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.
There’s a gleefully queasy perversity to Jonathan Anderson’s men’s line that's absent from his womenswear. He once said he was inspired by mother-son incest and you could certainly believe that the slender milquetoast lads he sent down the runway this morning had raided the wardrobe of some stylish and overbearing matriarch.
Anderson gained column inches last season for putting his boys in lace-up platform heels. While the gender-bending was a little less overt this time around, he’s still the coolest, kinkiest member of the LVMH stable. His men’s collections have an unmistakably camp sensibility; they evoke a cloying, cloistered world of decadent momma’s boys. There’s a fascination with ‘bad taste’ here with almost kitschy, 70s flourishes — i.e. the postcard imagery on the carpet-like knits that opened the show — that is gloriously uncomfortable to behold.
Also on show were Margaret Thatcher-ish pussy-bow blouses paired with slouchy flared trousers in matching chevron print and richly textured cardigans that plunged to reveal non-existent cleavage and were imbued with an odd kind of sexuality. Naturally, for a designer who strives to disregard gender binaries there was a notable synergy with his womenswear, particularly seen in the slash necked shell tops that acquired volume and shape simply from large knots tied in the fabric — a nod to the Japanese conceptualists he frequently references.
Morrissey called them "sweet and tender hooligans," those denim-and-cargo-pant-clad lads who inspired Richard Nicoll’s spring 15 collection. They’d never attend a fashion show and would break the nose of anyone who suggested it. Nevertheless they’re the key muse among London’s edgiest menswear designers this season — just don’t tell them.
It’s tempting to read autobiography into this fascination, although Nicoll is an Aussie rather than a Northern Englander. This is unmistakably the collection of someone who came of age in the late nineties (you could say the exact same thing of Christopher Shannon, who showed earlier in the day). It seemed to come straight from the football terraces — apparently England lost some kind of soccer match yesterday —and that adds a certain poignancy.
Alternately, these pieces could have been seen at an Oasis gig circa ’96 — in cheaper, synthetic iterations, of course. This was stonewashed jeans, citrus-bright shirts, and baseball caps galore. There was also, in the button denim and gingham shirts, an evocation of fin-de-siècle lad culture — a Proustian rush for the many twenty-somethings populating the benches. Here was a collection that would please a youthful Liam Gallagher and all those who wish to emulate him.
Monaco's royal family must have been elated to shrug off that Grace of Monaco fiasco and welcome Louis Vuitton's cruise show to its tiny principality less than an hour's drive from Cannes. In fact the collection was held in a specially built glass box in front of the Prince’s Palace, under the patronage of Princess Charlene and with the royal family in attendance.
If there was harmony in the monarchy, Nicolas Ghesquière's outing for Vuitton, his second collection for the house since departing Balenciaga, struck plenty of discordant notes. Reminiscent of Prada's embrace of all things outmoded, Ghesquière sought a certain contretemps between the elements. Colors clashed, shapes sparred, fabrics faced off — yet most signs pointed to a seventies vibe. The motifs, too, were not entirely in agreement; the forced pairing of an amorphous aquatic theme, a checkered racecar graphic à la Monte Carlo, and the house's luggage heritage — with its right angles and stiff materials — may not make much sense now, but that is the point. They will make sense soon enough. That is what Ghesquière does.