Dries Van Noten showed for the first time in two years back in Paris, as did Céline, Comme des Garçons and Thom Browne.
After two years of digital calendars and only a handful of catwalk shows, the fashion spotlight was turned on again in Paris last week. Japanese and Belgian designers returned, and it had been a long time since we had seen so many celebrities at a men’s week, from the likes of Justin Timberlake to David Beckham. Similarly, buyers and journalists also flocked from far and wide, with the exception of China and Russia.
Virgil Abloh’s legacy continues to have an impact
Luxury group Kering kept its distance, with no trace to be seen from Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta and Alexander McQueen in recent weeks. Earlier in Milan, however, Gucci had invited a few journalists to a vintage boutique for the presentation of an altogether modest capsule collection by artistic director Alessandro Michele and pop star Harry Styles.
LVMH, on the other hand, programmed one mega show after another in Paris. Louis Vuitton built a gigantic construction on the Cour Carrée of the Louvre: an abstract, winding 'yellow brick road' leading to the sky. The show, which was introduced and closed by not one but two American marching bands and cheerleaders, circled back to Virgil Abloh's debut for Vuitton, inspired by the classic film The Wizard of Oz. Superstar Kendrick Lamar rapped live from his chair about Abloh. The showmanship drowned out the clothes, which were designed by Vuitton's studio. And despite the million-dollar budget, there was no money for bottled water: the audience sat for almost an hour without any protection in the bright, blinding midday sun. It was the umpteenth homage by Vuitton to Abloh, yet undoubtedly a sincere gesture to the iconic and talented designer who died far too young.
A false garden in a real garden
Dior built a garden with thousands of flowers and a stand of damp grass set up in a tent in a real garden, at the foot of the chapel of Val de Grace, a military hospital. On either side of the catwalk, replicas of houses had been built: Christian Dior's estate in Granville, Normandy, and Charleston Farm in Sussex, once owned by Duncan Grant, a painter who was a member of the Bloomsbury Group (artistic director Kim Jones is a fanboy). There was something old-fashioned about the whole set. Back in the day, Karl Lagerfeld could still build rockets, or transport ice floes from the Pole to the Grand Palais for Chanel. However, in 2022, such excess seems irresponsible – although Dior promised that the flowers would be replanted. Moreover, the attention was again diverted from the clothes. In Lagerfeld's case, this was a bonus: his later collections for Chanel were seldom anything to write home about. Kim Jones, on the other hand, has nothing to be ashamed of. The collection was, as if that was not yet clear, all about gardening. The most intriguing item was a culotte of sorts, with integrated half-leggings, available in a dozen variations.
Givenchy built a catwalk with water around a huge white cube on the grounds of the stately Ecole Militaire, the headquarters for French military education. Matthew Williams didn’t go much further than his 'signature' steel buckles and stripped-down sportswear with big logos and, while there is nothing wrong with that, it could indicate a lack of ambition for the legendary luxury house – making you question what Givenchy still stands for.
For once, Céline did not build a special structure on a historical site, but rented a room in the Palais de Tokyo. The cultural temple in an art deco building from the thirties is celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Hedi Slimane already showed a Dior Homme show there once and wanted to repeat the experience. Most attention went to the invitees on the front row, including Lisa from Blackpink and V from BTS. It’s rare to see members of these two pop sensations at the same event, and hysteria from fans was correspondent to that, with thousands of screaming teenagers standing before the gates of the building. While Hedi Slimane took a new, exciting direction with his videos during the pandemic – inspired by TikTokkers – this time he returned to his familiar, dark aesthetic of punk with a pinch of glam rock, in a collection entitled 'Dysfunctional Bauhaus'.
Kenzo and Loewe, two smaller houses in the LVMH portfolio, used existing buildings: a high school and an old tennis club. For the Japanese style director Nigo, it was his second collection with the popular label, exploring the concept of American fashion through a Japanese lens, with references to sailors and sixties high schools. While the result was excellent, it seemed to bound Kenzo to a more hip streetwear brand aesthetic, mirroring the likes of Bape and Billionaire Boys Club, and less of a luxury fashion label.
