Fun is over and I am having a fancy dinner of ham and cheese baguette on my last night in Paris. The last of the Mohicans still congregate at Cafe Charlot, but the majority have already packed their bags. Since people often ask me about fashion week, I might as well make my observations public.
The weather largely spared us this time, so my maxim that god hates fashion turned out to not to be a maxim at all (it has lasted for several seasons, so maybe god was on vacation this time). The mood was largely convivial, with scenes before the shows now competing with the shows themselves. The street-style bloggers are getting more numerous and so are their subjects. I don’t know how they know who everyone is and whose picture to take – do they keep spreadsheets? It seems their photos are roughly divided into what they genuinely like (the interestingly dressed) and what is commissioned (the famous). Though I must say, I am beginning to think that it’s not those who snap the shutter but those who want their picture taken are to blame for the nuisance. Some attendees clearly went overboard for attention. There was one pink-haired girl with golden chains cascading down her face. Then there was a guy who painted his face in a manner of an African mask, complete with fake nose spikes. It’s a duty of a human being to be empathetic, but it’s a duty of a journalist to pick the most fitting words, so I’ll go with the latter – he looked idiotic.
Once you got past he spectacle there were the clothes. Let’s begin at the beginning; a spring/summer season will inevitably be weaker than a fall/winter one, end of story. There is less room for layering and heavy fabrics just tend to be more tactile and better looking.
From the big boys (or girls, in this case) I thought Comme des Garcons was best of season. You gotta love it when Kawakubo uses her unbound whimsy to do something hardcore, even if it’s mixed with paisleys. The idea for the show was chrysalis. The design team started working on the jackets from the lining out. Most of the jackets came in three layers (summer, what summer?!) – long lining, shorter middle layer, and still shorter outer layer. All the outerwear, from the blazers to the long coats, looked great both on the runway and in the showroom. There was a lot of tropical weight wool and mohair, in addition to the usual synthetics. Other jackets were actually three different blazers put together, joined at the back. I suppose the idea is if you get too hot, you can take one off and it will hang on your back. I also thought that the black jackets slashed at the seams so the red lining peaks out just so were fantastic. Yes, there were flowery prints too, but I pretended they don’t exist after all the black, which was in the front of the showroom anyway. There were also slim, ruched pants that peaked my interest, but who am I kidding.
Rick Owens and Thom Browne – yes, in the same sentence – put “show” back into fashion show. Owens brought out some Estonian freak act called Winny Puhh (best metal band name ever) to play during the show. Their aural assault and acrobatics successfully diverted everyone’s attention from the models. “What did you think of the clothes?” “I don’t remember the clothes,” were the standard Q&A for days after. However, as a friend sagely noted, if you produce clothes without that much variation season after season, you might as well put on a damn good show. Which brings me to Browne, whose show, as show, was also exciting. It was all gays-in-the-military, well, more precisely, navy. The clothes were bananas, with couture-like techniques and gorgeous, nautical-themed brocades. Obviously none of these will probably see the light of retail day, but that is beside the point. The point is, the show was exciting. After Browne’s toy soldiers marched on, the rear-guard came out hoisting the white flag while the Beatles sang, “All you need is love.” Victory!
Ann Demeulemeester’s show was airy. The Queen has definitely gotten sweeter and perhaps more melancholic in the past couple of seasons. For this show she simply imagined what a pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll would look like. The wisteria prints that dominated the collection were based on those from Demeulemeester’s own garden. Why not?
I also quite liked the intimate presentation of the first (or second, if you count the inconsequential Pitti Uomo foray) Haider Ackermann men’s collection. Everything was thought out, starting with the hand-written note by the designer in lieu of a printed invite to each of the hundred or so guests. The models mixed freely with the press – you could carefully examine the clothes, take good photos, and talk to Ackermann. It was a refreshing option to the hectic atmosphere of the shows. Ackermann’s menswear was as sumptuous as his womenswear, and while it may not be a very masculine proposition, I dig a designer who carries over his style to both sexes.
Some favorites disappointed. Part of Dries van Noten’s genius with color and print is that he knows exactly when to stop. This time he did not and the flower bomb that exploded onto the runway was a bit too jarring to these eyes. Kudos for having a live drummer do the music, but I wished the clothes were a bit more toned down.
Lanvin has been another consistent favorite, but not this time. The boxy silhouettes were too boxy, the shorts too short, the shines too shiny.
Speaking of shine, there was too much of that in the usually subdued Yamamoto show. I get that the theme was being caught in the rain but I prefer the rain do the shining.
In some instances, the small guys eclipsed the big ones. At the showrooms, I was particularly impressed with the Individual Sentiments collection. While Yoko Ito’s clothes tend to hold no surprises, sometimes she puts out something completely phenomenal. Two seasons ago it was a waffle linen coat. Last season it was the perfectly executed footwear capsule. This time it was the laser-shredded leather fabric that she used for some of her pieces. The hoody in that material was a particular standout.
Lumen et Umbra brought out an interesting, unfussy collection. I liked the hooded jackets and there was also a leather apron to spice things up.
Other stand out pieces – leather jackets from A1923, with high collar came in washed or smooth leather. A jet black silk/ramie minimalist bomber from Thamanyah. A long washed light leather jacket from m.a.+. A gauzy white long blazer at Forme d’Expression, which was light but not flimsy. A gray jumpsuit at Lost & Found was one of the few I’ve ever liked in my entire fashion life. And, last but not least, I liked several pieces at Boris Bidjan Saberi – a blazer with hook-and-eye closure, the cap-sleeve leather jacket with removable sleeves from distressed lambskin, and a black cotton bomber with built-in recycled sail fabric shell (in case you get caught in the rain).
Many designers also offered fantastic bags – Nico Uytterhaegen’s utilitarian backpacks looked great, the light leather bags from m.a.+, the above-mentioned capsule collection from Individual Sentiments, and also a couple of bags Boris Bidjan Saberi showed.
The above-mentioned gems notwithstanding, I do feel that there is a bit of stagnation in the industry. While I love designers that have a signature and are preoccupied with digging deeper and not wider, it’s different from continuing to do the same thing. And I mean the same thing – same cuts, same fabric, etc. I cannot help but wonder if their current customers get restless as they accumulate all the classic pieces. Then what? Perhaps there will be new customers to replaces them, but what about the existing ones?
Last observation – no more gray cold-dyeing, please.