This season more than ever, all eyes were on Paris. In early 2018, LVMH designers were tossed around in an attempt to accommodate Hedi Slimane’s arrival. Indeed, Céline would have most likely been in direct competition with Dior Homme by Kris Van Assche – who was discovered by Slimane – so the Belgian designer had to exit after 11 years. Kim Jones left Louis Vuitton, tasked with insufflating novelty to a brand that was otherwise running around in circles. Van Assche took over Berluti from Haider Ackermann and then the announcement was made: Virgil Abloh would be heading to Louis Vuitton. Aaahh! Forces were put in place to compete with Kering’s exponential growth thanks to Gucci and Saint Laurent.
Compared to London and Milan, Paris delivered stronger collections, but it isn’t surprising. The city is a hub for the crème de la crème, and most designers were on a mission to bring back prestige and beauty. At Maison Margiela for instance, John Galliano held the most beautiful show, a sensual artisanal collection that set the bar high for all menswear. Galliano is a designer’s designer, and this outing was sumptuous. His tailoring would make Savile Row connoisseurs bow down: suits cut in the bias. Genius. It was the standard-bearer of a demonstration against the invasion of streetwear. There was a bit of corsetry, ostrich feathers, and silk organza shirting, all of which traditionally resonate with women’s haute couture. But there also were leather pieces, and latex here and there which suggested a more erotic feel. Galliano’s brought sexy back and it will be interesting to see how all will translate into store pieces.
Kim Jones freshly installed at Dior put out a monumental show and collection. Not only was it star-studded, but the clothes actually matched the spectacle. Wiped away was the good old Dior Homme aesthetic: the first look was not the usually a skinny black suit on an emaciated white boy. Instead, Prince Nikolai of Denmark opened the show in a baby blue and white double-breasted relax suit. Jones dignified Dior. Unlike his buddy at Vuitton, he’s presented a complete show that never felt rushed and never seemed unsure. He’s collaborated with Matthew Williams, a rising name, and Yoon Ahn, co-creator of Ambush and now in-house Dior Homme jeweller. Kim Jones knows who to surround himself with, and the result was sick: buckled Saddle bags and bee blings. Amongst the most exciting pieces were monogrammed see-through t-shirts, a toile de jouy coat, and an embroidered floral shirt. Elsewhere, modern workwear in the form multi-pocketed shirts and new cargo trousers. But the majesty of Dior was really found in suits that were based on 1940s pieces from Christian Dior.
Tailoring was also at the core of Sarah Burton’s Alexander McQueen collection. Lee McQueen never sent clothes on the runway with the sole purpose of being beautiful, so a certain ugliness was missing. There were business-ready pinstripes, an array of incredible detective coats (especially one in blue leather), gorgeous tuxedoes, innovative waistcoats. They were all so perfectly cut, so pressed, and generally more exciting than the printed suits. McQueen is so anchored in Savile Row’s spirit, it was a pleasure to see the British house push forward this side of the business.
Dries van Noten might have sold a majority stake of his label to Spanish group PUIG, it hasn’t impacted his creativity. The last figurehead of the Six of Antwerp presented a joyful collection. He combined his eye for colour and tailoring with elements of the now, and it all worked perfectly. The colour palette, the season’s most vibrant, was composed of blue, orange, and pink. Prismatic and undulating prints on suits, shirts, trousers and bathing shorts. Van Noten barely ever disappoints, and next spring, he’s bringing positivity to men’s wardrobes.
Jason Basmajian is a menswear saviour who in the past has elevated the offering of Kering’s menswear flagship Brioni and Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes. He’s now at Cerruti 1881, breathing his fresh air onto the dozing Italian house. Tailoring was on-point, elegant with a youthful vibe. A lot of the pieces are wearable yet remain stylish. Basmajian sent out relax tailored separates, elevated streetwear, but the highlight of the collection was the work on sleeves, they were puffed! It was modern chic at its utmost, easy and ready for the city holiday of a young man who dreams of luxuriating in the streets of Azabu, Tokyo.
One would be wrong to think that Y/Project is lurking in the shadows of Vetements, growing but incapable taking down its rival. It is known that Glenn Martens has an eye for silhouetting, but this season, things were mostly hot! Mixing women and menswear as most brands today, the collection stood out amongst the younger names. From denim knickers to coats with weird excrescences moulding new shapes, from the uneasiness of body-hugging dresses to yet another new pair of jeans, Y/Project is constantly showing good stuff.
What’s a curriculum vitae collection? It’s one that a designer puts out with the consciousness (or unconsciousness) to get a new job at another fashion house. Olivier Rousteing, as from the menswear spring summer 2018 at Balmain, has been Chanel-ising his work. The designer cited Michael Jackson as his inspiration, but a big part of the collection is undeniably close to what one could imagine Chanel would look in the future – check out the black-toed white fuck-me boots, sexy boucléd skirt suits, and Breton stripes for a glamorous weekend in Deauville. It was all rock’n’roll, a tad vulgar, and all 100 looks punched right in the face! Rousteing’s work is the most couture ready-to-wear of the schedule, with superb embellishments and heavy embroidery work. The young man is the only one of his generation that understands that craftsmanship cannot be forgotten. Sexy parachute dresses, lots of leather jackets, classy cummerbunds, a metallic mania. Pierre Balmain could be rolling in his grave, but Rousteing is winning!
Where sophistication was actually awaited, sophistication never showed up. Simon Porte Jacquemus, the enfant chéri of Paris, made people travel to the southern city of Marseille for one of the weakest shows, Vuitton aside. The whole collection looked like the clothes Jacquemus himself loves to wear. The young designer is cute, and the French media won’t stop reminding us, but he isn’t a style icon, and no one wants to dress like him. No one wants those Bermuda shorts, ill-fitted suits, cheesy sunflower prints, and polka-dot budgie smugglers. The collection felt like Macy’s in-house designed items on sale and put in clearance baskets for further reduction. How could the guy who gave us La Bomba present such dullness? Yes, perhaps it tells the story of young men in the south of France, kind of like the little brother of the Jacquemus woman. In this case, one really hopes he matures a little.
On a completely different note, Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto are designers of a different cast. They are experts. They never stray away from their aesthetic and keep their respective looks fresh and relevant. Both developed singular hybrid pieces and proved once more than nothing beats the mastery of tailoring. They construct and deconstruct clothes and always pay attention to the body and how fabrics can envelop it. Also, both most likely have that thing called Big Dick Energy. It’s because of true creators like this that Paris is still the capital of fashion.
Words by Pierre M’Pelé