On the first day of the Paris Men’s Spring 2021 yesterday, designers, both seasoned and newcomers, cited the urgent need to return to the source to find the inspiration and the energy to forge ahead. Together these designers posed all the basic existential questions – who am I, what is my mission, why am I doing this, what is my inspiration, and how to face the future.
Today, in the second day, that source is home.
It is at the home of the Louis Vuitton founder, precisely situated on rue Louis Vuitton in Asnière-sur-Seine, that an illustrated comic strip video began; the men’s Creative Director directed the short story video “The Adventures of Zoom with Friends’ with comic strip characters roaming about Paris, upon their arrival to the city from the ancestral village less than an hour away to the north.
Two porters wearing face masks and aqua blue jumpsuits are seen loading wooden boxes containing special messages onto trucks, and then containers to transport via the Seine river to the office at Pont Neuf. But the sizes of the containers are too high for the boat the pass under Pont Neuf to make the delivery. Then, Zoom and his friends leaped out of the containers onto the bridge as comic characters and began to perform music as a band. After some wild roaming about the city, the group of friends are packed up with new goodies and travel east to their next intended targets – Shanghai then Tokyo – with a monogrammed suitcase personalized as LV Global.
The elaborate video teaser with music composed and performed by The Sara Creative Partners, Taz Arnold, Om’mas Keith, and Shafiq Husayn was made for a simple announcement of the installment roll-out of the spring collection in phases, with a planned live fashion show in the Chinese coastal city on August 6th then onward to Tokyo at a yet determined date where Louis Vuitton has just opened a men’s only store.
“Any idea starts out as a dream. You are in a world by yourself where you can create freely and imagine courageously. Somewhere as you move forward, pieces of that dream become very real. Some things that would seem unbelievable to most, slowly become possible,” said Mike Amiri in a moody video titled ‘Welcome Home’ as the camera hovered over the curvy section of Sunset Boulevard, passing several of his own brand’s billboards and descending into his office.
“Welcome Home” visually explains what Amiri is – the man and the brand – in very personal ways through the testimonies by many of the invited guests from the stalwarts of the menswear fashion insiders to the numerous celebrity customers who swear their allegiance, as they all attest to the brand’s core values and the how and why Amiri has grown enormously as the last images show the soon to be opened store on Rodeo Drive later this fall. As Amiri surveyed his mood board that included photographs of tennis player Bjorn Borg among other picture of still lives of buildings to find the proper place to pin a blue fabric swatch, the audience is visually treated to extremely close up shots of the products – a white hand-knit sweater with wool yarns fringes, the details around the buttonholes of a dark green suede jacket, or a bunch of denim jackets on hangers on a rack.
“The care that went into distressing and the authenticity of the designs and embellishments; it’s the exquisite craftsmanship and the channeling of a rock’n’roll spirit in a really luxurious manner,” said Judd Crane, the SVP of Joyce shops based in Hong Kong. Bruce Pask, the men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman voiced the same opinion and talked about Amiri’s brand DNA – “What it’s like growing up in LA around the Sunset Boulevard club scene, around the music and the musicians, the Laurel Canyon scene – a personal distillation of the LA lifestyle.” “The brand is just always on top of its game, it’s always something that I look for when I am at a show or performance,” said the musician and actor Kris Wu. “Amiri represents hope,” says Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers star and the face of a new generation of NBA’s young style wizards.
“When I arrived just a few years ago, it would be easy to assume that a Los Angeles designer would be out of place within the conversation of global luxury,” he said as he recounted his debut presence in Paris.
The men’s show I miss the most after attending shows all these years in Paris is without doubt Rick Owens.
