Wonderland.

7 Wonders: Paris Mens Fashion Week SS17

Tune in to our roundup of all the menswear action in Paris.

Paris had a lot of firsts and maybe even lasts on offer, surprise supermodel appearances, anniversaries and celebrations. Travel, heritage and art were themes explored not just in Paris but across the menswear season as a whole. There was a sense of nostalgia and an effort to marry it successfully with the modern, designers paying respects to the past of their brands but also keen to move it forward and create something new, yet still traditional. Paris gave the fashion world a lot and it keeps on doing so. While the future of fashion and the world as a whole is now uncertain after Brexit, for the time being, we celebrate the biggest gifts the French capital’s menswear season gave us in another instalment of Seven Wonders.

BALENCIAGA

The fit, or more like non-fit, was the main story of Balenciaga’s first ever menswear show, courtesy of Demna Gvasalia. The awkward proportion, either too large or too small, shrunken or oversized was, however, very apt for the occasion. While appearing super modern on the S/S 17 runway, cocoon coats, sack dresses and the contrast between ballooning proportions and tight waistlines or sleeves, were unique trademarks of Cristobal Balenciaga since he opened his Parisian atelier on Avenue George V in 1937. Gvasalia clearly spent a lot of his time rummaging through the archives of the influential atelier, his menswear debut paying homage to the designer through the play with dimensions and volume as well as the architectural quality of his designs. Other nuances also evoked the heritage of the house. What appeared as folded handkerchiefs in the pockets of the various jackets that were on offer in a myriad of shapes and colours were actually fitting cards which recorded the measurements of Balenciaga’s clients. The debt Gvasalia has to pay to the legendary designer was further made obvious by sending down the runway a men’s coat started by the master himself and finished especially for S/S 17 by the atelier’s new creative director. There’s a lineage, a continuation of Balenciaga’s almost eighty year long codes for the house, and a profound respect for the past, for the great designers who have paved the way for today’s creative freedom and fashion as we know it. Cristobal would have been proud.

Historical, yes, but also very, very current. Such was the attitude conjured up by Gvasalia, and one that will hopefully continue to be weaved through all his future menswear shows for the house. There was an incredible harmony between the new and the old. As the outerwear took on a variety of sizes, so too did the trousers, appearing as either super skinny knee-length shorts, culotte-type three-quarter length pieces or almost floor-skimming, high waisted pairs, fastened tightly with a belt. There was leather, velvet and jacquard,as well as cotton for the less adventurous. There were snakeskin heels, knee-high boots, Balenciaga branded baseball caps and even a nod to Christianity, with papal purple and priestly stoles making an appearance. It was a celebration of what Balenciaga is about, as well as a point in the direction Gvasalia is intending to take the brand in the future. It sure will be exciting!

VALENTINO

The question about the next steps of Maria Grazia Chiuri is hanging in the air and with it the future of Valentino. While the fashion world awaits the official announcement of whether the female half of the Valentino duo is truly moving to Dior, there’s the S/S 17 menswear show to pore over. And it definitely was one that gave us a lot of food for thought. Gone is the polished pretty boy of past seasons, instead, a more chilled out collection walked down the Hotel Salomon de Rothschild catwalk. Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli let loose a little for S/S 17, trading perfect finishes for slightly undone looks. Inspired by the “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible’ exhibition at the Met, the pair focused on the process of creating a collection, the work in progress and the craft and skill it takes to create their garments. Artists and their creative processes were also on the mind of the Valentino designers, the earthy tones of the collection evoking the base washes of canvases, prepared to be the vessels of master painters. Chiuri and Piccioli are masters in their own right too, and this collection was an intimate revelation of how they work, how they prepare their garments, making them ready for elaborate embellishments, prints, adornments and embroideries of seasons past.

This journey through the studio that played out on the catwalk was manifest in unfinished, raw hemlines, strings of thread hanging off trousers and poking out of sweaters, exposed staples on footwear, rough and uneven stitching, revealed lining and ragged preparatory embroidery. Basically those kind of clothes your mum would not be really impressed with, but everyone else would be lusting after. Despite these ‘imperfections’ the clothing is still unbelievably beautiful and expertly crafted, ever so desirable, perhaps even more so with this vulnerability about them. They tell a secret of the atelier they have been born in. The panther print is a prime example of this. A rough, almost draft version of the 1967 original created by Valentino Garavani made a comeback on the bomber jackets, clutches and coats offered for S/S 17. The camo and denim looks, a familiar sight at Valentino menswear shows also made an appearance in a more rugged form. This was a lesson in craftsmanship and in the importance of what lies beneath, the journey, not just the end. Whatever the future holds for the Valentino duo, their eight year long stint as a creative duo at the house will be forever admired.

