In his fascinating career as a menswear visionary and renegade, Walter Van Beirendonck has often acted as a moral and social conscience in the fashion world, raising awareness about our planet's wounds, plagues and injustices. True to form, he opened his fall 2015 show — which he held, paradoxically, in the bourgeois salons of the Hotel d'Evreux on the Place Vendôme — with clear plastic tunics closed at the back, doctor-style, with the words "Stop terrorising the world." Clearly a reference to the terror attacks in Paris earlier this month.
Then he took different paths, showing pants with visible selvedge at the waist, beautiful Ikat-inspired coats with a cartoonish effigy of himself, the ultimate gay bear, posing among some jungle fauna. There were also naughty brooches with eagles carrying butt plugs. The final pieces were the most arresting: jackets, sweaters, and capes that were a fascinating mixture of fur, plastic, and jutting tulle.
"To the Archives, No Longer Relevant" declared the invitation, leading to a huge warehouse in Ivry, a suburb half an hour from central Paris, where 90’s rave classics like Dominator played. Personal nostalgia pervaded the collection, recalling the days of scrawling band names on army-surplus backpacks in felt tip. But this was exactly Simons' point; he wanted to address the waves of youth consistently embracing the brand.
Those coats that went viral on Instagram, replete with scrawled names, doodles, and poetic statements, and punctuated with the initials RS, referred to the tradition of ‘baptizing’ freshmen in universities. In Belgium apparently they can be seen wearing their white coats covered in their peers’ scrawling each year the ritual is repeated. The rest of the collection was a celebration of this very same youth that has grown up in small towns without access to galleries, theaters, and suchlike, taking clothes from thrift stores, blending the 70s with the 90s, focusing only on creating their own style and personal mythology. We saw 70s ribbed raw-edge flared trousers, full-length coats that looked like the sleeves had been hacked off, digital collages, patent leather, and all manner of grandpa knits — all clashed together. It was genuinely refreshing and haltingly modern to see these boys up close on the high catwalk, in a farflung warehouse space with no seating.
Simons was in a reflective mood, and the results were mesmerizing. Backstage he described the label as a "youth generation" brand, and referred to the girls in the show as being a "memory," the girls who have always been around him and his boys. One such girl, Hanne Gaby Odiele, apparently styled herself, embodying a new woman wearing Raf Simons. This literal female presence on the runway was new and very welcome. The Archives? No longer relevant.
Humberto Leon pays tribute to frequent collaborator Spike Jonze with a collection based on Jonze's early photography. Before embarking on an Oscar-winning career as a screenwriter and director of feature films, a younger, scrappier Jonze was busy documenting the skateboard and BMX scene, as well as early Sonic Youth tours.
A clever play on identity, originality, and pre-internet youth culture, the boxy collection also conveys a sense of permanence and process. The abstracted prints in particular — of contact sheets, collages, analog blurring — nod to 35mm film and the tactility associated with it (although the prints are expressed digitally). A capsule with Kodak is also introduced, its iconic logo adorning T-shirts and accents of its color wheel appearing throughout.
Unable to express himself in the way he's accustomed, John Galliano made up for his tumultuous absence from the runway with a dramatic debut at Maison Martin Margiela today in London. The couture show, which the house calls Artisanal, was a strident yet cautious comeback, a heartfelt embrace of expression and expressionism. The designer unleashed his pent-up imagination with an enthusiastic tribute to other art-world radicals: Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the 16th-century Italian artist who painted portraits out of fruit, seashells, and other inanimate objects; Matisse, in the bold use of amorphous color, particularly a princely red; and perhaps even Basquiat, in the way the crowned mask of the last look smiled through a pile of metal bits. And let's not forget Galliano's friend and muse, Kate Moss, who was not only in the audience but could be spotted throughout the show — in, for example, a reproduction of the feather headdress she wore on the cover of The Face back in 1990, an iconic image immortalized by Corinne Day.
Galliano's commitment to artistry, with all its vagaries and vulnerabilities, didn't mean an abandonment of the house's codes. In fact, the blend of the two strong, enduring visions meshed seamlessly. The label's longstanding experiments in deconstruction, process, asymmetry, anonymity, found objects, and humor found safe harbor in the designer's own penchant for romanticism and theatricality — even if those trademarks are somewhat subdued, for now. That Galliano didn't take a slow, protracted strut down the runway for his bow, dressed as a pirate, matador or Southern dandy, is enough to signal a whole new era.
Few would argue against the appeal of a man decked out in a uniform. For Alexander McQueen's fall 2015 collection, however, Sarah Burton paid particular attention to the uniform as it was understood during the Regency period in Britain, a time synonymous with both rugged militarism and moneyed refinement.
As such, Burton forayed into decorated officer jackets, padded parkas, truncated trousers, and updated tailcoats worthy of Beau Brummel. Many double-breasted, some of these uniforms had the words 'honour,' 'valour,' and 'truth' emblazoned on the front. Others were inset with a rich brocade in a deep red or green poppy flower pattern — perhaps a nod to the blood-red ceramic poppies making up the inspiring installation at the Tower of London, in remembrance of the British soldiers who died in WWI.
As northern hemisphere dwellers are bundling up in multiple layers, so too is Proenza Schouler. But in a different way. For their pre-fall 2015 collection, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez took the greatest hits of their last couple of collections, tweaked and jumbled them ever so, then cobbled them back together to novel effect. Bundling done right.
For the most part, the duo combined and recombined argyles, plaids, checks, and some dark florals — all of which, despite their differences, looked great together. It helped to have a nearly monochromatic palette, save for a beautiful blue. The long pleated skirts of two seasons ago reappeared, as did the showstopping jungly fringe of last season that hung to the models' knees. Accessories, too, didn't disappoint. Proenza's revamped accessories team has been cranking out killer shoes and boots, and in this collection they debuted what will be likely be another bag destined for wait lists, a schoolgirl-ish satchel named Kent.
The label is in the midst of rolling out standalone boutiques across Asia — specifically in Singapore, Bangkok, and Hong Kong — not to mention their two relatively new shops in New York. This collection will telegraph the brand's codes nicely in all of the above. Which is to say, no grand gestures that require a fair of contemplation, but rather a homey stew that sits well.