At Kenzo, the stark space was brought alive by an army of red-coated singers. They opened the show, marching their way en masse down the catwalk, filling its entire length. A conductor arrived, and the carefully placed television screens lit up with music notation and a minimalist choral version of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation ensued, arranged by Thomas Roussel. As the designers said in the show notes, “It is, after all, music that brings us together.
Once an underrated French menswear talent, Sébastien Meunier finally has the limelight at Ann Demeulemeester — after working for several years at Margiela. Under Meunier's short tenure, the brand's male romanticism is less dark, and the show opened with an apparent attempt at redefining modern formal wear — tuxedos sporting contrasting colorful lapels.
But the collection's real hits were the wonderful flower-printed pants and all the tactile items: fuzzy tan coats and knitwear, mohair shirts, and black suits in fabrics that seemed to have been scratched throughout their surfaces, producing a luxuriously disintegrating effect. That's modern formal wear.
With its well-judged pairing of revisited menswear staples with tight-fitting Lycra tops and cycling shorts, Maison Margiela's irresistible fall collection was a bouncy leap from the brand's lukewarm outing last June.
This men's line was designed by a team before John Galliano gives it his imprimatur, and they were up to the challenge, showing a canny ability to translate Margiela's message of classics subversion for the 3.0 reboot. The many standout pieces included elongated sleeveless duffle coats, knee-length biker jackets, a trench coat with frayed hems, and patchwork pants.
Never one to shy away from gilded luxury, Dries Van Noten took his men's game to a whole new level. We entered the grand Opéra Garnier through an austere wooden staircase to find ourselves in what looked like a rehearsal room filled with props and columns of the current Strauss opera, Capriccio. It was only when the lights came on and the curtain lifted that we realized where we were sitting on the stage. The other side opened up to reveal the resplendent Foyer de la Danse, celebrated by the likes of Manet and Degas. It was the most spine-tingling moment of the season.
Yohji Yamamoto has been in fine form lately and seems to be reveling in laying himself bare. His collections get more and more personal each season, giving us a clearer insight into the notoriously discreet designer. His dark sense of humor has been prevalent on his men’s runway recently and this season was no different, with scrawled messages on the backs and fronts of T-shirts like Corporate Motherfuckers and Let Me Eat You. Though there were also moments of personal introspection, with one tee stating The Only Woman I Know My Mother.
The Louis Vuitton space in Parc Andre Citroen was transformed this season, with a walled box built inside of the towering Provost glass house that is home to their runway each season. This blocking of the light and demarcation of the space enabled menswear creative director Kim Jones to house a poetic installation by Japanese artist Shinji Ohmaki, called Liminal Air Space-Time, which consisted of a lightweight fabric delicately undulating across the ceiling with carefully controlled fans. The effect was stunning, with Shinji claiming, “This work expresses the breaking down of existing values and creating anew” — a fitting statement for Jones’ show, which he himself titled Future Heritage.
Some of the most indelible runway images of this decade have been masterminded by Rick Owens. So when the first strains of music filled his current favored venue, the gritty bowels of the Palais de Tokyo, many must have felt the kind of anticipation Aladdin experienced after pronouncing those two magic words.
But the shrewd designer knows how to alternate extraordinary mise-en-scènes and more straightforward défilés. His latest outing, partially inspired by the 1960s cult-horror film Eyes Without a Face, fit into the latter category, which didn't diminish the power of his vision. It was a first-rate show, dazzling in its devotion to modern urban luxury, irresistible in its strong display of outerwear, admirable in its skillful mix of the outlandish and the wearable — by Owens' standards, of course.
After Walter Van Beirendonck darted down the runway at the end of his terrific fall 2016 show, the booming soundtrack segued into a tender piano version of David Bowie's Life on Mars. It was a timely and touching reminder of the designer's formative years back in the seventies, when his discovery of the late protean singer left a profound impression of him.
Like Bowie, Van Beirendonck has a transgressive and progressive streak that nothing, not even all these years that have turned his beard into an ashy bush, has dampened. His work could be defined as social commentary wrapped in playful imagery, and this season was no exception.
At the door we were handed show notes, something decidedly un-Raf Simons, and left to negotiate a gigantic labyrinth that filled the venue. The show was standing only, with the warning ‘Don’t stand on the black line.’ That line would direct the boys around the maze, which had us touching the clothes as they brushed past, and made for a wonderfully intimate experience.
Opening to the spoken words of Angelo Badalamenti as he described writing the soundtrack for Twin Peaks, explaining his conversations with David Lynch, and sounding out the infamous notes of the haunting music. Indeed the eerie, claustrophobic show — titled Nightmares and Dreams — evoked a nightmarish Lynchian dreamscape — on the birthday of Lynch himself.