Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt.
PARIS–There is simply no doubt that Mugler creative director Nicola Formichetti is very much a man of the now and thus, the future. Since his appointment to Mugler back in September 2010 to work with in-house designers Romain Kremer and Sébastien Peigné for the men’s and women’s collections respectively, Mr. Formichetti has brought the real-time technology of social media to the service of fashion. He calls it ‘Fashion Without Borders.’ With Formichetti at the helm there is hype before the collection showings like a Gaga pre-release soundtrack, or a fashionable porn released on XTube.
Tonight’s show in a loft with a simple black sparking panel as a backdrop near the Gare de L’Est was low key compared to recent Mugler outings. In lieu of new music or video teases, he opted for a net broadcast of the preparation and mood boards of the men’s fall collection. That meant a virtual design atelier studio accessible for those obsessed with behind-the-scenes action. “Fashion seemed a bit ‘warmer’ in the past, more personal and not so removed,” Mr. Formichetti explained.
It’s true that fashion has become such big business that even personal relationships are often more business than personal. There are exceptions to this rule but few. Last Monday I was at Azzedine Alaïa’s studio to pull a few looks for a spring shoot and the designer emerged from behind racks of clothes carrying what looked to be a new creation on his hands and chatted warmly.
Perhaps Mr. Formichetti has listened to criticism of his two previous men’s collections where there were little offerings in terms of actual clothes for discerning consumers. As I wrote here of the last show, spring 2012 was more of a hype for underwear and swimwear than a serious discourse of men’s clothes. By creating a virtual studio, Mr. Formichetti intended to take the audience back to the clothes rather than dwell solely on the glossy surfaces of fashion. And he even seems to have a sense of humor about himself, sending out an opening look which featured two models carrying a video photo camera strapped to their bodies with a built in cage.
But back to the clothes, a primary focus in this show, where the Mugler archive provided more than a casual inspiration. On close inspection, this collection pulls more from the Mugler heritage than those of the previous seasons. Military uniforms and hyper-masculine heroes were the buzzword for a collection based on Mr. Mugler’s suiting silhouettes–a collarless single breasted suit with leather lapels or various interpretations of the military poncho. The large and strong shoulder of the suits and short jacket silhouettes surely spelled classic Mugler, and there were plenty of separate pieces that can perform at retail come fall: the black leather jean jackets, the cropped light grey leather jacket, or the bright burgundy zippered cropped felt wool jacket. But the all-in-one zippered cropped velvet jacket or the cropped shiny grey jacquard silk suit with matching tie recklessly recalled the worst of the late 80s.
As the show progressed, there is a sense that perhaps too much emphasis was placed in the formal and military codes of dressing and it made the show feel too academic, too anemic. Fashion isn’t a pure exercise in academic cuts and techniques; fashion as Mr. Mugler saw it was a means for individual to be more human and not afraid to affirm our sexual being.
I remembered Thierry Mugler’s menswear shows in his showroom above Le Dépot, a famous Parisian men’s nightclub. They exuded sexuality, from the clothes to the attitudes. Seeing the marching army of models tonight, what is missing from their glacial facial expression was this ooze of sex, the look and the smell of sensuality of Mugler that now even the most studious examination of the archives cannot produce. Hyper masculinity here is just a concept word.