Paris: Avant tailoring makes a comeback, in an insurrectionary moment
It’s always informative in fashion terms to return to Paris after 10 days traipsing around Europe – from London to Florence to Milan – and start witnessing menswear collections by designers who truly understand the concept of avant garde tailoring. That and a certain insurrectionary air, albeit with a hopeful tinge, dominated the past two days in Paris.
Both Yohji Yamamoto and Dries Van Noten produced beautifully tailored collection in unexpected proportions, whether riffing on uniforms or nostalgia. With the 'yellow vest' protestors ever present in everyone’s thoughts in Paris, there was a mutinous air about the shows. At Undercover, designer Jun Takahashi was inspired by the violent imagery of Clockwork Orange; while Demna Gvasalia at Vetements referenced football fans and, above all, the Dark Web in a striking show staged inside Paris’ museum of natural history.
General Yohji Yamamoto always marches to his own beat. And did so again with an outstanding military-inspired collection, staged in his headquarters in Les Halles on a chilly Thursday evening in Paris.
In a nigh-flawless display, Yamamoto played mysteriously with military motifs – braid, insignia, emblems and above all buttons – to breathe new life into one of the oldest inspirations in menswear – army uniforms. He cut gunners jackets with buttons in tangential patterns; finished general’s great coats with string and thread; and sent out Prussian officer’s coats with great abstract patterns, remarkable spider web prints and hand-painted tigers heads. Even the hussar jacket was reimagined as a duffle coat with chunky frogging. All shown to the tune Amazing Grace, and jangling blues guitars, in a truly a great show.
“Army clothing has been influencing fashion for generations. I wanted to show the highest craft of uniforms. Though in this case, I wanted a message of hope,” said the ever-sibylline designer.
Dries Van Noten
Though Dries Van Noten will ultimately be best remembered for the beauty of his fabrics and his ability to blend ethnic and modern ideas seamlessly, people tend to forget that this Belgian designer can also cut like a surgeon.
Doctor Van Noten was at his surgical best Thursday night in a brilliant display of cutting, that featured the best new suits we are likely to see in Paris this season. He called this collection “Nostalgia del Futuro,” an example of more Italianate ideas sweeping into his oeuvre since he acquired a summer house south of Naples.
His big idea was cutting broadcloth into high neck, double-breasted jackets in military wool with large, sharp lapels; paired with elephantine yet remarkably fluid trousers. Made in charcoal, whip-chord and worsteds they were all tremendous, and worn with evident pride by the models.
In a cerebral show, where the likes of David Bowie and Andy Warhol expounded on art and inspirations in multiple interviews, the other big news was the splendid use of organic and optical tie-dye – cut into matelassé raincoats and manly parkas. Altogether, a thoroughly assured fashion statement.
How to know where the collaboration began and ended at this latest Undercover show, which featured a series of looks devised together with the house’s founder Jun Takahashi and Valentino’s designer Pierpaolo Piccioli. It all climaxed with the Piccioli collaboration; as the pair of them mingled up images from Edgar Allan Poe, David Bowie and Ludwig Van Beethoven.
That said, the key theme was far more violent: Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. The show even opened with three wandering minstrels with walking sticks marching around the Espace Wagram in the exact same masks as Malcolm McDowell wore in the grizzly rape scene of that movie. McDowell’s boot boy look, all the way to his bowler hat, appeared on nylon parkas, huge puffers, and even massive sheepskin motorbike gloves. A technically brilliant show, but perhaps too literal a fashion statement, and hence not quite a fashion moment, albeit a wonderful work of fashion theatre.
A dark vision of fashion at Vetements where designer Demna Gvasalia was ruminating on the Dark Web inside the Grand Galerie de l’Evolution.
Many figures wore masks, with just cut-out holes for their eyes; most marched in the oversized aesthetic that Demna has made his own. Their huge down vests and ballooning puffers in synch with the massive stuffed animals in the gallery, from the walrus to the wildebeests. Sweatshirts lettering said things like 'It’s Hocus Pocus Time Bitches'. There was the air of anti-globalization rally about this collection, even if some of the protestors wore pink velvet dressing gowns with their sweatshirts and one even had a velvet monkey backpack.
But this was a dark show, referencing the “crazy, scary backstage of the Internet,” said the designer.
So much so, his final models walked their heads completely covered, using cell phones to find their way along the catwalk. A powerful show, though certainly not Vetement’s greatest collection, too familiar were the actual cuts, shapes and lines of the clothes.
“Masks and hoods allow us to protect our identity and allow us to protest more easily. The geeks have become the new Punks. Since they have broken down all the rules by inventing the mobile phone,” said the designer, who still does not have his own Instagram account.
“Instagram is like a third job. I don’t have the time!” he added, wearing a Manchester United nylon track suit.
Did he support United? “Well, I want to show unity and encouraging us being united, and I like Manchester,” deadpanned Demna.
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