Best of MEn's Paris fashion week SS18
The absence of Givenchy and Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent shows this season, in light of their respective designers’ departures, marked a stark black hole in the Paris men's show schedule. These pronounced pillars of the avant-garde will both present a coed show in late September. Paris has never been the orchestral voice of commercial fashion like Milano. The city has depended on both the young talents globally gathering as well as the tastemakers who’ve helmed France's luxury fashion houses, which are now part of the state's patrimony.
That said, however, this spring 2018 season shows produced a mixture of messages for menswear that is firmly grounded in the complete adoption of American sportswear vernacular: ubiquitous sweatshirts, the manifestation of the varsity high school sports team jackets, and in particular, the streetwear phenomenon that is currently omnipresent in men's fashion everywhere. But following trends can limit a designer's capacity to create innovative collections.
There were two kinds of shows in Paris this spring 2018 season - one that constructed a wardrobe with a close eye to reality and adapted the house codes to streetwear relevancy. The other constructed a bubble or its own aesthetic globe to sustain the independent worldview regardless of the changes afoot.
Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli has his ears to the ground as he resurrected the old house logo, this time splashing the Valentino and VLTN names in the back, red, or forest green tracksuits and white tees that permeated the collection, now catered to the young and active men not the boardroom types of the past.
The real streetwear brands like Pigalle, and for the first time showing in Paris - the New York designer Heron Preston and the rapper A$AP Bari's VLONE - both competed with mainstream brands for street cred. But in the case of VLONE, the street style brand is better off promoting their brand within their community versus an actual runway show.
Against this grain are the dissenters - those who refuse to surrender their aesthetics to the homogenization of fashion.
Olivier Rousteing at Balmain firmly held to his convictions and sent out his army wearing black and white graphic prints on knits, cotton, wool and leather jackets, skirts, long tunics and cut out tuxedos with plenty of sparkles. Rousteing only used French music which is rare for a show even in Paris, sharing with the audience some of the most popular tunes of the late 80's like Johnny Hallyday's “L’envie” and Michelle Polnareff's “Lettre a France.” Alexander McQueen’s Sara Burton narrated an adventurer's odyssey from city life in suits and leather bikers to pastoral life in white cotton broderie anglaise tunics, to eventually the holy grail of clothes - the Tree of Life crystal embroidered on a black coat. Thom Browne imagined his boys in menswear dresses, skirts, and wingtip heels often designated for women.
And then there was the Rick Owens show at the beginning of the week, a show that stood apart from the rest of the pack by more than a mile. I have not experienced a show so grand and majestic as Owens' show in the vast courtyard of the Palais de Tokyo in a very long time. It was not just because of the staging where models descended along high and elevated steel scaffolding. Rather, it was a moment when Owens' aesthetics, sharpened over the years, became crystal in its vision, as well as in its fashion propositions. Not to be outdone by the vast blue sky and the tall columns of the Palais, it was, in other words, a rare 'fashion moment.'
Written and photographed by Long Nguyen