This time I chose to review showrooms in a separate article for several reasons. While looking at shows can provide one with an overarching view of a designer’s aesthetic statement, the final test sometimes comes at the showroom. After all, clothes are meant to be worn. Looking at disassembled looks lets you see them in a new light, without the styling tricks of the runway. Besides, there are outstanding designers who cannot, or choose not to put on fashion shows. Last but not least, all of you can look at shows’ pictures, but few can visit the showrooms. I am not trying to rub your noses in my privileged position, but rather share my impressions with you. So it goes, as Vonnegut was fond of saying.
My first showroom visit was at GUIDI, where the brand continued experimenting with color and new styles. They introduced a new basketweave technique on footwear and bags. The leather is woven by hand and then object-dyed (meaning the product is first assembled and then dyed). The brand is also attempting to introduce small leather accessories, namely wallets, which for now proves challenging because object-dying affects their shape. This season there seemed to be more impact on the front zip boot, including a “camouflage” style, unevenly dyed olive, in a limited edition of 200 pairs that were sold to retailers on first-come-first-served basis.
On Saturday, as my fashion week custom is, I visited Undercover, TAKAHIRAMIYASHITA TheSoloist, and Yang Li. At Undercover, perhaps my favorite collection of the season, titled “Spiritual Noise,” Jun Takahashi went back to his music roots of post-punk and industrial, and it was glorious in that only-Jun-could-do-this way. The highlight of the collection was a series of patches, each different, each a line from the Joy Division song “Atmosphere,” sewn onto the front and back of a denim jacket with knit sleeves, slim-cut jeans, and a scarf. It’s a labor-intensive process and these will not be cheap, but I love Takahashi’s “fuck it” approach of pulling out all stops. If you cannot afford these, don’t fret, as there will be a printed t-shirt version as well. Other highlights, slim jeans and a perfecto with knit sleeves, printed with lyrics from a Genesis P. Orridge song, jeans with a transposed college scarf design, and a modular belt onto which you can pile on as many keyring loops as you want (or can afford to).
Takahashi also revived his fake record label, “Undercover Records,” which produces no music, but rather merchandise for the made-up bands, such as “The Vesh-ches,” or the “The Twin Ginsbergs.” Also, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Cream Soda, a Tokyo label that was Japan’s pioneer in punk clothing, Takashi paid homage to the brand with a couple of garments that mixed Undercover and Cream Soda’s branding.
Next door to Undercover, Takahira Miyashita presented a collection called Femme Fatale Fellow, in which he tried to imagine what his ideal girlfriend would want him to look like. All familiar Miyashita references were there – David Bowie and Kurt Cobain, rock music and Westerns, and so on. Neat details – like the embroidered notation of Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” – abounded. As usual, the materials and construction were unrivaled. There were two brilliant silk sweaters that imitated the red and the gold Marlboro cigarette packs, including the “Smoking Kills” warning (Miyashita is a smoker). Were there a black version, I’d be saving my money for one right now. Like some other designers (Rick Owens comes to mind) Miyashita also presents a collection of basic styles to offset the often-challenging designs of his seasonal collections. Of course, it being Miyashita, these hoodies, sweatshirts, and jogging pants were anything but basic in themselves – everything was considered, from the raw finished edges to the pulls. It was the first time I was tempted by a bomber jacket, slim-cut and done in poplin.
At Yang Li, the designer continued telling his unique story. Li has a mountain to climb, being a latecomer to the fashion design world where so many of his references – like noise and industrial music and cult films – have been mined by the likes of the designers mentioned above. To his credit Li has been able to carve out his own style not only in clothes but also in story-telling, and his unabashed love for music has resulted in friendships and collaborations with the likes of Blixa Bargeld and Genesis P. Orridge.
This season was the second in Li’s three-seasons-long narrative based on film villain archetypes. The first one was a horror-film serial killer, and this time it was the bad cop, modeled on the likes of the characters played by Harvey Keitel in “Bad Lieutenant,” and Gary Oldman in “The Professional.” You could especially see the inspiration in the suiting.
And Li continued his SAMIZDAT project, band merch for an act that does not exist. It’s still all about Japanese noise, and full of pulse-quickening references for those who know the stuff.
