Day Two of UOMO Paris Fashion Week was an education in the complex art of fashion design. As much as gender indicators were debated (ad nauseam, really) on the London Collections: Men runway, the designers in Paris today experimented with the various “levers” of fashion design. Fabric was central to Julien David and Kolor’s collections, while the visual, commercial, and social impact of prints and patterns was dealt with in Louis Vuitton’s display of chinoiserie and Dries van Noten’s appropriation of Marilyn Monroe. Rick Owens explored the diegetic power of fashion, narrating in his punk accent an Odyssean adventure, while Issey Miyake challenged fashion’s value as a conduit for other art forms. 3.1 Phillip Lim and Yohji Yamamoto finessed their tailoring skills, offering formic explorations; the former working in a more conservative realm, the latter wildly crossing lines.
3.1 PHILLIP LIM
Coloured mostly in light blues, dark blues and olive greens, 3.1 Phillip Lim’s summer collection may come across as simplistic on first glance. Look closer and you realise he’s managed to accomplish a riviera meets preppy meets nautical look, dabbling with casual finesse in candy striped suits comfortably worn shirtless, sparsely adorned admiral jackets, loose-fitting chambray shorts paired with knit cardigans, tailored knee-length shirts worn like perfect lightweight jackets for summer. Even the more ornate designs towards the end had a confident, classy vibe that never seems pompous.
Should clothing be canvasses for displaying art – and in Issey Miyake’s case – for displaying photography? Featuring landscape photographer Yoshinori Mizutani’s urban/nature works, designer Yusuke Takahashi’s designs similarly threaded the lines of city formal wear/streetwear, synthetic/natural fabrics and inner/outerwear. While graphics of canaries in flight or perched on power lines didn’t look as beautiful or wearable as the concept might’ve been, subtler details carried the collection – cardigan and joggers made from a navy synthetic fabric crinkled to look like an aerial view of a city’s grid, cleanly tailored collarless jacket worn as a shirt, deep perspective black-and-white photos of modern buildings printed over casual shirts, shorts and matching scarves.
Junichi Abe’s signature style of functional with a little quirk shone brightly today in Paris’ Maison de la Radio, as the generous sunlight coming through obstructed floor-length windows illuminated the craft behind it all. As fun as colour-contrast pocket detailing, oversized hooded pullovers with toggles, and thin lapel blazers fastened across the torso are, it was the fabrics that stole the show. Gauzy trench coats were dyed in a faded saumon/army green camouflage print, peacoats were made from khaki crepe, while houndstooth prints on sweaters were cleverly sewn into 3D fashion. Also, suit jackets paired with shorts, pulled-up socks, and monk shoes never looked more fashionable.
Titled “Cyclops”, Rick Owens’ collection – at once enigmatic and evocative – aimed to be a metaphor for the tragic hero who fights singularly for his goal, falls short, and eventually forgives himself. Models received hairstyles that gave them tunnel vision, cartoon eyes appeared as a pattern, while sometimes a big black circle sat squarely in the middle of long-sleeved tees with armholes at the shoulder seams. Later, brightly coloured and mismatching sashes seem to be haphazardly tacked onto basic tops, seeming unfinished, if not unravelling. While some ensembles served purely diegetic purposes, others featured items that would appeal to men who like a punkish, rebellious edge to their wardrobe.
With his stunning red-white-blue collection that celebrated Louis Vuitton’s French heritage, Designer Kim Jones moved the brand’s aesthetic further away from its signature muted sophistication and closer to the energetic, youthful market of today. LV would also join the ranks of this season’s many brands who embraced the souvenir jacket – complete with fine embroidery of cranes, bamboos and even marmosets – such as Valentino, Christian Pellizzari, Pringle of Scotland, and Dolce and Gabbana. “Louis Vuitton” in large cursive font emblazoned over the chest seemed much too gaudy, and with the chinoiserie one has to wonder if it’s the nouveau riche of China that this collection seeks to court? That being said, Jones’ more muted designs such as an impressionist take on sea-blue camo and inverted ‘L’ stripes looked smart, but couldn’t match the vibrant energy of their flouncy counterparts.
Always edging on dark humour, Julien David’s collection – presented on models sporting black chiffon scarves with continuous-line face caricatures over their heads – had a theatricality much more interesting than that of Raf Simons yesterday. Letting fabric lead the way, the main design element was a crinkly pleated wool fabric steamed twice to keep its crepe-like shape, which appeared on everything from suits to shorts. For some sardonic fun, collars received a bat-wing outline, “mutant daisies” lay limply all over jackets and jumpsuits, while raincoats sported some strange child of a Bertha collar and turtleneck.
Wild abstract prints, perfect tailoring, luscious materials – all things associated with Yohji Yamamoto – made an appearance today, in a collection that crossed literal and formic lines. Despite the season, models appeared in suits with few exceptions. Yet whether form-hugging ensembles worthy of the best French houses or fashionably roomy in the vein of Japanese workwear, every suit had either red/yellow warning lines or piping running down the side, or variegated splashes of summer colour. Suit pants turned to leggings from thigh to calf, pinstripe suits were interrupted with heavy creasing, shoes were printed with squares of yellow and red like radioactive or biohazard danger symbols, and blurry sketches of skeletons walking dogs or playing the guitar added an existential touch. Yamamoto undoubtedly proved himself to be the most stylish masters of irony.
DRIES VAN NOTEN
Some called Dries van Noten’s collection today a touching tribute to silver screen goddess Marilyn Monroe – but are they missing the point? Sure it wasn’t a mockery of her, but it certainly may be lampooning the runaway fashion syndrome amongst millennials willing to throw on anything to make a pop culture statement (see Bobby Abley in LC:M Day 4). Monroe’s sultry countenance appeared alongside pink leopard prints in black-and-white photos on fine suiting, sometimes as four-frame renditions à la Warhol on a knitted tank, and other times shorthanded to just her luscious lips. A plain gray sweater featured just one eyebrow, her eye, her mouth, and her iconic mole, as though to say: how much does it take to be famous these days? Throw in the unbridled use of Elsa Schiaparelli’s famous langoustine, and you wonder if Van Noten’s really mourning the death of the mystique that once shrouded the icons of Hollywood – and the role the fashion industry has to play in it.
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All photos by Regis Colin Berthelier and Guillaume Roujas, via NowFashion.com.