Three designers, Virgil Abloh of Louis Vuitton, Rick Owens and Mike Amiri let their minds wander to conjure deeply passionate and personal, creative collections.
What a difference a day makes! Dark, cold windy skies of Paris yesterday gave way to blue, sunny skies peppered with puffy clouds, just like the ones painted on the outside of the “box” show venue for the Louis Vuitton Fall 2020 men’s show designed by Virgil Abloh. The beautiful but climate change-related unseasonable weather made for good people-watching in the Jardin des Tuileries as industry and fans lined up to see what their backward-clicking time clock of an invite was all about.
Those lucky enough to get inside – press, buyers and cool kids like Bella Hadid, actor Ashton Sanders, DJ Diplo, rap artist Skepta and Migos as well Stevie Wonder’s son, model Kailand Morris – were immediately delighted in the blue hue cloud room that featured all sorts of couturier and artisan tools scattered about the room in gigantic sizes. A massive pair of shears, a giant needle and thread, a mallet, giant tacks, a ruler that served as seating surrounding a tree trunk in the middle of the room, flanked with nailed-on steps that led up into that imaginary sky. As the show lights dimmed to reignite, the retro techno group Cybotron wowed guests from a raised DJ booth in Daft-Punk-esque silver helmets.
All of these surreal elements, tools, the treehouse, clouds and the turning back-in-time clock suggested going back to the beginning, where you can dream of what has yet to exist with an imagination as unlimited as a child’s. Boyhood is an “evolving premise,” according to show notes. The collection to follow would suggest that building blocks of a businessman’s tailored wardrobe were stripped away to their pure form and brought back to life in a new manner.
These elements showed up in various ways; a shirt and tie looking windswept was plastered across the front of an overcoat; lapel and shirt collars became waistbands; a square buttons mixed round on a suit; a plaid pattern became a solid via a pixelated ombré; lining and straps were upended and revealed on the outside as bindings, and several traditional men’s shirts were pulled apart and reconstructed in a nod to a Comme des Garcons shirt, but with a uniquely Vuitton finish. The pants were skinny but not shrunken to the ankle and worn with badass cowboy-inspired boots. And the accessories! Forget everything you thought you knew about Vuitton leather goods because this collection either distorted or enlarged house classics to envy-worthy level. This cool guy may want to dress for the office, but he’s doing it on his own terms.
The ideas didn’t stop there – leather, fur, shiny calf-hair and cozy knits directed his weekend choices. Evenings meant crystalized beadings, laser-cut monograms in signature motifs, a series of ruffles imagined on dressier suits, and the most technically-advanced part of the collection, a group of suits and overcoats that were jig-sawed apart and re-attached with ‘faggoting’ technique that left a ½ inch gap to reveal the undergarment or contrast lining.
The concept was blown sky-high, pun intended, on a series of suits and luxe separates including a “ hand-painted crocodilian leather” bomber showing just how chic having one’s head in the clouds can be. Models wore mirror-finish face stickers shaped like clouds. A new massive monogram trunk even featured the motif.
Abloh demonstrated it wasn’t just ‘surreal-imaginings’ but the real result. He managed to clear the mental programming of adulthood and let his inner child run free mentally and creatively. Perhaps the time spent in Chicago while working on this collection due to a doctored-ordered travel ban for much-needed rest, allowed him to disconnect to reconnect to that place. The end result was Virgil’s most-Vuitton of his previous three outings, as if his vision and the house core have found their happy place. Exquisite luxury paired with a creative view that challenges you to see the same thing in a different light.
It’s always fun to wonder what Rick Owens’s inspirations for his collections are. The wrap-up blasted via email after the show answers what you wondered about. For the Fall 2020 show, it came in advance; but why ruin the surprise? This reviewer waited until safely back at the computer to take a peek (in fact, it’s a practice at every show). However, guessing if you got it right with Rick Owens is the most fun.
Not sure what that score is out of 100, but definitely got the Bowie via Kansai Yamamoto (do I detect a trend starting with Owens homage to 70s rockers, which to date are still the coolest?) The exaggerated shoulders seemed more 1940’s but he did reference a 1930’s French cabaret singer named Cécile Sorel, does that count?
