The envelope that contained the invitation was an art in itself, a complex folded sheet with a still image from the movie Tokyo Story by Ozu Yasujiro inside. Yohji said on his Facebook page before the show: “Films don't have to be always about drama... This is a story that could be summarized in just a few words.” The same could be said for the collection, and those few words were emblazoned in silver threads across the clothes: YOHJI YAMAMOTO, MADE IN JAPAN, and NO.1.
The silhouette was an assured steady evolution, with a dose of typical humor. The runway was splashed with yellow paint that the models dragged on the soles of their shoes up and down, gradually covering it in a yellowed mess. Prints were mandala-like and floral, with Americana on the agenda, soundtracked by the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. The big surprise came with a full denim section, beautifully washed in 70s blue tones, with bleached trompe l’oeil reparation marks. A full denim look with a denim cape was the highlight, showing Yohji can reinvent that most staple of fabrics and garments, and show it through his eyes.
The final exits were sun-bleached and dry-brushed, with posters pinned on the back of the jackets. Posters for missing pets, and missing people, the most potent was a photo of Yohji himself, proclaiming Perdu (Lost). Yohji was lost in his own world and that’s exactly where we love him most, with a singular vision that is so important in fashion right now.
A wax seal on the envelope revealed a cryptic cut-out gothic letter R sandwiched between transparent sheets. Nothing seemed evident, but after last season’s rewriting of the Dries rulebook, we were surely in for something different.
The show began with a brutal flash of light, and a hard industrial metronome-like tick-tock soundtrack began as the models raced out. The big reveal? Flesh. The first look was flowing cotton, a naked torso, an embroidered holster and a hybrid ballet shoe, giving us the keys to unlock the whole process: the R referred to Rudolf Nureyev, the dissident Soviet maverick ballet dancer.
Dries said backstage that he wanted to take away the rock ’n’ roll, and focus on sensuality. The clothes were certainly sexy with body-conscious knits, after-hours robes, strapped holsters, and that hybrid ballet shoe, with its leather base and elasticated strapping felt almost kinky. It was a new interpretation of the athleticism that has been haunting the men’s shows, and this Dries-ian twist of elegance was a welcome addition to the slew of tracksuits and sweatpants that we’ve gotten used to.
The unrelenting soundtrack, Rosas danst Rosas, by Thierry De Mey & Peter Vermeersch, was a subtle reminder that Rudolf, like Dries himself, was an innovator. Both are celebrated for their reinvention of the codes, bringing the worlds of modern and classical together, producing something startling and fresh. Dries is in perfect form.
A plane, one of men’s favorite toys, throned at the center of the circular runway that hosted Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy collection for next summer. The handsome 1964 aircraft (a Reims Cessna F172E), was a commission to the Dutch artist Paul Veroude, who spent more than a month dismantling the plane, painting its parts in black, and then suspending them on steel cables. This could actually serve as a metaphor for Riccardo Tisci’s approach at Givenchy: stylized masculine symbols.
This formula has allowed him to enter menswear history, as his carefully dosed mixture of sportswear and tailoring has now invaded the streets. Maybe he wanted to claim that territory, but there was a best-of feel to the collection — as is often the case at his men’s shows. The disciplined black tailoring he loves was made more graphic this season by contrasting white ties or collars, and Doc Martens-style boots laced up in white. His favorite hoodies were offered in a terrific sheer chiffon version. Athletic stripes left over from last season’s basketball fare adorned polo shirts and tank tops. Multi–pocket jackets alluded to the faint aviator theme. The expected hip-hop tinged testosterone was provided by prison caps worn by his almost robotic beefcakes (interestingly, Tisci never really went for the beard trend).
The all-over star print of the season looked like flecks from afar, but was actually flowers — gypsophila, to be precise. They made for a spectacular finale, pearlized and embroidered in a couture moment Monsieur himself would surely have approved.
The invitation proclaimed Volez Voguez Voyagez (Flying Floating Traveling) with a crisp new triple-V logo embossed on it. After a trip to Rajasthan, and a sojourn in Jaipur (India’s ‘Pink City’), Vuitton’s men’s director Kim Jones was in a dreamy mood, proclaiming, “Last season’s collection was about looking down at the earth from above, this time we’re looking up at the stars.”
And it seemed like our stargazer came from the time of space obsession, with a soft on-trend 70’s silhouette. Trousers kicked and flared, and shirts were worn belted in with volume, emblazoned with a fantastic optical update of the Karakoram zigzag print. He even updated the classic Indian mirror embroidery, with LV engraved on the tiny mirrors, mimicking the constellations of the stars. With the unbearable heat beating down on us in the glasshouse, it seemed like the summer of love was in full swing, soundtracked by the one and only Kate Bush who made a remix of her classic ‘Hounds Of Love’ especially for Kim.
