Review of Day 5 of Paris Men's spring 2021 digital fashion shows

Review of Day 5 of Paris Men’s Spring 2021


BY LONG NGUYEN

Day 3 – Imagination and Aspiration – Real and Artifice

On this final day of the Paris Men’s digital fashion week, designers provide more imagination and concept than garments and collections.

Lanvin

“My foot tripped on a stone that almost made me fall. It was a stone of such a strange shape that I put it in my pocket to admire it at my ease. It’s a sandstone shaped by water and hardened by the power of time. It becomes as hard as pebbles. It represents a sculpture so strange that it is impossible for man to imitate, it represents any kind of animal, any kind of caricature. I said to myself: since Nature is willing to do the sculpture, I will do the masonry and the architecture,” Ferdinand Cheval reportedly wrote in 1879 of his initial discovery of pebbles while delivering the mail as a postman. Cheval spent the next 33 years single-handedly, often at night, constructing by hand stone by stone the structure – Palais Idéal – that resembles a merger of elements from different styles from the Brighton Royal Pavillion in East Sussex to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. 

It is on location at this Palais Idéal located in the Auvergne-Rhônes-Alpes region bordering Switzerland and Italy, now a national monument, that Bruno Sialelli placed his models to film a short video showing a segment of his spring collection in a co-ed format. 

The men’s principle silhouette are boxy shapes – camel and navy coats with white pants or shorts, white silk shirt and pleated drawstring pants, and very broad-shouldered light beige double-breasted coat paired with white shirts and flared pants. An A-line ecru coat worn with a double-breasted large lapel suit, and an earth tone suede with cigarette pants are two variations of more or less dressed-up styles.  

The presentation feels more metaphorical than an actual showing of the collection, like a pre-dinner aperitif. Perhaps for Sialelli, selecting the Palais Idéal is beyond selecting a physical place: it’s his metaphor for the rebuilding of the Lanvin house after years of turbulence. This building process is going to be laborious – one stone at a time – and a labor of love, and above all of imagination coupled with the daring to dream.  

Palomo Spain

“Pol, can you come here, please,” a voice is heard calling out to one of a small group of male models sitting and waiting their turn to be fitted for the film for the presentation of Palomo Spain titled ‘The Rehearsal.”  

“This collection I would say is the spring we didn’t have this year, the spring we had to watch through the window. In the end, it’s the sound of nature, the sound of silence and the sound of birds, the wind in the trees – everything that makes a sound when everything else is in silence,” said Alejandro Gómez Palomo, the creative director of Palomo Spain in Spanish describing the conditions he faced in Madrid.  

Against the sound of classical music, models gathered around in a makeshift home with a rack of clothes, here and there trying on clothes, putting on makeup, and going on as if they were rehearsing for a real show. “When you’re in a situation where you want to do something, and you have the need to create but you don’t have the means, the factories are shut and you don’t even think it’s the right time to spend,” continued Gómez Palomo, talking about reusing old fabrics and looking at the archives of old stock.

In lieu of his debut exuberant shows in Paris in the previous seasons, wherein collections that defy any distinctions between masculinity and femininity, Gómez Palomo has earned praised for fostering a totally creative ambiance in a menswear industry that is becoming more and more corporate, and where the sneaker drop is the most meaningful business route to a successful season. But lacking resources isn’t at all the same as lacking the imagination and the urge to fabricate, perhaps out of necessity.  

Surely Gómez Palomo didn’t compromise his design ethos coupled with the humor and daring of the actual clothes. The models pranced around a homemade studio wearing light pink skirt pants with white cotton blouses with puffed sleeves, a black and white cropped flare jacket pantsuit with black feather trims, and a black low slung butt revealing pant with flower-trim embroideries around the back are the few ‘show stoppers.’ A black shiny wool structured shoulder slim pantsuit and a lime green long coat with double pants showed the designer’s firm grip on tailoring developed over the last two seasons. No Palomo Spain shows can end without evening dresses, even in a mock show like this there are several black strapless dresses and a white wedding gown to end it all.

Thom Browne

Thom Browne is known for executing his ideas to the extreme in his clothes and in the manner in which he has shown them over the years. 

Two funerals, a tennis match, an afternoon at the skating rink, secret gardens and wonderlands, an XXXXL clothing show, a dinner table show, the office show, the birds, the surfs, and the swimming club are just a slew of Browne’s past shows that lingered in my mind many years later.  

Having condensed his men’s and women’s together since the spring 2020 season, Browne conceived and directed a very musical video with the singer-composer Moses Sumney, the North Carolina native, who sang alone on stage moving majestically on a raised platform performing the Olympic Hymn from 1896, recalibrated by Sumney for this filmed performance titled ‘Monumental’.  

Bare torsoed, Sumney wore only a floor-length wrap skirt with the signature tri-color intarsia diagonal stripe running on the front side – just one item of clothing to represent the idea for spring inspired by the 1924 and 1936 Olympics, where Browne will dissect in greater details the idea of athleticism and its relations to fashion constructions. Only the special Beats headphone featured midway through the video will be on sale later this month, for total donation to charity.  

Sure there is a whiff of Olympia Festivals of Nations, the1938 black and white film by the German photographer Leni Riefenstahl that documented the Berlin 1936 Olympics. But it is also an uplifting moment to remember. without any efforts to show clothes just the possible ideas of clothes.   

Ludovic De Saint Sernin

“Do You Love Me” is exactly what the French designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin said on his Instagram – “It’s a celebration of love and summer. It captures the precious moment where you meet someone for the first time and fall in love with them.”  

