Paris Day Two: The Flowers of Virgil Abloh

Off-White opened the second day of Paris Fashion Week with a controversial show. The subject of the debate wasn’t the clothes but the end of the presentation. Rewind. The set was a huge stage mounted inside the Carreau du Temple made of plywood: people were sitting all around a big flower bed with musk and white carnations. It began and, without any shiver, ended: utilitarian urban sportswear, bleached denim, attempts of tailoring, everything disconnected, but put together by the collaboration with iconic street artist Futura 2000 and, mostly, the Virgil Abloh charisma. But the finale shook up the entire audience. The models came out in groups stomping on the flowers and devastating the bucolic atmosphere. We could naively interpret this as bad boys that violate the “keep off the grass” sign. But as Abloh is a master of communication and the show was entitled “Plastic,” we should read this act as a sustainable message to the world showing how men are destroying the beauty of nature. But what if we’d push the interpretation a bit further and read this as a revenge on fashion’s white supremacy?

Off-White Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show in Paris. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

J.W. Anderson insisted on the genderless theme, showing both the Spring/Summer men’s collection and women’s Resort 2020. But the concept was stronger as both collections were suitable for everyone, regardless of gender. Despite the season, the knitwear part was very important and explored the check in primary colours: the inspiration was the mosaics that were exploded in XL size on the crown headpieces and full-length tunics. The other topic for both collections was the tuxedo, typically a men’s garment, which Anderson used also for women, transforming and decomposing it. There was also beautiful construction in the tailoring: wide back shoulders on jackets, tuxedos and trench coats made the silhouette sophisticated and new.

Y/Project Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show in Paris. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.

Glenn Martens at Y/Project mastered its signature art of construction. The collection’s starting point was the detachment of the lining and the outer part of the garment. Everything ideally collapses, giving back new shapes and constructions. The collection showed a splendid example of how fashion can still surprise. It was a tailoring celebration where everything was twisted, wrapped, opened, folded, flipped over, and/or cut. Nothing looked out of context, but it was a real harmonious sequence of beautiful and impossible objects. The lining and the outer parts of the clothes blurred into unique pieces where the original function and look changed their status into something different and unexpected. It’s important to say that these clothes are not for everyone and they might look commercially niche-y, but the work of this designer is essential in a system that desperately needs new creative fuel.

Acne Studios Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show in Paris. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

“I liked to think about the art students and how they interpret their look,” explained Jonny Johansson creative director of Acne backstage after the show.  “I wanted to point out the details and turn them into protagonists. I have always been fascinated by how the eye is caught by them blurring everything around.” The brand’s DNA has always been the experimental approach using and mixing different shapes and materials, and so was this time. Acetate fabric meets jacquard for an unexpected see-through effect; the cotton nylon knit is the new fabric development for striped sweaters with a crinkle effect, as if long-stored then found. The show was delicate with an interesting palette, layering proportions and research on new fabrics, but the acetate details didn’t help the overall aesthetic.

Valentino Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show in Paris. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

Valentino took a journey through different worlds. The fluidity of the djellaba, the simplicity of the caftan, the soft dusty palette contrasted with eye-catching illustrations by British artist Roger Dean (well-known for the visionary Yes album covers) of imaginary tropical and colorful landscapes of an unknown Earth-like planet. This mix was the route that designer Pierpaolo Piccioli brought the audience. The collection mixed different cultural references, so the perfectly cut suits met the handmade work of embroideries and crochet. The collection picked references from here and there, lacking a bit of novelty compared to the last Fall/Winter collection where Piccioli strongly regained the ability in creating modern (and wearable) elegant clothes for men, just as he did in his first men’s collections.

OAMC Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show in Paris. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION.

Turning things linear in the era where thoughts, events, and moments of life constantly overlap and bringing back simplicity were the key points of the collection, according to Luke Meier, founder and Creative Director of OAMC. Everything began as a study in restraint. “I’m still in love with Matthew Barney’s ‘Drawing Restraint’ work and this inspired me a lot for this collection,” explained the designer backstage before the show. The idea of restrictions helps to work in a more creative way, and boundaries push the mind to find the best solution. The overall result was a balanced wardrobe that achieved the idea of linearity. Desirable pieces for a very different audience, with show details that made it more interesting like belts that recall the leather fetishist harness.

Undercover Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show in Paris. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

Jun Takahashi of Undercover ushered us into a journey through the night. Despite the monochromatic palette, the poetic vision that the Japanese designer usually delivers was still there. This time, the show opened with a series of perfect black and graphite suits evolved in new hybrid versions of the double-breasted tailcoat. Takahashi is also an exquisite art director and graphic designer, and this time he carried the existing collaboration with American artist Cindy Sherman, printing on most of the garments the “Untitled film stills” series of iconic photos (shot from 1977 to 1980) and this season added the “Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens” (from the 1922 movie by F.W. Murnau) silhouette on some tops. So, this season also mastered his signature art of surprising. He demonstrated how it is possible to keep his own identity evolving every season with different styles and inspirations.

Backstage at the Raf Simons Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.

The day closed with the traditional evening ride outside Paris for the Raf Simons show. The hope is always to get the strong energy from the visionary mind of the Belgian designer, but this season nothing so exciting came out. The collection showed a series of his signature ideas as all men’s classics in macro or micro size, layering overall prints with hand-painted details and oversized shapes. The styling trick was the smocks and lab coats worn on top of several looks with the trousers underneath rolled up to the knee and worn with big rubber boots. The final look was undeniably catching and the show’s message ultimately respected the DNA of the brand – maybe even too much, as it looked a bit too repetitive. Raf Simons is the example of another fashion gang with a restricted audience due to the niche-y nature of the design, but it would be exciting and challenging to see him start new conversations with new people. But maybe this is not in the handbook rules of the “fashion gangs.”