“Phlegethon” is the name Owens gives to the new collection – it is “one of the rivers in the inferno described in Dante’s Divine Comedy, not quite the center of hell but on the way there.” The advantage of this simple two-panel broadcast, like looking at a black and white multiple station surveillance camera in lieu of a live performance show, showing a fitting Owens conducted at the Paris studio with the model Tyrone Dylan Susman is that the main action is on the clothes without any possible distraction, like the colored smoke from his Spring 2019 show at the Palais de Tokyo. There is something of a surprise like a suspense movie with something about to happen, moments before the calm is interrupted, with this fixed camera shooting in their entirety with little editing as the designer and the model stroll about the concrete studio with clothing racks lined along the bare walls. When the right combination of clothes forming an outfit is arrived at, the model poses for a ‘polaroid’ (well digitally anyway).
As a matter of history in each Owens show, there is always something new with the fashion but always mixed with something familiar – or in industry parlance mixing an experimental design with a signature garment to build from one collection to the next by safeguarding the familiar to foster the acceptance of the new.
Here, a black short sleeve wide shoulder panel vest is paired with a deep v-neck acru long tee-shirt and short pants, or the very broad shouldered two button jacket is worn with another version of the classic tee shirt and ankle pants and the now familiar platform heels introduced a few seasons back. “My last fall runway shoulder freak out wasn’t about power, it was about defiance – defiance in the face of threat. Those shoulders disappear in this spring collection on coats and jackets with the sleeves ripped off, leaving a raw armhole with remnants of white linings as a riot corsage,” said Owens of the new construct here and there with panels of white leather atop the front side of jackets. Last season’s defiance didn’t completely disappear, but molded into softer but still exaggerated looks – they are now less dangerous and less threatening as the sharp tailored shapes take hold and maybe will become more familiar and ‘normal’ the next time as our eyes adjust to new shapes and proportions.
The overall silhouette is more linear with a tan cropped jacket and low-slung pant, side striped lean sweater over high waisted short pants and either high heels or high top sneakers as footwear. Black tailored jackets have traces of white stitched lines in wool, in double-faced leather or in stretch denim sown with paillettes made from recycled plastics. As a lesson in evolution, elements from a previous collection emerge to add detailing to these new clothes – membrane fabrics developed for the Spring 2018 Dirt collection are now used to make new swimwear and knitwear and shoulder patches from Larry Legaspi’s Fall 2019 collection are reused in the range of leather jackets and coats.
For all its complexities, a simple black asymmetrical long tank, black short pants and plastic high heels – an unfinished look captured by the camera when the model was waiting for a jacket – also conveyed the quintessential Owens signature style.
One can hardly say that about much of fashion these days.
The Japanese photographer Takay filmed models in Yohji Yamamoto classic uniforms, some with new design twists in an imaginary show with soft and jazzy music and occasional displays of close-ups to show the details of the clothes that are signature looks: easily recognizable Yohji styles with the slouchy silhouettes and military uniform garments.
At times the fabric composition is displayed, informing the audience of the fabric of an oversize jacket or deconstructed coat. This time a light grey linen jacket that had sleeves unbuttoned and partially opened from the shoulder and hanging loose from the body and black linen suits with worn pout paint print, that felt like a washed out street graffiti. A red long coat had an eyeball shaped ‘eye’ as buttons and Japanese characters lined the trims of several coats, perhaps signaling the power of fashion for perception.
Yohji himself appeared at the end in a black pantsuit with the word Fragile embroidered both in Japanese and in English signaling our current situation. The designer keeps his voice and his clothes always his own.
“We are to recognize how everything which comes into being must be ready for painful destruction,” the Beijing born designer Sean Suen said in the opening introduction of his film ‘Dionysian’ using a quote from the German philosopher Friedrich Niezsche’s ‘The Birth of Tragedy’. In a very darkly lit film, a model moves and twists his hands around his body while dancing in place in front of a group of young guys who stand in a circle filming the action with their phones, and this first chapter ends with the dancer falling to the ground and laying there motionless. Then in ‘Chapter 2’, the same model is seen floating in a pond of water accompanied by another person holding his head above water. Then this group emerges in a glass house somewhere unknown, like being awakened into a new and unrecognizable world, mimicking the resurrection of Dionysus that symbolized the resurgence of life over destruction.
