Paris Unveils a Man in All His Greatness

At the beginning of the menswear season in Paris, Alexandre Mattiussi made a statement by celebrating the 9th anniversary of his label Ami with a birthday party that notably featured accordion music, red velvet curtains, and movie sets. The following day, Tahliah Debrett Barnett, aka FKA Twigs, performed live during Valentino's latest menswear show. Shortly after, Undercover delivered a captivating performance at the Cirque d'Hiver. The following day, Issey Miyake Men renewed the brand's collaboration with the American choreographer Daniel Ezralow for the Homme Plissé line. Olivier Rousteing, for his part, had a group of dancers perform at the Grande Halle de la Villette for his latest collection for Balmain... These many runway-performances were orchestrated in a cheerful and joyful spirit, even though the atmosphere in Paris was not exactly festive, given the ongoing strikes that are still causing much ink to flow. 

Albeit the stark contrast between the reality of the Parisian streets and the one of the runways, these stagings were the multifaceted reflections of a vibrant Fall/Winter 2020 season. A season that has been as noteworthy as it was well made, flamboyant, refined, and sensitive to current topics. Dries Van Noten's models were dressed in fawn-printed silk shirts and reptile patterned trousers, as well as with jackets that were adorned with bejeweled buttons. They wore exotic leather boots on their feet and had wolves in faux fur nonchalantly thrown on their shoulders. At Ann Demeulemeester, Sébastien Meunier's frail ephebes wore golden or silver-covered ivy branches as belts, necklaces, brooches, or even as hairpieces. The models that walked the show of Takahiro Miyashita The Soloist wore tiaras and made for a beautifully refined runway show.

 

Let's not forget to mention the maxi chains and large medallions that adorned the silhouettes of JW Anderson's models. For some, Anderson’s outfits was about gender fluidity — about a man who carries out his feminine side with confidence. This may very well be the case, though it could not solely be reduced to this dimension. The recent menswear collections that were showcased in Paris have been more subtle and elegant than the previous ones. They were inspired by tailoring, as well as by an on-trend "couture" spirit, similar to the one that could be noticed during the last two seasons of women's ready-to-wear. Another (perfect) example of this return of chic was Raf Simons' latest collection. The Belgian designer created a multitude of perfectly tailored suits, capes and coats, and featured shoulder warmers made of fur on several silhouettes. His offering was more mature than before — or at least, it was intended for an older man, one who was more senior in age and in tune with his own generation.

As Virgil Abloh predicted in a recent interview, the end of the streetwear-mania is near. In fact, the end of the streetwear craze was obviously confirmed by all these new approaches to menswear seen in Paris. Abloh's words were echoed more than once this season — in fact, they already had an impact on the previous one. The decline of oversized, athletic silhouettes and chunky sneakers was already noticeable on the runways during the presentation of the Fall/Winter 2019 collections last year in January. Virgil Abloh's latest collection for Louis Vuitton began by tearing off several suit structures and then splitting them up as the show went on, while his latest offering for Off-White featured deconstructed yet formal silhouettes. Clare Waight-Keller (Givenchy) and Mark Weston (Dunhill), for their part, presented structured wardrobe staples based on a strong shoulder line. One could see references to Savile Row in both of the collections mentioned above. A similar approach to menswear could be noticed in Kim Jones's recent offering for Dior, where he naturally expressed what he had in mind without spreading himself too thin. In many ways, his fashion show was a demonstration of power. One of the most critical statements he made with his latest collection was that men's fashion can no longer be considered as a side business by the luxury industry — and that it could, in fact, even become a key growth driver.

 

Though there were no comparisons to be made whatsoever, from a style perspective, other fashion shows also suggested that menswear has a bright future ahead of itself. And as such, Véronique Nichanian for Hermès made a particularly refined statement. In fact, her collection boasted a new kind of modernity. It featured sportswear volumes in natural colors that were dotted here and there with details in colorful scarf-like motifs. Compared to other fashion capitals, where many fashion houses prefer to hold a mixed-gender runway show during the women's season, the increasing number of menswear shows and presentations in Paris is a reassuring indicator for the sector's growth and stability. The rise of young designer labels in Paris — namely Phipps, Bode, Ludovic de Saint-Sernin, amongst others — is also quite encouraging. Speaking of which, Botter's first presentation in Paris was a remarkable one. Only a few seasons ago, in the Spring of 2018, Lisi Herrebrugh and Rushemy Botter won the prestigious grand prize at the 33rd Hyères Festival for their men's line — and shortly after, they were appointed at the helm of Nina Ricci... Their new roles and responsibilities, however, have not affected their particular attention to men's fashion in any way.

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