Givenchy launched its fall collection, and its new Twitter page, with a cryptic tweet: "The strength of gypsies meets the romanticism of a Victorian feeling." Two very differing views of femininity, but held together by another tweet that came later, a kind of miniature manifesto from Antony Hegarty—of Antony and the Johnsons, who opened the show with a live set, accompanied by the Heritage Orchestra. That tweet called on Men (capital M) to "find humility and retreat" and Women (capital W) to "forge a new way forward for our species."
Ominous stuff, and totally Riccardo Tisci, who often plays with gender codes—and then some. His method is to turn notions of class, art, religion, and history inside out, piecing them back together in a parade of pastiche that manages to be both cerebral and visceral. And so, along with long, diaphanous, gypsy-like skirts and hard leather bodices recalling Victorian corsets, he sent out a range of loaded imagery and silhouettes that touched on his greatest-hits tropes, inviting—nay, daring—you to put the puzzle together.
The show began with Disney's Bambi printed on sweatshirts, belted with a bungee cord, and quickly moved into a series of hard, motocross biker jackets laden with zippers and paired with long, neo-grunge floral skirts. It wasn't long, however, before we were seeing his signature of signatures, kaleidoscopic prints, this time collaged with images of flames and Renaissance paintings, as well as a another recurring motif, a tooth-ringed shark's jaw. Many looks had what looked to be a padded vest, half opened to become peplum. Fur, too, made appearances—some real, some fake, often in the same piece.
All together it was classic Tisci: hard versus soft, art versus nature, danger versus safety, and of course masculine versus feminine. A full-circle sense of finish came with the last exit, Natalia Vodianova, who walked the round runway in a slightly slow gait, having run a marathon in the morning.
The entrance to the Viktor & Rolf runway was covered in grayscale illustrations of withered and dying flowers, exactly what would have happened if a girl were to wear the majority of this winter offering in the winter. With a distinct lack of outerwear, and a shocking amount of bare leg, it would surely also bring death to anyone that attempted. Perhaps this was a reflection on the current climate in fashion, and the decreasing necessity for recognized seasons.
The collection was, for the duo, borderline commercial. The pieces were wearable and the shapes mostly easy, without any loss of the creativity associated with the label. Their ubiquitous bows were everywhere, falling apart and restructuring themselves across dresses, shirts, jackets, and skirts.
But the most interesting applications were the decaying elements, which appeared to sprout wispy feathers from their embroidered ruptures, growing from holes and crevices in the garments. These referred more to the decaying floorboard prints that lined the floor of the runway itself, and neatly into the punk trend that has been emerging.
The change of venue for Jean-Paul Gaultier this season was a reference to his past—a past that we all covet, though we probably didn't attend, as we were a bit too young. So it took some research to quash our initial puzzlement over the move from his beloved Saint Martin space to Salle Wagram. But, as we learned, this was where his groundbreaking 80s shows took place, and it was clear tonight that his grand history was on his mind.
The entrance was like a film premiere with a red carpet and walls of paparazzi. And before the show, the buzz was electric, with a two-story backdrop spelling out JEAN PAUL GAULTIER in giant letters. The first few looks were incredible, classic Gaultier, but updated, with minimal studded and sculpted tops recalling the cone bra. This quickly gave way to beautiful trench coats, masterfully handled leather pieces, and even an on-trend grungy update of the Breton striped shirt. The insistence on the huge block-letter print, the same print block letters as the backdrop, worked extremely well in colored fur pieces, and the purple and green mink bomber was perfect. But on the silks and twill, it seemed a little dated, and was the only niggle in an otherwise fantastic show.
Taken individually, each part of today's Dior show—Raf Simons' second RTW collection for the house—was brilliant: the bits of early and still painterly Andy Warhol appliquéd to skirts and bodices (in collaboration with the Andy Warhol Foundation); the generous helping of archival Dior; and the mind-warping stage design consisting of giant mirrored oblong shapes like those of Jeff Koons balloon dog sculpture.
Taken together, however, and despite great amity tendered by just about everyone, these various parts added up to their sum exactly—not more, unfortunately. No intoxicating elixir was alchemically stirred into existence, no transcendental Zeitgeist was conjured from the ether. One can admire the experiments in houndstooth and crochet, the play with proportion and asymmetry, the shoes resembling Eames chairs—but only in the way a mid-century Rothko hangs on a museum wall. Simons' women seem wrapped in canvasses; they are not living, breathing canvasses.
There were many great pieces, of course, and combinations thereof. And it's refreshing that Simons isn't consumed with outerwear, like so many designers this season. The pairings of take-me bustiers with stand-back trousers were particularly alluring with their mixed messages. There is life in them. But there exists an impenetrable, abstract sadness in Simons' offerings for Dior that prevents complete submission. Then again, Monsieur Dior and Andy Warhol were misunderstood, too.
This morning we got punk'd! With 80s Japanese punk blaring from the speakers, Junya Watanabe took the trend—and theme of the Met show in May—and made it his own. Hair was piled up on top, backcombed beyond recognition, and shredded like a Marie Antoinette hybrid out of Derek Jarman's Jubilee. And all the models wore puzzling round-toe court shoes that remind us of every girl we ever met in a club.
Watanabe knows how to reinvent a staple, and he made us covet the biker jacket we have grown inseparable from. They came patch-worked in his signature tartans and bouclés, extended and turned into trench coats, mutated into bubble-hemmed prom dresses, fused with classic varsity jackets, twisted into asymmetric tops—the permutations were endless and perfect. Zips were applied liberally to the trenches; they accentuated the hips as they opened up when the models walked. Blue jeans were sliced and cut up to create new versions of another wardrobe staple, their hems rolled to reveal tiny floral motifs.
The show was more translatable than recent seasons, and many an editor furiously tweeted in admiration of their fondness for these genius new versions of their beloved classics. Also tweetable, the first signs of the highly anticipated Loewe collaboration, in the form of bags hanging from the models' arms.
Though the Yohji Yamamoto show was full of visual contradictions, with sartorial references ranging from the 40s to the 90s, we wanted it all so bad! The mood was playful, entirely soundtracked by Beatles classics, seeming at first as though Yohji was in a nostalgic mood, but by the end simply cementing his disinterest in and opposition to whatever the current trend is (which this season is punk).
His meditations on form and fabric, and his unwillingness to conform, are endlessly alluring. He's always walked his own path, and his hallmarks were all present and accounted for today: re-appropriated menswear, origami, pleating, knotting, tearing, drapery, frayed woven textiles, asymmetry, and oodles of monochrome black. The man who claimed “black is modest and arrogant at the same time" seems more and more like he's describing not only his feeling towards the color, but also his personal mantra.
Post-show, the crowd was ecstatic, with much reminiscing about Yamamoto classics. On the way out, two discreet podiums had been set up, presenting the return of the much-loved Yohji Yamamoto fragrance, which has been missing from the market for almost a decade. Samples were handed out to very happy show-goers, while the music still played in the background: "Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged."