Dior’s Kim Jones looks to a style idol and icon as Berluti’s Kris Van Assche pumps up color a-la-the-80s and Olivier Rousteing of Balmain takes an Arabian adventure
The Dior Men’s show was a deeply personal one for creative director Kim Jones. The collection was an homage to style barometer of the 1980s alternative London scene stylist, jeweler and art director, the late Judy Blame. Jones was close to the progressive visionary as a friend, mentee and co-worker, and upon his passing in 2018, Jones helped set up the Judy Blame trust to keep his vision alive according to a news source.
For those who don’t know, Blame was responsible for that look that every New Wave/Alternative aka Buffalo kid (pre-goth) was aiming to achieve while dancing in nightclubs listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees, Kate Bush, The Cocteau Twins and so on. Setting the stage, the runway was flanked by three clear vinyl “boxes” in the middle of the runway that blew colored smoke – orange, blue and white, alternating throughout the show as the models walked. A reminder of the nightclub scene of that time? Or the smoke of the rebellious Buffalo movement Blame contributed to?
His style was marked by several things: primarily a love of haute couture but also more from the street scene; the use of safety pins, zippers as trim, a gaggle of vintage jewelry-bits assembled into brooches with hanging chains, a single crystal earring, berets and opera gloves. And that’s just the accents. The jewelry was artfully recreated by Dior’s in-house costume jewelry designer Yoon Ahn with hats recreated by milliner Stephen Jones. Blame favored elongated shirts spilling out of jackets and boxy, waist-length sweaters along with an orange FT newsprint that apparently inspired Galliano’s famous motif. A giant overcoat popularized in that era as a major thrift score find was then adorned with embellishments, including a rose-fashioned men’s opera scarf. That ubiquitous 1980s “ethnic” scarf, usually in check pattern with medallion-trimmed fringe that most kids found at Canal Jeans in NYC or Portobello Road or Camden Market for the Brits, even made an appearance. Giant logo saddle bags walked a line between satchel and backpack.
Jones employed each of these tactics, delving into the “heart of haute couture,” and incorporated Blame’s signatures into a couture expression. At this point let’s remind all that Couture, Dior or otherwise, only exists for women currently. The closest it comes to men is bespoke. Jones thought why not apply the house couture techniques to men’s clothes. The fabrics such as moiré effect silks and paisley patterns gave it Maison Dior Haute Couture musings.
What struck most about this collection was that despite these Buffalo movement elements in Jones’ deft Dior hands, you could actually see these subversive elements entering into a traditional man’s wardrobe – a double-breasted suit with a brooch or single earring seemed a more doable concept than some of the other men’s suits to come down the runway this season.
Jones is one of the few designers operating at the luxury level of Dior who can reference that special time in the 80s when The Face, i-D Magazine and Arena were the true fashion bibles and individual creativity reigned over big brands and styled looks. Thankfully in his hand, Jones manages to blend them seamlessly.
That was refreshing! As the Balmain Fall 2002 men’s show invite arrived and announced its location in the Parc de la Villette, the savvy local or traveler knew Olivier Rousteing was showing his collection in Paris’ newest cultural hub for music, dance and theater located in the newly revitalized 19eme. Leave it to one of fashion’s youngest perspectives to choose a fresh outlook (in fact, it’s been a theme – his men’s summer show was a festival-style concert and this time last year he showed a co-ed show on the outskirts of town.)
Guests entering La Grand Halle – a food market converted into performance spaces – were transported immediately into the desert via a massive backdrop depicting sand dunes. Models descended a staircase – a trending set design – to walk the massive sand-colored carpet. The sunny desert mood was displayed in the collection.
Out came the harem-slash-MC Hammer pants that Rousteing has always championed, in smooth camel, tan shades in easy jerseys in which he made his best case yet. What man doesn’t want the comfort of a sweatpant while looking good? They say a sequel is never as good as the first; the designer fully debunked the theory.
He cemented his dressed-casual lifestyle even more so, concentrating more on drape and layers than sequin and shine (though those did appear at the end in starburst and starry night motifs on velvet bomber jackets). It was a modern-day Lawrence-of-Arabia chic, though minus faux Hollywood representation.
The word ease came to mind though not at all athleisure. Each look was grounded with camel-colored and rose gold sneakers and sandals that had a cha-ching! sound when they swooshed past. A retail score predicted there. He switched gears to the classics, making a case for the survival of the skinny jeans and offered plenty of navy wool outerwear classics with a fresh take. Peppered throughout was a world map print that Rousteing would explain backstage post-show.
His signature beading and sparkle appeared for eveningwear in aforementioned velvet bombers but also via a group of black and white outfits – a men’s evening look that’s shaping up as a trend. The finale glamour was emphasized through what sounded like a movie soundtrack, adding to the drama of the show that already had met expectations.
But then, out appeared three shirtless dancers slowly moving from the top of the stairs that were soon joined by what looked like forty-plus dancers slinking in unison in somewhat of a rugby scrum. For even the seasoned dance eye, it was a sight to behold. The group, led by choreographer Jean-Charles Jousni, formed as one and then broke apart, each with a personal expression that ranged from vogueing arms, extorted facial expressions and break-dance head spinning. As this was transpiring, Rousteing’s models took a lap around the runway as a final walk not once, but twice as the designer’s exuberance required that he run up and down the runway twice.
The joy was infectious. So was the adoration during the standard photo ops session post-show. Rousteing told The Impression, “The dancers are coming from all around the world, some of them are my friends who wanted to do that dance because I think that fashion is great, but to mix music and dance is about freedom.” He added the ‘We are coming home’ song is about the world. “It’s our planet and we all need to be together to save the planet,” recognizing that “We all look up to the same sky; there are no borders anymore. This is my goal now in fashion: more diversity, more freedom to be who you want to be, no matter your background or where you are coming from. You are the one that you are and altogether you make the world go better.” If this isn’t the voice of a generation in fashion, not sure one exists.
More global warming-fueled temps settled in Paris today, so the array of colorful flowers that lined the staircase of Opera Garnier, one of the city’s most exquisite landmarks, didn’t seem out of season. But it was a clear sign of what was to come.
Creative director Kris Van Assche stepped into the role almost two years ago and put his own unique take on the brand that was already shifting in a more youthful, colorful direction than when Haider Ackermann was running the show. The color quotient was kicked up in this ultra-lux offering and a new vision for men’s tailored dressing was suggested.
This season has already started a chatter that the return to suit dressing, and away from the streetwear looks that prevailed in recent times, be worn out of the office. This idea might be an even harder sell than the array of non-traditional suits being proposed themselves. But especially, chez Berluti they made a darn good case for it.
Cornflower blue – the color du jour – hot pink, red, acid yellow, cobalt blue, bright green showed up as solids and pony hair prints were mixed, almost clashing and tempered here and there with some neutral windowpane check patterns. A stovepipe leg juxtaposed a loose 40s pant style. Interjected were the lux accessories and a sneaker that suggested “streetwear’ still holds a place for getting around (especially during ‘La Greve’).
Berluti is always one to throw a woman or two on the runway to demonstrate the luxury goods go both ways, but this season it seemed even more pronounced, showing that gender-neutral dressing goes both ways, too.
Overall the show proposed a new way to see things. This is an especially poignant time to think about new points of views in fashion, the industry itself in just one week has felt the loss of a long term PR king while another PR queen is shifting lanes in her namesake firm and an almost 20-year reign comes to an end for a mighty fashion editor-in-chief. These changes are felt quickly, others are works in progress that are sometimes met with resistance. Van Assche seems steady on the course to change the concept of men’s tailoring.