Last, but not least on that day was my visit to the Ann Demeulemeester showroom. Here I admit a slight disappointment by what I saw once it was all taken apart, because I loved the show itself. By and large, I found the garments to be a bit too simple and a bit too feminine. Once again, asymmetry, the center of Demeulemeester’s ethos of careful imperfection, was largely absent, and though the graphics were pretty (they are still done by Ann’s son, Victor), they did not make my heart skip a beat. Again, there was nothing wrong with what was on offer per se, but none of it spoke to me the way Ann’s clothes used to. Perhaps it’s a sign of my nostalgia, but I was most attracted to a simple semi-sheer white dress shirt with the “Corps Humain” print from the Gris collection that references Demeulemeester’s archives.
Conversely, at Haider Ackermann things were looking up. Disassembled, without the overload of the show, his garments looked mature and confident, and you could pair them in a way that could easily tone down the luxe playboy vibe. I particularly liked the simple three-button painter’s coat in black cotton with thick white contrasting stitching.
I suppose most of you are dying to know about the Rick Owens showroom, and it was largely what you are probably expecting – lots of interesting runway experiments that few will buy, and plenty of desirable greatest hits. From the runway stuff, the bags attracted me the most, both in their shape and in the beautifully executed braided handle. I love the way Owens can add ornamentation to his work without using prints or wording – too easy and done way too often in our Instagram-fashion age – but with texture and fabric manipulation; and those thickly braided handles were just the ticket. I also liked the organza sleeveless jackets and the cotton organza bomber, which sat perfectly on the body, was very breathable and summery, and had a snap that let you close it at the top without zipping it up. It was black as night and alluring as hell, but I swore that I will not by a bomber until all the fuccbois stop wearing them.
I will not go much into the pre-collection and the DRKSHDW line, the meat of Owens’s more accessible work, except to say that I am glad that he expands these by incorporating some of the runway stuff from previous seasons. This makes the offerings not only wider but more adventurous.
Next day I got to examine the Boris Bidjan Saberi collection up close. Hard-hitting, as always, it looked more interesting then the overstyled show lead me to believe. There were new shapes and new styles; the double-zip belted leather jacket, the super-long shirt, and what appeared to be Saberi’s fist stab at a pea-coat. The hit Salomon collaboration sneakers now come in a hiking boot version. The super-heavy knits were bonkers, but there were also plenty of lightweight tops to offset my “I’m sweating just by looking at this” reaction.
At Individual Sentiments, a stone-throw away from BBS, Yoko Ito presented another tightly edited and desirable collection, and I particularly liked the tweeds she used this time. Speaking of desirable, so was the Forme d’Expression collection, and Koeun’s Park quiet drama continues to outshine a lot of other things both in terms of the sheer tactile experience of her fabrics and her carefully deliberate design process. This is the stuff I gravitate to when I feel like an adult.
Tactility and fabrication are also the two key things I think of when it comes to the work of Geoffrey B. Small. This season again the fabrics he used – the super 180s wool, the Como silks, and the linens were nothing short of awe-inspiring. “I am not afraid to say that I am looking squarely at the Hermes customer,” Small told me during my showroom visit. Indeed, even the linings of his jackets alone feel like precious gifts in themselves.
My last visit was to m.a.+ and it was a worthy finale. Just when you might have thought that the label is content with churning out versions of its greatest hits, it introduced not only new styles and cuts, but also new product categories. There are now sunglasses and a perfume, its bottle wrapped in black leather. There are new jacket and pant styles, and new variations of belts and bracelets. My favorites were the relaxed fit black leather short aviator jacket without the hood and with side pockets, and a 3/4 length, one-button, dark gray canvas coat, whose Edwardian cut had just the right amount of sweep. It was the last thing I tried on in Paris and I still dream of it.
A couple of key developments that I have noticed looking back on it all, in lieu of that despicable thing called trend-forecasting. Colors continue to be slowly incorporated by brands that we know for using an earthy palette. There were greens at Rick Owens and m.a.+, orange and olive at BBS. “Black is dead,” I heard more than once. Not on my watch.
There is also a bit more workwear. There were worker jackets at Individual Sentiments, Forme d’Expression, and m.a.+. All done their own way of course, and I imagine you will welcome these into your closet.
And lastly, it looks like more and more designers are jettisoning all notions of seasonality. With the stuff being delivered in early January, this makes some sense. Of course, this only adds to the confused mess that fashion is today.
Copyright notice: All photography by Eugene Rabkin and may not be reproduced without expressed permission, except for lookbook images courtesy of UNDERCOVER, TAKAHIROMIYASHITA TheSoloist, and Yang Li.