The neighborhood of Raf Simons' spring show tonight — in the same venue as last season — is particularly un-Parisian. It sits in the banlieue of Ivry, half an hour outside of the city, with unfazed expressions from locals to match. The industrial space was bathed in red light beforehand, spilling across a labyrinthine raised catwalk, raising the question of how best to position oneself in front of blazing-hot light fittings.
Checked face coverings — by now an Instagram phenomenon — were the statement that opened the show, and continued throughout. They fell around the boys' faces like gang hoods, albeit plaid, coupled with gathered wide-leg rave pants and handpainted rivets, topped off with shrunken knits and chunky backpacks adorned with chunky plastic chains. These meshed nicely with an ingenious soundtrack peppered with samples from Mark Lecky's seminal 1999 art film ‘Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore' — putting us in very personal territory.
The masking, married with the sporadic music, caused two boys to tumble from the catwalk, adding to the underlying sense of danger, all while the sound system continued to whisper, "Halston, Fiorucci, Gucci..." This was Raf Simons in devilishly true form — daring and defiant, oozing confidence, and questioning the fashion system in exactly the ways we need.
It takes a second to mentally register the over-the-topness of a Walter Van Beirendonck show, and the spring collection was no different. Models sported flashy suits with Pokemon-esque 3D lapels, and if that didn’t throw you off guard, there were fluffy clouds, cartoon decals and superhero facepaint tossed in for good measure. Upon deciphering the code, however, it was clear there was a method to the beard-toting Belgian’s madness. Underneath the Candyland-colored prints, there was some damn good tailoring and brilliant design decisions. But as if to unburden the audience with those pesky details, Beirendonck struck awe with extra-wide-brimmed, feather-encrusted mountie hats — because a regular oversized mountie is just so Pharrell 2014.Read More
The shapes and styles of an Alexander McQueen men's collection don't change significantly season after season, which isn't to say a thematic overhaul doesn't take place. For spring 2016, held in the arches on Ewer Street, London, the much-anticipated new theme harked back to old-timey maritime adventure.
In a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy, intrepid creative director Sarah Burton reconnoitered the pre-satellite science of sea exploration, plunging the watery world not with trite Breton shirts but with bold gestures evocative of the dangers that lurk in the great unknown. She printed baggy two-piece suits and pajamas with colorful sea monsters, military decoration, compasses, and sailor tattoos. Details from windswept models to salt-washed denim set the course, but a taut knee-length, double-breasted jacket in royal blue completed the nautical journey.Read More
London men's designer Craig Green continues to turn menswear on its head. For spring 2016, he combined strappy astronaut suits, Asian-style draping and wrapping, and what looked to be burqa scaffolding, outsized in the front and bare in the back.
Curiously, he also tweaked the nipple area — traditionally a no-go zone for men — with knotted dots and long streams of fabric. A suggestive and strangely alluring focus.
The collection seemed to a rebuke of old tropes and taboos, exactly the sort of attitude London excels at, hinting at a future unconcerned with gender codes and geopolitics.
Recently, Yohji Yamamoto has been uncharacteristically talkative. And today was no exception, as he waited backstage to greet people, and discuss (albeit cryptically) the show. He spoke of things being "under construction" and, reading between the lines, how people shouldn’t be afraid to wear one piece of fabric like the ancient Greeks. It brought to mind his famous quote: "I think perfection is ugly...I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion."
Disorder was certainly there tonight, as the show started in complete darkness, with no music, while people were still taking their seats. Photographers screamed for lights, and the audience hushed the people who hadn’t realized it had begun. In this simple moment, Yohji silenced the room. It was poetry in motion and, as it developed, one of his most powerful shows to date. Jackets were tailored through the body but de-structured in the back, with kimono-shaped sleeves. Whole outfits were seemingly made from one single piece of exquisitely draped fabric, much like those Grecian predecessors he talked about backstage. The color palette was for the most part monochromatic black, with flashes of deep greens and plums. Then, of course, there were the huge ballgowns, distorted into forms evoking broken umbrellas or fallen parachutes wrapped around fence posts, wearing their scars proudly.
The performance was soundtracked by a minimal piano, reminiscent of Morton Feldman, with chords that played out to their final hum. The hisses of the spotlights seemed to brighten throughout the show, searing the dark silhouettes onto our retinas. It was a fitting end to a mammoth show day, recalling Yamamoto's own words from a 2004 interview: “Sit down, calm down, you are turning in a carousel that moves too fast. Fashion has lost respect of clothing. My job is to regain the respect for clothing.”
Somehow it feels appropriate that John Galliano showed his first ready-to-wear collection for Maison Margiela — a paean, as it was, to faded, demented, schizoid glamour — nearly to the day that Albert Maysles, maker of the cult film Grey Gardens, passed away. You could almost hear Little Edie merrily murmuring something about nothing while wrapping and re-wrapping a scarf around her head.
Galliano's tribute to that particular delusional dame was spring 2008, and it lives in infamy. Here, "an ephemeral muse returns," said the show notes, unnamed but blissfully unawares nonetheless. Galliano appears to have envisioned the different stages of her life, from bright young flapper, so confident and svelte in her lace and ribbons, to hunchbacked hag, clutching her sad bag — fashioned after a brown paper sack — and squinting into the distance. Elsewhere we saw a rocker chick, a 60s student, and a leopard-clad cougar. All of them, at some point, had clearly chucked caution to the wind in a frenetic moment of velvety, fur-shod abandon.
It's no secret that Galliano loves paying homage to the great eccentrics of history, the strongest personalities. It's a method that is somewhat at odds with the reclusive Margiela ethos of anonymity. It'll be interesting to see how the schism plays out, whether common ground can be found of Galliano will cast that pesky ethos aside. As it was, in this collection, there was very little of Margiela's codes on display.
Last week saw the passing of John Fairchild, the legendary publisher and editor of Women's Wear Daily. In Fairchild's heyday, fashion was much slower, less crowded, and less accessible to the masses. Making headlines was much easier for designers than it is now. Nonetheless, there is perhaps no other contemporary designer who's made as many headlines as Rick Owens, and he's done so without summoning Hollywood or the current It-girl. Those now-infamous male parts of his men's show in January easily overshadowed everything else that happened that week.
But Owens has the shrewdness of a fox, knowing that surprises work best when they are, well, unexpected. So this time around, he eschewed gimmickry in favor of softer toga-like shapes inspired by Arcadia, the Grecian utopia — but, he said in the show notes, as might be worn in Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House. Showing in the underground space of the Palais de Tokyo, with its raw, scratchy walls sprouting tufts of plastic, he sent out models wearing cocooning tunics that formed cumulus shapes around the torso, or zippered alternatives that mixed velvet and felt. Flat, knee-high sandals completed the silhouette.
At times, the result recalled the Zen-like experiments of eighties' Japanese designers, although the esoteric gold or silver painted faces were pure Owens. The embroidered numbers sporting shimmering sequins in geometric patterns were absolute winners. If there was a downside, it may have been the one-note feel and the absence of more user-friendly items, which always give Owens' shows their unique balance.