RICK OWENS

When you think about political fashion, there are designers that come to mind more readily than Rick Owens. Yet, his clothing, his productions and their messages are always telling of the times, the struggles, the issues and to an extent even the possible solutions, offering a sense of optimism in the often bleak times. Better days seemed to be on the cards for Owens this time around, however. For S/S 17, there was a sense of development, from the pure white, draped, almost toga-like garments, through an injection of mustard yellow, earthy oranges and browns through to the deep, dark blacks that closed the show, embellished with sequin starbursts, almost like fireworks, exploding across jackets and capes. The show seemed to go from dawn to dusk, from the clean slate of the morning, the experiences we gain through the day, to the celebration of the night. These snapshots of moments were not only captured in the colouring but also in the cut, the draping and the structure of the clothes, almost thrown on, suspended in time, in motion.

As usual, the proportions were stretched to their limits, pooling trousers sculpted into voluminous origami-like shapes, sleeves reaching way beyond the models’ fingers, tiny jackets fitted tightly on the waist, and billowing, spacious tops, almost tied together to hold in place all appeared on the runway. As usual, too, it was a challenging show. Owens’ clothes are unlike anyone else’s. But that’s why his shows are so refreshing. They do not bend to any status quo, they are not necessarily there to please, though please they very much do. He is on his own road, developing his brand, taking his customers on a journey, telling his own story, living in his own world. Unfortunately, we do not see that many of his creations on the streets, but that somehow elevates his work even more, establishing Rick Owens as one of the hottest creators of our time.

LOUIS VUITTON

This season, Kim Jones took Louis Vuitton on a journey, returning back to the brand’s roots as well as his own. It was physical travel, back to Africa where Jones spent his childhood, and time travel, to London ruled by the punks which the creative director famously holds in a very special regard. Both of these themes were particularly suitable for S/S 17 – it is Jones’ fifth year at the helm of the menswear departments at one of the most famous luxury brands in the world, and the fortieth anniversary of punk. As such, it was an incredibly personal and intimate collection, one that is going to be a huge success when it hits the stores next year. What will further ensure that Louis Vuitton’s S/S 17 will be a hit with the customer is the designer’s second collaboration with Jake and Dinos Chapman, fashion’s favourite artistic duo. This time around, they adorned the world famous LV logo bags with illustrations of African animals. There were rhinos, elephants, lions, giraffes and more, rendered in blue ink, slightly distorted. The perplex briefcases, carried across shoulders appeared to have particularly vicious-looking giraffes imprisoned inside them, giving the impression of trophies being taken back home from a visit to the African safari. This idea was further elaborated upon in the antelope skin that covered the sides of little treasure chest bags, complete with a little tail quiff. This could have been a bit too much for some, but if you’re into the animal motifs without actually wearing the animal, there was a lot up for grabs for you too.

The Chapman zebras, giraffes and rhinos featured heavily on coats, as prints on safari shirts, sweaters and even on a PVC see-through raincoat. If you’re more into the all-over print, zebra and crocodile patterned jackets will be your new dream pieces. This would have been a genius collection even on its own. Just an homage to Africa, Vuitton’s voyager spirit and all it means to Jones. But what makes the brand and its menswear designer just that little more special is the unexpected, yet utterly brilliant combination of Africa and teenage angst of the 70s. Whoever thought that slim checkered trousers, creepers and chokers would look oh so good with an animal hair jumper? Or a khaki sleeveless coat? Or even just the sheer idea of combining the epitome of luxury with the rebelliousness of punk and its denial of lavishness and the upper class? That’s what makes Kim Jones a visionary. Here’s to another five years, at least!

MAISON MARGIELA

The Margiela S/S 17 menswear collection perfectly represented the off-kilter, uncertain world everyone woke up to on the day of the show. Britain voted to leave the European Union and everyone walked around as though in a daze, a bad dream, not really comprehending what has happened and how it has happened. Most of us probably ended up getting dressed on Friday morning in a similar way to the models on the Margiela runway. Shirts buttoned up askew, half tucked in, half hanging out, bombers falling off shoulders, half jackets with missing sleeves fastened around the waist with a string, some models even missing their trousers or borrowing their girlfriend’s skorts. To further add to the slight chaos, trousers were folded over in an effort to be the right length, as though borrowed from an older sibling, toilles were in place instead of t-shirts and suit jackets still appeared to have lines drawn on as guidance for the pattern cutter. Poppers replaced buttons and smart shirts were half done, a sleeve here, a front part there. Labels were stitched on the outside of garments. Things were visibly missing, unfinished, a bit jumbled, almost as though John Galliano has ran out of time. Perhaps this collection was precisely that, a comment on the pace of fashion and the unattainable goals that are forced upon designers, churning out a collection after collection multiple times a year. Deconstructed designs are a trademark of the former Maison Martin Margiela, a tradition continued by Galliano since his appointment as the head of the house in 2014. This season, however, the deconstruction reached new level.