The message is that destruction leads to creating something new. Here the garment of dress for the Greek god Dionysus provides the template to deconstruct the old and build out new slim coats and jackets, linen vests, printed very large tee shirt dresses, or plain ivory lapel-less coat with removable sleeves. At the end of the short film, Suen showed a series of polaroid shots of models wearing the new collection – a plant printed one strap tank and khaki pants, a square vest and large shirt, or a series of tailored coats and jackets. The clothes are fine like the tailored jackets and leather coats, but the very moody art film obscures an otherwise fine collection.
“Creating this collection has been the hardest until now, trying to express our humble yet positive vision towards the Black Lives Matter movement and other large issues we have been facing all together at once. Because with each collection, what we deliver is a piece of us. Each story we tell is a diary of us,” said the team of Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh in their video or manifesto about their new Botter collection, narrated with their own voices against a totally black background before a shot of a model wearing an ecru loose pant sitting sideways and staring at the audience.
Since their first collections were presented in March 2019 and at this fall’s shows in January, the pair’s work is firmly seeded in their Carribean roots or as they referred to their aesthetics as a personal diary occupying that murky spot or that very thin layer ‘between Caribbean virility and femininity’. The 17 new looks created from dead stock incorporate the designers’ well known craft with the careful use of details that accentuate their gender-fluid clothes. Orange and blue floral print square tank tops or sheer gauze shirts and an A-line flared shirt provide the touches of color in an otherwise mostly ecru collection with strong looks from a sleeveless lean jacket to the silver pleated floral corset worn with brown shirt and black pants. A white hoodie with ‘Do You See Us Now’ printed in large letters in the front continued the strong display of the pair’s social and political commitment, now firmly written on the clothes.
Botter’s video has the amateur feel rather than an elaborately produced short motion picture, giving their visual presentation the same aesthetic and mood of their clothes – personal and a bit private like home.
Uniforme’s ‘Be Prepared’ video is a stroll in nature as it is a brand built on sustainable sourcing, environmentally conscious, and hand-crafted clothes launched in 2017 by Hughes Fauchard and Rémi Bats. “What represents scouts better than caring for nature and forest preservation? I think their values were an obvious inspirations for us this season,” Bats posed the question as a model is seen walking through green grass hills with a full herd of cows wearing flared shorts and a large white shirt in this short narrative of two models out on an impromptu camping trip. Each season this young brand’s story is told from the point of view of sailors and explorers, and their military and utilitarian codes and workwear are the basis of the pair’s assorted new wardrobe.
“There is something very powerful in uniforms anyhow,” said Fauchard as two models played hand clapping, one in a square short and the other black shorts and light green shirt with a brand logo on the pocket. “It’s manly and strong because you grew up in this kind of male environment and as a child I didn’t, so for me it’s something like .. a fantasy,” said Bats as the two models now play tug-of-war wearing tank tops and navy pants. Here a nylon hooded parka, a crisp white shirt, and cargo pants are given the poetic treatment that renders the garments something of a childhood memory, as well as the kind of clothes that are always around and never in or out of fashion. “As a kid you always pick up a feather or a pebble when you ramble, then you have this little box to collect them in your bedroom,” said Fauchard as he showed a glass bottle full of rocks and plant seeds.
“Whether it is our passion for uniforms or for craftsmanship, both are really rooted in our childhood. It’s about this childhood innocence when you don’t have [a care] about anything or think too much about tomorrow. We want to catch the lightness in this collection and simply have a nice piece of clothing and tell a positive story,” Bats said of the authenticity and durability of his clothes that reflected the memory of his childhood home.
While Rick Owens spoke of a river as described in Dante’s Inferno, it is at his home office that his imaginative and innovative designs are conceived.
“I’ve found that my eyes are wide open and the dream that I’d like to create next is one that reminds us where we have come from. You can travel the world. You can meet many people. Nothing can replace being home,” Mike Amiri said towards the end of his presentation.
Home sure is where the heart is. And also where fashion begins anew.