In fact, you’d have to be an encyclopedic medium to nail his inspirations, even more, to imagine how he brings them all together. This collection was called Performa and named for a performance art biennial started in 2004 that commissioned artists such as Marina Abramovic, Mike Kelley and Rashid Johnson. This event reminded the designer of Documenta 7, the art performance by multi-medium artist Joseph Beuys that involved planting 7000 trees.
It all brought the 58-year-old designer back to wonder about his own stage of life and his behavior versus performance after watching Hun, a term of endearment for wife Michele Lamy, in performance this past year. And he contemplated how social media has turned a generation into beings who morph between behavior and performance constantly. As a designer, his job is often akin to celebrity; so, he has to perform – make that collection, show up to that book signing, make a statement regarding a collaboration, take that final bow.
The asymmetrical unitard that opened the show made sense as it’s common for performers in the circus. But Owens gave it verified cool cred, especially when paired with jackets – either waistcoats or elongated – and paired with layered, wispy tees and now-becoming-signature platform boots.
More theater showed up in exaggerated shoulders that were “monstrous,” with sleeves that were elongated and “extra spindly” (spindly is a good word in the Owens vocabulary). There was some unexpected twist in this collection for Owens as said shoulders appeared on tweeds and flannels, his take on tailoring? And color and pattern – a cornflower blue, mustard yellow, and a colorful snakeskin pattern that appeared to be created from a floral pattern and fabric piping – added an element of liveliness to his modern-goth mystique. There was a protectionist attitude expressed in a group of milky latex pieces.
For at least the second time, Owens’ fall show, which is generally inside the Palais de Tokyo, took place in the well-lit, airy, sun-filled space that looks out into the plaza and a 360 from the lowered dark basement space. Everyone seated was given a democratic front-row seat (thank you!) from which to watch this “performance.” Owens’s outlook expressed through clothes seems lighter, though it’s anyone’s guess if it’s genuine behavior or if he just performing.
Mike Amiri brought his retro-rocker-inspired California-cool collection back to Paris once more – along with a great classic Southern rock soundtrack – this time imagining a bit more what that dude would wear if he says, had to meet his lawyer, a dignitary or potential conservative mother-in-law if he was marrying a good girl-gone-bad. Or of course, attend an awards show, duh. The three-piece white ensemble and skinny black tux look would have the girly fans in a tizzy.
But Amiri was thinking of 1979 photo of Keith Richards stepping off a private jet towards his limo and driver during a US-tour of Ronnie Wood’s “ad-hoc” solo band, The New Barbarians. Photographer Henry Diltz captured the legendary bad boy in his tailored stage suit and an empty bottle of Jack Daniels in hand, according to a post-show release.
He (and she, as his women’s collection walked, too) was still cool and had the most amazing array of leather trenches, carcoats, shirt jackets in shades of rusty orange, teal, mustard yellow, raspberry, dusty purple, which were paired with a skinny stovepipe or cropped flared pant.
The suedes were equally rich and strong points for the brand as well as the up-and-coming accessories line with plenty of oversized weekenders and an uber-chic leather garment bag exemplifying the West Coast jet-set – off to a weekend in Palm Springs or Paris, peut tetre?
He explored what is emerging this season as a men’s trend – bouclé suiting a la that famous French brand. But he gave his tuxedo piping and offered it in an array of shades. He worked with “19th-century French luxury lifestyle manufacturer S.T. Dupont, reimagining its iconic lighters as prints across silk shirts, and collectible lighter clutches – finished with gold detailing to mirror the brand’s artisanal heritage.” According to post-show release, other silk prints drew upon famous global tourist-worthy landmarks.
At times he seemed to absorb some other European influences, like former Chloé (for women) and Gucci (for men) collections that exemplify that carefree Southern California mood. Amiri’s vision, however inspired by retro looks, has always been razor-sharp and a performer at retail well before he showed on the runway. The Paris experience has broadened that vision and raised it up a notch and it’s strong enough to stay in his own sight line.