Sankuanz, Paris Fashion Week’s official opening act this season, moved away from his streetwear bread-and-butter without completely abandoning it — after all, the brand is among Hypebeast’s and Ssense’s darlings.
Chinese-born designer Shangguan Zhe chose to start his show with a series of sharp moiré suits for men and women. They were part of an eclectic collection with punk, cyberpunk, skinhead and '70s nods. Tan suits with exaggerated shoulder pads and flared trousers coexisted with combat boots and safety pin-laced Cargo pants and all-out capitalist jewellery, especially conceived to hang from one’s AirPods, was as conspicuous on the catwalk as the political message “kill the wall” (no explanation needed), lovingly embroidered in fluoro green on the back of jackets and hoodies.
The ultimate meaning of all those contrasts might have been blurry but the black palette, techno winks and apparent contradictions gave it a distinctly nihilistic flavour. And isn’t that a perfectly natural reaction to the way 2020 has begun?
Later that day, Spencer Phipps delved into the prominent “treehugger” back-to-nature movement of the '70s, which initially arose from both a hippie rejection of consumerism and materialism mixed with a renewed sense of environmentalism — the latter making an obvious nod to the urgent need to address climate change. Phipps' message was clear: in times of crisis, go back to basics and invest in nature!
Turning to one of our environment’s most pressing concerns, the conservation and protection of forests and woodlands, Phipps unveiled a men’s Fall/Winter 2020 collection that celebrated both fragile and archetypal interpretations of masculinity defined by an uncertain future.
His overprotecting outdoor and park rangers inspired outfits notably featured prints and patches that depicted the US wildfire cartoon Smokey Bear, an American campaign and advertising icon created in 1944 by the U.S. Forest Service with artist Albert Staehle. In fact, the designer announced that 10 per cent of the sales that feature the iconic bear will be donated to the USDA Forest Service which is committed to wildfire prevention. To further emphasise his dedication to nature and environmental causes, Spencer Phipps introduced a range of customised vintage and deadstock garments — the PHIPPS Gold Label — that included upcycled pieces such as repurposed denim jeans and jackets, as well as checked flannel shirtings.
Alexandre Mattiussi’s lucky number is 9, so, rather than waiting a year to celebrate the first decade of AMI, the French designer decided to go for the less conventional 9th-anniversary festivities. In true Parisian fashion, Alexandre Mattiussi chose Pigalle’s iconic Le Trianon theatre as a venue and had a dramatic show where models emerged from the stage’s red velvet curtains to a live accordion soundtrack.
The clothes had a new sophisticated edge: oversized woollen coats and sweaters — the bulk of the brand’s business — were paired with smoking or pleated trousers, palazzos for the girls — a rare concession to classic femininity — and, in some cases, long flared skirts that referenced the late 19th century. Then again, delightfully anachronistic elements were sprinkled throughout the collection, from be-skirted male models and three-piece suits to bowler hats, striped wooden scarves and ruffled shirt fronts that, worn by the mod-styled models, took a whole new meaning.
And, while new customers are bound to be seduced by the more glamorous velvet, organza or sequined pieces, longstanding fans of the brand will still find their cherished bomber jackets, houndstooth coats and timeless suit pants. After all, it is classics like these that will see AMI through the next 9 years. Joyeux Anniversaire.