The short film directed by Theodore Hugonnier starred two male models Pacome Parent and Cian Chappelle Molloy who encountered each other for the first time at a private beach area, both guys wearing near-identical bathing suits in black and in white with the sound of the waves and the chirping of birds in lieu of music or speech. One left a gold necklace on the sand purposely for the other to find and they later meet. The final scene is a picture of a tree with both their eyelet bathing suits hanging to dry.  

The film is nothing short of the type of nostalgic, angelic, and innocent imagery the designer is known for since launching his label in 2018, imagery that has helped to catapult the young brand into an in-demand, niche label among fashion’s cognoscenti.  

Phipps 

Back to earth in a literal way for Spencer Phipps ‘Spirit of Freedom’, an actual short western teaser inspired theme film about a man in search of his freedom in the desert, and small towns often featured in those Western movies a few decades ago.  

“What we do to the land, we do to ourselves,” said the Native American proverb shown against a black background that opened the teaser. This faux film has every accouterment of real Westerns – cactus, saloon, cards, whiskey, hats, snakes, cowboys boots – as well as scenes of men fighting in the desert, playing cards and chasing animals. The short narrative centers on a man looking for a brother in a journey of self-discovery.  

The collection has many elements of Western wear like suede chaps on denim jeans, a floral embroidered western shirt, or a black suede fringe jacket. Phipps continues with the tailoring he started last season, this time with a boxy chocolate shirt suit, or a wool brown plaid single-breasted worn with a brown leather vest.  

Lemaire

For a brand known for its luxurious and well made classic clothes, it was not a surprise to tune into the last presentation of the 5 day Paris Men’s digital fashion week and to see a short version of what would have been a regular Lemaire show, in a white space with models walking from different directions. There is a sense of continuity despite any disruptions in this calm spot, highlighting the consistent philosophy the duo Sarah Linh Tran and Christophe Lemaire has harped over the years.  

The clothes reflect the ethos and spirit that Lemaire is known for – clothes that can last from season to season and new items can be added on to compliment any existing wardrobe from the brand. This time though the shapes are slightly longer and a bit more relaxed – an olive mixed cotton suit, a long white coat, or a tan very loose tan coat.  

In moments like this, it’s more assuring to see the confidence coming from this independent brand.   

Sankuanz

The young Chinese designer Shangguan Zhe has shown his Sankuanz brand in Paris for a few years now, with his complex tailoring mixed with urban clothes.  

In a high tech film directed by the artist Zhang Ding titled ‘Phosphorescence” for showcasing a few of the spring clothes, the designer opted for a mix of virtual reality types with two models among the green colorful grids, and with electronic skeletons roaming about. 

Taking a cue from different ethnic dressing codes like a blue elevated shoulder collar jacket pantsuit that referenced Mongol costumes, the tailored clothes seem less extreme in design than past seasons – the slim flare black pinstripe suit for example – while the streetwear portions retain the camo print tees and cargo pants and shorts. 

Pigalle Paris

Stéphane Ashpool presented a 10-year retrospective video with a narrator who spoke about the past, the present, and the future in a visual montage from his shows in the last decade. The kaleidoscope of Parisians of all stripes who did the show – whether formal show or presentation or even a couple of cookouts on the basketball court behind Pigalle’s métro station, dance studio – all have contributed to elevating the brand to cult status, but one that resides outside of mainstream fashion world.  

“It’s been ten years already,” the narrator said in a way to affirm the Pigalle brand’s break into the Paris fashion scene, but somehow did not get the recognition it deserved. Pigalle is elegant and luxurious real streetwear, just before streetwear becomes a ‘thing’. But as the narrator raps these verses –  “The people from the neighborhood, the colors, the music, the personalities, the errors, the emotions – we did not foresee anything – Ici c’est Pigalle! – the beginning, never the end.” – and the visuals are just a compilation image of modern youth, it is clear Pigalle has more than earned its place in fashion without the need for accreditations or prizes. After all, that would simply be too much a part of the game and perhaps viewed as too bourgeois by the brand’s ardent adherents. More than many designers in Paris, Pigalle creates a strong community.

Perhaps one reason too is that a Pigalle show is always scheduled around 9PM on a Thursday night and at that time almost everyone is at dinner somewhere. I can say this as I was always the last to arrive halfway through the dinners. Bravo for the ten years. We can all say that in lifting our hands to the brand. 

Epilogue

Many fashion designers and fashion houses have adopted the moniker of filmmakers this season, due to the cancellation of live shows which have not yet been set on a course to resume this coming September with so many uncertainties as the pandemic continues and expands in different parts of the world. 

For designers across the board, the decision is two-fold – whether to make an art film devoid of clothes or one that shows some clothes, or as many clothes as anyone is able to make since emerging from lockdown. Or doing something in between. 

In the wild hunt for any real emotional response to these films, only a few succeed in perhaps actually capturing the hearts or the memories of the global audiences that tuned in to watch. Many were simply too plain as if the period of lockdown did not create any creative sparks. Worse many simply lack the honesty and authenticity – values now requisite for brands, especially fashion brands of all sizes.

Among my favorites are surely those that make me laugh – KidSuper and Mihara Yasuhiro puppet surreal shows; and a couple that brought me to tears for different reasons – Palomo Spain, the duo Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby of GMHB and Pigalle Paris; those that are just uplifting – Thom Browne, Ludovic de Saint Sernin; and a few from which I learned something new about fashion – Rick Owens and Loewe. Then too there was the joyful Balmain on the boat along the Seine.