The Week Men Went Unisex in Paris
At the Paris men's collections, suits and silk belied some handsome looks. But with toga-like draping, the standout looks of the week brilliantly blurred gender lines.
Somewhere between the silk worms and the sound of funk and the beautiful clothing at Paris' men's autumn/winter 2015 shows--and the infamous outbreak of penis at Rick Owens--one could glimpse the dapper gentlemen from yesteryear.
He was meandering in a velvet robe through Jean Nouvel's glass edifice at the Fondation Cartier building for Issey Miyake, or in a short, wrap-around gown in a vacant warehouse for Dries Van Noten who conjured up a new aesthetic from a mish mash of different looks.
Or think the off-kilter pea suits from Comme des Garçons, some of which came decorated in an elaborate squirl of crayon-like art and were paired with bow ties, and all of which were designed in different shapes and sizes to create something new.
Consider also the top hats and black umbrellas that made one think of a Charles Dickens novel at designer Thom Browne. It must have been a subversive Dickens story, as some of the models wore veils over their faces while others sported knee-high stockings in sexy looks that stopped with a coat just reaching the knee.
Spotted here for a moment and then there, it was as if the ghost of the gentlemen styles of old had come to haunt the Paris shows.
At Issey Miyake, the collection was inspired by the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and one could see the graphic lines of his buildings running through a coat or a jacket on the runway, and something of his era (1868-1928) in the robes decorated in rose-like swirls, inspired by real life petals.
With every attention paid to detail, that evening the Miyake menswear designer, Yusuke Takahashi, showed photographs on his iPhone of silk worms that they had hand selected that were used to create the Japanese silk (something of a rarity these days with, he said, only two silk factories left in Japan) that was blended with other textiles for this elegant collection.
Suits were in fact everywhere, from Paul Smith in subtle checks to the popular double breasted designs with peak lapels, harking back to the 1950s and 1980s. And thin was in from the ultra skinny California looks of Saint Laurent to the streamlined trousers at labels like Cerruti whose collection had splashes of Joseph Beuys-like painterliness.
Junya Watanabe jazzed up his suits with a Rudeboy aesthetic--think cropped trouser and sleeve lengths, Sunday best coats, slick Afro haircuts, and models that had appropriated the suits into something they thought looked cool, as they grooved down the Palais de Tokyo runway.
Paris showed great style, taste and luxury, be it in casual looks or proper attire. In London one might see loud, OTT designs that look like walking, fluffy, hatched chickens in bright pinks to sportswear-like tracksuits turned designer and street. In Paris there was more of a juxtaposition of elegant and old school, and a more demure-looking outwear, like luxury Parker jackets or the Alpaca hats, and kid gloves paired with suits at Cerruti.
Rather than outrageous looks like one finds in London, alternative designers here like Julien David, Julius, Henrik Vibskov and Boris Bidjan Saberi experimented more sophisticatedly, with shape and form.
The latter sent out some of the most unusual looks seen here, with models dressed in orange rubber boots and matching gloves and outfits that blended orange Buddhist-like skirt elements with Parkers from the 'hood.
Fashionistas made their way from one side of town to the other, from vacant warehouses (Dries Van Noten and Raf Simons--both played around with form to create different silhouettes like a coat without the sleeves), to elegance incarnate in the shoes dangling from white balloons inside the Les Arts Decoratif museum in all if its white splendor for Berluti.
Curtains pulled open to reveal rows of young violinists center runway for the Dior Homme show at the upscale Tennis Club de Paris. The Dior man walked in elegant evening suits with an edge of street found in the badges and baseball caps paired with the luxury designs.
Presenting on the elegant Place Vendome, Walter van Beirendonck gave the London loudmouths a run for their money with one of the week's most daring collections in shimmering dress-like drapes.
Canada's Rad Hourani, the world's first unisex couture designer, may have had the final world with shiny tinfoil dresses, designed for men and women, that made one begin to question gender. Shown at the Canadian Cultural Center, men and women posed in photographs, wearing the dress-like designs that made one think of the Roman togas of old that were worn by both sexes.
Once upon a time and even today in Marrakech, there are men wearing dress like robes like they always have. But in Paris, while the fashion might draw upon the past, at the hands of such master craftsmen it is inevitably turned into something new.