Amélie Poulain was an eye-catcher
Even with labels that do not belong to the LVMH umbrella, the emphasis was still more on show than on clothes. Ami Paris rented the forecourt of the Sacré Coeur church in Montmartre, placing Carla Bruni, Noah Beck, Catherine Deneuve and Naomi Campbell front row. The show was opened by Audrey Tautou, also known as Amélie Poulain from the cult film of the same name, which largely takes place in Montmartre itself. Other models on the catwalk included Liya Kebede, Karen Elson, Precious Lee, Cara Delevingne and Kristen McMenamy. Meanwhile, designer Alexandre Mattiussi had new investors and it was evident that the money was rolling in. After the show, which featured wearable, ultimately very ordinary city clothes for men and women, guests were transported to the after-party on a tourist train. Rick Owens had three gigantic fireballs hoisted up by a crane on the terrace of the Palais de Tokyo and dropped into a pond – as if it wasn't warm enough already. And so, even he shifted the focus from the clothes to the show, which was a pity considering they were excellent – particularly some of the bright fluorescent looks.
Japanese and Belgians were back
Either way, the spectacles were still enjoyable. Fashion has evolved since, say, the 1990s. Now, there is room for everything, especially in Paris, where French luxury coexists perfectly next to the international, often young avant-garde. It was an added relief that the Belgians and the Japanese were finally back. The latter was especially present, for the first time since 2020, in large numbers, with shows by Taak, Homme Plissé, Junya Watanabe Man, Comme des Garçons, Maison Mihara Yasuhiro, Kolor and Auralee, among others. Watanabe’s show was a particularly happy highlight. The designer used to work alongside Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and for the collection mixed them all up, adding the logos of Coca-Cola and Netflix, with music by the Talking Heads.
And then there were the Belgians. Dries Van Noten had already made a tentative comeback during women’s fashion week, with a static presentation in an old mansion. But for the men's collection, there was finally a full-blown show, on the roof of a parking garage in Montmartre, at sunset, with a collection that wavered between romance and hardcore techno – there were wide pyjamas and references to racing uniforms. One of the most beautiful moments of the week.
Walter Van Beirendonck, who retired as director of Antwerp Fashion Academy earlier this month, gave a melancholic show at the Théâtre de la Madeleine. He was inspired by Icarus, a symbol in Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun with his artificial wings and crashed into the sea. The show began rather sombre, with lots of black and gold, while its second part was more in Van Beirendonck's typical technicolour style.
At Y/Project, Glenn Martens combined his experiments with denim, with his continued collaboration with Gaultier and his signature outfits that can be worn in different ways. The very mature show reflects the rise of Martens, who also designs for Diesel and signed a couture line for Gaultier last season, as an established designer, becoming one of the most important of his generation.
Jan Van Essche gave a small presentation in his showroom, the perfect setting to discover up close the fine materials and techniques he uses. Chunky jumpers and beanies especially stood out for which Van Essche was inspired by the work of Bauhaus artist Annie Albers.
The Van Noten and Van Beirendonck shows were among the highlights of Paris, as well as Hermès, which was perhaps the only luxury brand last week that didn't need to boast to tell its story. Men's designer Véronique Nichanian, now arguably the longest-serving fashion designer, continues to rejuvenate her aesthetic, this time with beautiful glassy plastic rain jackets in bright orange and pink.
Lemaire's living tableaux in an empty museum hall gave an excellent glimpse of his timeless wardrobe, which appears slightly lighter for next summer. Hed Mayner, who is based in Tel Aviv and belongs to the same school of designers who address a rather arty, intellectual audience, presented oversized linen tunics, which sat somewhere between altar boy and military.
Thom Browne put men in the kind of tweed usually associated with Chanel, but only in pastel colours. He combined them with jockstraps, also made of tweed. Fabulous, though not for everyone – but at least Browne dares to dream and push the boundaries.
The best show in Paris was undoubtedly that of British designer Craig Green, set in a minimalist white space. The clothes were spectacular enough on their own. Green likes to hide his looks under uncomfortable, sculptural constructions – often parachutes, but this time also ladders and scaffolding. The looks themselves, however, in a palette ranging from white to all the clothes in the rainbow, were irresistible this season.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.NL. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.