Then again, theatre is what Galliano does best. It was as though the mannequins in the atelier came alive, showing the work in progress. It almost felt a bit naughty looking at these clothes, like something we shouldn’t have seen, a glimpse at how the work at Maison Margiela gets done. This collection was a documentary, a walkthrough of what it takes to create these garments. This is what a lot of designers focused on this season. Perhaps the pressure is getting too much, the consumers are getting too demanding, and this season was a pleading from the designers to appreciate the craft, the tailoring, and the immense amount of hours it involves to create a 30 (sometimes much more) look collection. Yes, their schedules are punishing, but at the same time, how lucky are we to witness the creative process of some of the most loved designers?

GIVENCHY

It was the Givenchy menswear collection, but as usual, the girls stole the show. Well, one girl especially. After giving birth to her fifth child three weeks before, Natalia Vodnianova stomped down the runway in a haute couture gown as though she never even took a break. Mariacarla Boscono, Kendal Jenner, Joan Smalls and Bella Hadid also graced the catwalk clad in gowns adorned with pearls, ostrich feathers,tons of sequins and beading, shard of broken mirrors giving a slight disco ball feel, juxtaposed with netting and a slight nod to bondage. The thirteen haute couture looks that closed the show were also quite a contrast to the menswear offering which preceded it. The guys were tough, on a mission, exploring and getting what they want. The couture was angelic yet sexy, seductive yet delicate. Almost like modern princesses the Givenchy warriors were tasked to rescue. They were definitely ready for an expedition, their outerwear covered with large, utilitarian pockets, their parkas covered with a graphic money print designed to look like camouflage. Protective glasses took on the role of sunnies while hiking boots were the footwear of choice.

The warrior vibe continued when latticed, metal embossed pieces poked out from underneath t-shirts and jackets that came unzipped around the waist, giving the impression of armour. Ready-for-camping backpacks came with rolled-up mats, extra pockets and flat bags were carried over the shoulders like harnesses, Riccardo Tisci providing his models with as much space as they would possibly need on their quest. Pockets were everywhere, actually, bulging or ready to be filled. Zips also covered the garments, allowing their wearer to adjust or transform them to whatever shape of length they need, or whatever function they need to perform. It was functional, waterproof, sun-proof, injury-proof and nature-proof. The guys did not look macho though. In comparison to previous seasons, this was more contemplative, getting ready for something, making sure they are prepared. As the late Bill Cunningham said, “fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life.” This is precisely that Tisci’s S/S 17 menswear collection for Givenchy represented – being ready for anything life throws at you.

DIOR HOMME

Kris van Assche’s fairground set for Dior Homme S/S 17 look super fun, playful and optimistic. It looked like a giant rollercoaster, lit up in the colours of the rainbow, perfect for a summer collection. The clothes were the complete opposite. Dark, moody, punk-ish and heavy, the models looked like the bad boys who came to the funfair after hours, hanging around, scaring the little kids. They were the unruly boys girls fall in love with, their parents, however, not so much. Angsty teenagers stomped down the runway against the vibrant, happy background, sleeves ripped off their jackets, sado-masochistic harnesses worn over tops and suits, straps and metal clips hanging off belts, fingernails painted black. These guys were not to be told what to do. Rebelliousness was in the air as trousers were either too short or too long, suits were ripped up or with laces braided through them ends left hanging like a fringe. Those looking quite polished on the front had a large, tattoo-like drawing of intermingled skulls and roses on the back. Multiple studded necklaces and badges pulled the looks together.

There was a beatnik vibe, a little ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ all skinny suits, checks, heavy boots, D-rings and straps attached to anything possible, old school sports jackets, military coats and flashes of red. It was no longer the proper, Dior tailored suit that is so wanted by many men, and treasured by those who own it already. It was as though this is what the S/S 17 suits were originally, now customised by the models to look cool in front of their friends, refusing to look like sweet kids their parents want them to be. While the show did not deliver the fun expected from the backdrop, however, it did give us a lot of other fun. There is something super intriguing and exciting about this bad boy in Dior and even more so about the man behind the designs, the one that so subverted the look the brand’s menswear is so renowned for. Next summer, let’s road trip around all the funfairs and hopefully get acquainted with Van Assche’s boys up close and persona. It will surely be the summer to remember.

Words
Barbora Kozusnikova
7 Wonders: Paris Mens Fashion Week SS17

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