Paris Men's Fall/Winter 2019 | Day 4

by Long Nguyen

COMME DES GARÇONS HOMME PLUS

Exposed wiring in the midst of a renovation provided an extra ambiance for Comme des Garçons Homme Plus, an extravagant take on what could easily and mistakenly be ascribed as punk. The show included a model with blond hair wearing a black smoking jacket, sheen knee-length dress, fishnet stockings, metal spikes leather combat boots and large gold cross earrings that strike an uncanny resemblance to the rocker Billy Idol filming on the video set of ‘White Wedding.’ Indeed, when the music from a live performance of the band VOWWS started the show, the banging drum beats caused some of the ceiling dust to fall on the models as they proceeded in their fast-paced strolling wearing garments made up of a hybrid of fabrics like wool, brocades, and jacquards cut into jackets and coats. A fusion of coat and tailcoat, both long and short versions, fully accessorized with plastic and metal harness vest-necklaces and a black and white print suit with short pants under a black wool sleeveless jacket made an appearance.

“Finding beauty through darkness” was Rei Kawakubi’s actual intention communicated via email post-show. While goth and punk were fertile territories for the designer who had previously paid homage to that era of rebellion and of anti-establishment free thinking, this show felt something else despite the heavy black makeup, the tights, and the music - perhaps it was a commentary on the current global gloominess and the possibility of finding the light and a way out.

Take away the decorative elements staged for the show specifically – all the accouterments meant to convey the message of beauty and light coming out of darkness: the hot shorts, the dark makeup, the fishnets – and what remained, for example, was a fine tailored single breasted wool coat as well as a wool coat fused with a half of a jacquard jacket. The ingenuity is to convey both message and merchandise and here each look achieves its dual purpose.  


BERLUTI

At the opulent and decorative Opéra Garnier, giant crystal chandeliers hung from painted ceilings. Since his appointment as creative director, Kris Van Assche debuted his first show, Berluti, early last year, following a short tenure by Haider Ackermann. Berluti is a 120-year-old house specialized in handicraft footwear such as dress shoes and boots in particular. It has no real tradition of ready to wear despite having men’s collections shown in the past eight years with two different creative directors. Van Assche took advantage of this void and in this fine show attempted to create his own mold to take Berluti forward. With a message of fine tailoring and a diverse cast of silhouettes of suits and coats, a lesson well learnt from his 11 years at Dior Homme and its ateliers. Mixed with sporty elements like patchwork leather motocross pants paired with a traditional coat or a well-cut jacket to be more in tune with current and target consumer.  

In the opening look of a brown, leather, single breasted suit, Van Assche paid homage to Berluti’s signature golden patinate from the first ‘Alessandro’ model in 1895. It had been treated, dyed, and colored with a special technique to achieve the seamless light and dark mixture used for dress shoes. The base silhouette was a slouchier feel rather than rigid tailored slim cuts. Like a red, wool, double breasted suit with a jacket that was slightly loose at the waist. Or a deep purple coat paired with a brown leather hoodie and brown pants. The well-known colors of the Berluti shoes were reflected in the bright red jacket, the mustard cashmere coat, the fuchsia double-breasted trench, and the shiny gray suit. The shoes were a new version of the classic Alessandro and the Andy, all cut from a single piece of leather.  

In future seasons, Van Assche will need to inject a little bit of emotion as this show. Despite its flawless display of crafts felt a bit academic and less as a way to connect to the audience on a different level. Fashion is more of a feeling and less intellectual.


JIL SANDER

Lucie and Luke Meier achieved a double purpose with their first showing in Paris – creating a modern and functional tailored silhouette while also fostering a return to the house’s deep-rooted role in fabric innovation from the late 90’s. There was internal shoulder straps rooted in military wares and feather weight calfskin shirts and cotton coated coats. The husband and wife team focused on the art of layering; coats on top jackets, shirts, and knits. By showcasing how nonchalant well craft can be without the stiffness often associated with structure garments suggested an answer on how to wear tailoring today.

The opening sequences of blues and charcoal greys set the tone for the show that alternated between a more formal coat-on-coat to a laissez faire attitude, seen through a white shirt collar peeking out from under a wool outfit in charcoal. All traditions, especially those rooted in fashion, require constant evolution. The Meiers understood that traditional tailoring can also be molded to make clothes relevant for now.


BALMAIN

The hallmark of a good designer is to know how to move on once a signature look has been firmly established and evolve and push the work and thinking forward – that by no means is a denial of the past. The flashy 80’s aesthetic is now a signature territory for Balmain men’s collection with prominently broad shoulder silhouettes, embroidered at times in their entirety by the house atelier craftsmanship. At the vast Tennis Club on the outskirts of Paris, next door to the Parc des Prince, the home of Paris Saint-Germain team, the floor was covered with reflective metallic carpeting, perhaps giving an allusion that the collection to be shown would be gilded and more on line with what the designer Olivier Rousteing had shown in his previous men’s standalone platform since the first Spring 2016 show. At Balmain, less decoration isn’t exactly less emphasis on bringing forth the inventiveness of the house’s atelier but just a shift in focus away from the limelight on the surface.

If the Balmain man is one who sought to discover the world to find new things and experiences, then this man can really appreciate finding new routes for his adventures. In total monochromatic black and white, the superb show with such a large display of merchandises retained much of the signature silhouette – broad shoulder cropped jackets, slouchy pants, bikers, and even smoking jackets. This time, tailoring took center stage where the hidden art of craft was often not as obvious as crystal embroideries – tweed jackets trimmed with chains, white feather treatments or hybrids of tweed and leather. But a series of sporty looks like black smoking track pants with a striped sweater, a black torn fishnet tank over white jeans, or a white print sweatshirt and black and white flight jacket broke the couture-focused half segment of the show. There were a lot of new tote bags – the carry all around kind in leather.

In the age of gender fluidity, some of the clothes on both male and female models were very similar to each other and, at times, it was nearly impossible to discern which ones belonged to which gender. Can you tell if the model wearing a white hooded cross button sweatshirt, a black single breasted jacket, black pants, and black sunglasses was male or female at first sight?  

Phrases like ‘Your comments I don’t mind,’ ‘You only know my name, not my story,’ ‘I am under no obligation to reply,’ and ‘Don’t put your blame on me’ were splashed on the concrete wall at the entrance to the show venue by a car with a projection machine and were also inscribed on cotton hoodies, leather bikers, and on shirts. In hindsight, it was a reflection on the state of the internet as a few of the models toward the end of the show wore iPhones inside a black leather case on the neck, facing out to the crowd, recording their movements as they walked around the tennis club. “They are messages that pushes back against the bots, greed and mean-spirited trolling that have dimmed the hope we once shared for a liberating digital age of free, honest and respectful communication,” the designer said in a note against the type of internet bullying that is taking place now.  

Rousteing has always been at the forefront of incorporating and adapting new technology to foster a community as he has done with creating the specialized fan club – the Balmain Army. As Rousteing raised attention against the aggressiveness in the digital age through his messages sown and printed on his clothes, the company will launch the Balmain App shortly, allowing for greater access in regard to commerce, communication, and community.