There were beautiful standout pieces, like an impeccable nubuck trench with embossed-leather buttons, and perfect cropped bomber jackets that came in shocking pink and NASA orange. A neat little twist came in the non-monogrammed trunks that included a guitar case and a composer's case, which held everything our dreamer needed to take a trip and compose under the stars.
The last time fashion had a big encounter with Vaslav Nijinsky was back in 1995, when, in a landmark extravaganza, John Galliano filled the Théatre des Champs-Elysées with models in tutus. The Ballets Russes dancer and his famous Afternoon of a Faun ballet resurfaced at Rick Owens' terrific show for summer 2015. But this was hard to guess until the designer revealed his reference backstage.
That's because Owens is a subtle storyteller. Many less savvy designers would even have used a predictable Claude Debussy soundtrack. He instead went for parental-advisory rap, with a feisty female singer repeating very dirty words. But then, as he said in his press release, in the ballet Afternoon, "a faun chases some nymphs, and left with one of their scarves, masturates to it — primal urges, artificially expressed." So maybe Nijinsky and dirty rap are closer than we might think.
A cutting-edge yet somewhat unhurried designer, Owens continued his ongoing exploration of tunics and, short drop crotch jumpsuits, this time occasionally cut in denim with frayed edges, and worn with winged, sci-fi sneakers that open a new chapter in his hit collaboration with Adidas. An adventurous creator, he wrapped strips of nylon to reveal the body of his gaunt models, some covered with chalk. He also dabbled in subdued tones on color-blocked tunics, and showed naive appliqués decoration drawn by one of his favorite models, Benoît, who opened the show.
I couldn't help thinking about Helmut Lang, not only because the models walked the runway twice, but also, because the jackets hanging like backpacks and the strips of fabrics dangling from the clothes recalled the Austrian designer's greatest hits. And that is not to be taken negatively. Both designers have distinct identities, and they share the same fascination with grittiness and sophistication. Lang is still sorely missed, but Owens safely carries the modernist torch.
A drawing of a security camera accompanied by the slogan “CCTV in operation” appeared on the program notes of Walter Van Beirendonck’s men's show for summer 2015, a sign of protest against mass surveillance. But instead of an intrusion into people’s lives, the show felt more like watching the designer’s wonderfully fertile mind, as he scoured Asia and Africa while keeping his feet firmly planted in contemporary urban life. Like traveling without moving.
The Japan-influenced opening featured rich jacquard jackets, some with cutaways and patchwork effects that recalled the free-form creations of the 1970’s wearable-art movement, and such designers as Kaisik Wong. They were worn with loose beige pants tightened by colorful judo belts, and thick-soled sandals on the feet. After a rich kimono section, the collection moved to striking jumpsuits sweetened by tulle capes featuring military decoration.
Paris Fashion Week has just started, but it’s safe to say the Belgian designer displayed some of the most striking accessories seen a while, caps whose vertical brim halved the face, with one side adorned with tribal patterns that were replicated on the face. It was a subtle expression of his fascination with African traditional culture, also echoed by sunglasses with a white-rim detail that recalled an ivory tusk.
The parade ended with an orgy of graphic patterns contrasting with pieces decorated by the New York artist Scooter Lafarge, intriguing painted reveries mixing sea landscape and fauna.
The onomatopoeia "Whambam" was the title of the show. "Splash" would also have worked.
Exploration, wanderlust, and the pull of the great unknown informed Christopher Bailey's men's collection for Burberry. In rich jewel, sunset, and a few pastel tones, he sent out a triumphant medley of outdoorsy men's pieces: trenches, duffle coats, safari-style jackets, cords, and ombre polo shirts. He mixed these with stunningly mismatched velvet suits, oversized cardigans, jaunty carrés, and rainbow-colored sneakers that it seems, as we head into the Milan and Paris men's shows, no spring collection would be complete without.
Restricted to British themes, Bailey nonetheless never fails to find suitable inspiration on which to hang a collection, often in the form of a real person. This time that person was Bruce Chatwin, the celebrated English travel writer, sometime archeologist, and full-time adventure-seeker. Before succumbing to AIDS in 1989, Chatwin had traveled the world, written voluminously on the peoples he encountered, and struck up lifelong friendship wherever he went, the latest being the documentarian Werner Herzog. Chatwin also harbored an obsession with Moleskine journals, represented by Bailey in leather rucksacks, totes, and notebooks printed with the covers of Chatwin's books.
Sarah Burton seemed to pay homage to the introduction of slicing-edge Japanese designers — think Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Kenzo Takada — to 80s Paris with her spring men's collection today. Along with a New Romantic vibe, she splashed nearly every piece in the lineup — mostly suits and coats — with dramatic, bold patterning reminiscent of kabuki make-up (now practiced in Japan only by men), but to theatrical extremes.
Those stylized swoops and swishes of color began in mellow, spring-like shades of grass and cabbage on pristine white, but soon detoured through grayscale and on to a warrior palette of red and black. The shoes, which bore the same swirling shapes but in leather, are going to be hard to beat as the men's collections wear on.