Our menswear contributor extraordinaire, Long Nguyen, co-founder and style director of Flaunt magazine, has just wrapped up the menswear shows in Paris. Check out his review of Kim Jones' nautical-inspired collection (think surf not sailing) for Louis Vuitton; Riccardo Tisci's usual but nonetheless thrilling collection mixing themes of sex, the Gothic, and Catholicism; and Rei Kawakubo's new, pared down silhouette for Comme des Garcons.
LOUIS VUITTON Whether by land, by sea, or by air, travel is Louis Vuitton’s heritage. Last season, Vuitton menswear designer Kim Jones traveled to distant lands like China and Japan for inspiration. This season, he focused on the sea.
It was not the literal nautical theme that that made Mr. Jones’ third collection for Louis Vuitton menswear sea-worthy. Rather, it was how he incorporated the popular street style of the sea--surf wear and the relaxed casual elegance of the Côte d’Azur--into a short sleeved ‘LV’ scuba tee, Bermuda shorts and a rubberized (rainproof) leather smock.
Mr. Jones used surf style to bridge the gap between the elite luxury consumer and those younger consumers--those more prone to adopting a more personalized street style--that Louis Vuitton seeks as customers. For every designer fashion houses, this is perhaps the most coveted type of customer to cater to.
Striking a balance between craftsmanship and sportswear isn’t an easy task. On the one hand, Mr. Jones showed sleek, dressy single breasted business suits worn with white leather loafers (the Damier briefcase in hand, of course). On the other hand, the scuba turtlenecks and short sleeved stretch tees could easily be a must-have item for spring and can be mixed into any man’s wardrobe.
As for the gear: The new large Damier Challenge rucksack or travelling backpack are made for short urban travel, weekend trips from the city. I imagine you’ll see them on the backs of hip New Yorkers on their bikes or in the subway--not on actual backpackers on a shoestring making their way through Europe.
A friend of mine told me a while back that the experiences of religious ecstasy and sexual orgasm are identical in the mind in terms of the morphine-like chemicals naturally produced by our brains (endorphins, for example, are generated during intense physical excitation or pain) but as a Buddhist I never made much of it.
But at Friday night’s Givenchy show, designer Riccardo Tisci merged the the imagery of Catholicism with overt sexual undertones that underscore his fashion vocabulary.
Religious imagery--specifically the cult of communion (albeit a sexy and sensual communion look)--took center stage with large prints of the Madonna adorning the front panels of sheer sleeveless t-shirts.
If the image of Madonna was ubiquitous, so, too, were the tailored single-breasted suits that served as the backbone of this collection.
There were plenty of sportswear elements to satisfy Givenchy fans looking for that all important street cred: a range of printed tees, some in silk, and a white and black printed baseball jacket.
There’s a slight feminine touch here in use of light pink and on a rigid sheer organza print tee that reveals a white tank top underneath. In past seasons, skirts and long shirts were made with heavy woolen or hard cotton fabrics.
This collection is the apex of Mr. Tisci’s signature menswear looks since his first collection in spring 2009 that mixed the Gothic and Catholicism. Even with the fast pacing of the show (models whizzed by like racers from the Tour de France), there was a sense of familiarity in many of the looks--and it was hard to resist this enthusiastic celebration of Mr. Tisci’s signature silhouettes.
COMME DES GARCONS
It’s the hallmark of a great fashion designer or artist to know when to move on from one’s own creations and try to make something different--getting out of one’s own cocoon is often the hardest thing to do.
But late last Friday afternoon, in the basement of the sumptuous Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, Rei Kawakubo presented a men’s collection that was simpler and streamlined than what she has presented in the past. The familiar Homme Plus silhouettes of the past few seasons--the Marc Jacobs’ favored shirt dresses and heavy layering--gave way to basically three garments: Long slim coats, shirts with small collars, and basic easy pants with a pajama vibe. The elongated staples, like biker coats and hoodies, will surely be among next spring’s best-sellers.
Despite the models’ brightly dyed orange hair, the styling and accessories were subtle: there were steel studded headbands and red tartans. But these nods to the era between beatnik and early punk were mere decorations rather than the main design focus.
The staging of the show was a puzzle at first. On the floor of the runway was a large rectangular grid divided into four sections of raised steel bars. Many of the models had to slow their walk or come to a complete stop when they approached the beams and either step over the bars or onto the bars to proceed forward. Is the designer saying allegorically that in fashion one has to watch one’s own steps and that to look ahead, one has to step over one’s own boundaries? At a Comme des Garçons show, anything is possible.