces, raised above the heads of the models – a fairly direct quote from those created by Matthias Vriens ten years ago for his label BL33N and sold at Colette.

As would also be true a day later during Nigo’s debut as Kenzo’s new artistic director – a cheery presentation of fringed coats, fluffy newsboy caps and Pop graphics from the house archives – the optimistic spirit that prevailed at Loewe was like Xanax fashion, a fast-acting mood elevator that everyone everyone could use right now.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Fashion dispenses a happy little pill
Fashion dispenses a happy little pill
Newsrust - US Top News
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