PARIS—Since when has Men’s Fashion Week in Paris been a glamorous, hipper-than-hip event? And since when have the outfits been hotter and pinker than those designed for this city’s legendary Folies Bergère cabaret show?
The answer might be since this season, when the “Homme” Spring/Summer 2019 collections (June 19-24, 2018) had it all. More usually attended by a well-groomed, insiders’ club of male buyers and reporters, the once duller-than-Sunday-lunch menswear collections were anything but this season. What’s more, they attracted the in-crowd to bear witness. Everyone from Naomi Campbell to Rihanna and Kanye West sat front row.
Some of this had to do with the fashion world’s equivalent of musical chairs or new blood. Some came down to the creative minds charged with forever reinventing fashion, and currently pushing the bar in getting men to rethink “acceptable” dressing-up codes.
Consider former Dior designer John Galliano (he was fired from the house in 2011 for making anti-Semitic and racist remarks), making his debut designing what has been dubbed as the first “haute couture” menswear collection at Maison Margiela.
As the fashion trade WWD put it, Galliano, who sent pink, second-skin vinyl trousers down the runway, not only questioned gender identity—it’s all the rage in fashion—but, also, “what is sexy today?” as he put it in a podcast.
Galliano wasn’t just having a field-day with the current gender-blurring fashion ideology. He was also doing what good designers do and experimenting with his craft. Galliano used one of his favorites, the bias cut, made famous by Madeleine Vionnet, to create new silhouettes for men. (It is more typically used in womenswear.)
Under his tutelage, a kimono, which also relies on this cut, was refashioned into a flowery red jumpsuit. For footwear, you couldn’t do better than Galliano’s golden cowboy boots.
He didn’t forget his English roots. His show mixed and matched these rich kimono designs with Savile Row tailoring and kinky corsets. Also worth noting: in Galliano’s universe, men do the washing up. Think the must-have accessory of the season: his canary-yellow washing-up-gloves that extend towards the elbows. Meanwhile, male nipples were on full display with some of his sexy corsets paired with dressy trousers.
But do Galliano’s cinched waists for men really question gender identity? What does his putting Savile Row meets a 1950s noir film heroine on the runway achieve except headlines?
To note, there are even fewer women designing for men in Paris than make the cut for the competition section at the Cannes Film Festival. Isn’t it all of this just a continuation of the male gaze—male designers first dictating what it means to be female, through dress, and now taking the ideas they imposed on women in the first place and putting them into their menswear designs?
Galliano, like other designers here, spoke about liberating men.
I imagine that it must be liberating for millions of men to be given permission to dress in pink trousers and corsets, but isn’t it a bit twisted that women had to endure corsets to please men, and now it’s men that get all the pleasure out of wearing them?
Androgyny was the answer for South Korea’s Wooyoungmi. Inspired by David Bowie, he sent retro-futuristic outfits, combining suits in all shapes and sizes, worn by guys in flashy make-up, out in his fabulous show.
Some notable racial progress also took place at the shows. Virgil Abloh made his debut in Paris, as artistic director at Louis Vuitton: the first designer of color to hold such a high profile position at the fashion house. The designer sent some of his friends down the runway, including Steve Lacy, Dev Hynes, Kid Cudi and Playboi Carti, and more black models than white. Issey Miyake had a large number of black models on the runway too, in his casually tailored, sportswear-meets-prints airy menswear collection.
Indeed, couture is entering the menswear sphere in a big way, stamping out at least some of the prevalence of streetwear. New Dior Homme artistic director Kim Jones made sure people knew this for his debut show for the house. The show notes said that his collection was about, “translating a quintessentially feminine couture identity into a masculine idiom” which speaks to all the points raised above.
Raf Simons was another to marry couture and tailoring with his brightly colored collection which included fuchsia-colored, duchess-satin roomy coats.
Meanwhile, the ever-more-theatrical American designer, Thom Browne, created over-sized, cartoon-style designed suits. They mis-matched patterns and paired checks with stripes. His show was set in what looked like a colorful universe of British children’s TV show Bill and Ben, the Flower Pot Men. According to Browne, the gnomes and all were, in fact, inspired by the America of his youth. The suits are being sold as is, and not down-sized.