Paris is perennially the highpoint of fashion month (because Fashion Week is purely an outdated term at this point), hosting some of the most luxurious brands while consistently serving as a hotbed of creativity; it is the home to everything from couture, the shows begin in less than a week, to women's ready to wear, and of course, men's fashion. This season was no different, with many of the storied houses that call Paris home showing their most impressive collections to date. The labels that have bolstered Paris’s reputation in this regard were all centered around a sense of self this season, whether it was the inward contemplation of the big name designers, like Rick Owens and Raf Simons, the latter of which presented sailor collars with personal family photos; the refocusing of brand values at larger houses like Dior Homme, where Kris Van Assche showed an evolved (and maybe less coherent than usual) collection, depending on which camp you fall into; or the newly defined visions of Kenzo and Loewe. In any case, it was these creative directors' ability to understand what a house stood for and offer a compelling voice to these values, that made for the most exciting and most important shows of this year’s Spring/Summer season.
Lanvin is so decidedly unique in its place in the fashion universe that it rarely tracks current trends. The label doesn’t reach for the upper-echelons of luxury - it comfortably resides there; and the creative spirit behind the brand, Lucas Ossendrijver and Alber Elbaz, is such a force that there’s never a need to borrow from the popular looks of the day. For this reason, Lanvin’s favor in the popular consciousness will always have its peaks and valleys; one season hailed by celebrities and critics alike as the highpoint of the season, then showing to lesser fan fare for a spell - never unpopular, but not always understood. This season will undoubtedly be regarded as one of the label’s best, and a sure sign that Lanvin is marching back into the spotlight once more. A sense of ease permeated the collection. Whether it was the roomily cut, statement-making trousers or the oversized sport coats - one could be forgiven for forgetting the past decade’s obsession with all-skinny-everything ever happened. With so many designers rushing to borrow from athletic-wear, and an entirely new segment of streetwear pretending to be luxury, this was that vaunted ideal fully realized. Everything seemed at once urgently wearable yet adamantly luxurious. The outerwear, in suede, leather, and silk underscored this notion. Nothing felt superfluous, but no amount of luxury the Lanvin man might be accustomed to was missing either. To put it simply: this was Lanvin at its very best.
After a bumpy first few seasons, design duo, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim have finally managed to make the newly revived Kenzo feel like a luxury brand, rather than an outgrowth of their campy home base, Opening Ceremony. The pair unabashedly loves loud patterns and quirky prints, and the designs of the first few seasons were awash in this sentiment. But now, the designers seem to have grasped the place of that singular element in the grand scheme of things, rather than as its end goal. As a result, the clothes have taken on a new maturity that allows the print-heavy collection to thrive and, for lack of a better word, to matter. The stripes of white, turquoise and black made for clothing as wearable as it was eye-catching, translating the duo’s unique aesthetic into a wearable hallmark. Meanwhile, the duo’s experimentation with subtlety led to equally exciting results. Most notably, their use of stone-washed denim. In a season where nearly every label has shown their take on “dad jeans,” Kenzo’s was one of the most successful, as they felt hip without being costume-y. Even the collection of outerwear rendered in the fabric was excellent, and the belted overcoat was an ingenious take on the denim-on-denim look. Now that Leon and Lim have found a way to channel their penchant for eccentricity into cohesive, wearable collections, Kenzo should be a recurring high point on the Paris calendar for years to come.
It’s nothing new for established fashion houses to take on drastically different directions under the supervision of new creative directors, but what happens when one of the oldest luxury labels in the world appoints one of London’s premiere directional designers to revitalize its fashion business? Jonathan Anderson’s first season as Creative Director for Spanish luxury label Loewe offered its answer in a uniquely Anderson-ian take on men’s fashion. Where his own label can be decidedly androgynous at times, his work for Loewe suggests something slightly more masculine, but certainly not traditional. While most designers are either looking to the past for inspiration or attempting to dress for the future, Ireland-born Anderson has rebuked both notions and headed straight for the otherworldly. Namely, a world not bound by traditionally masculine precepts - the broad shoulders, nipped waists, and powerful legs that are hallmark of men’s clothing, handed down from generations of tailors outfitting the most powerful men in the world. Instead, we’re presented with a collection that boasts the sensuousness of feminine garb - the ease of movement of pants, the loose fitting and luxurious tops - without any overt attempts at subversiveness. Rather, Anderson has in mind for the Loewe customer someone who is so totally at ease with himself and the world in which he operates that he can wear whatever he pleases. And while at one time that might have meant a neatly tailored suit from Savile Row and the like, why settle for that now when Jonathan Anderson and Loewe are offering such exciting alternatives?
Kris Van Assche’s latest collection for Dior Homme saw the Belgian designer exploring new possibilities for the brand that would have seemed ludicrous only half a decade ago. Having finally shed its dramatically austere color pallet inherited from his predecessor (Hedi Slimane), Van Assche is now toying with offering a full accessible wardrobe. The nautical influence in this latest collection felt like a dramatic departure for the brand, a consistent evolution, maybe, and made for some of the most exciting individual pieces. While a knee-length toggle coat would have seemed out of place at any other time in Dior Homme’s history, it set the tone this season - a clear sign that Van Assche was designing for a real man with a full life (vacations to the beach included!) who needs more in his closet than just aggressively styled evening-wear. Of course, Van Assche’s strength as a tailor will always shine through, and the array of suiting that appeared throughout the collection will satisfy the label’s traditional fans. The skinny lapels were still there, but Van Assche was as artful as ever; the horizontally striped suit in the first half of the collection was everything we’ve come to expect from Van Assche. A traditional grey number near the end of the show had a shapelessness not often seen in his work and was brilliant in its subtlety, further signifying Van Assche's ability to evolve while maintaining the house's distinct signature.
Hedi Slimane has, in a relatively short period of time, transitioned from one of the industry’s most beloved figures and heralded geniuses (an ode to his days at Dior Homme) to l’enfant terrible. Once known for scouring the most exciting youth cultures of the moment and turning out rock-inspired collections that were defined by their sense of “now,” Slimane has refused to acknowledge any source of inspiration from the last 15 years, giving way to a series of collections defined by their sense of “then.” This stubbornness has made for an interesting start to the revamped brand of Saint Laurent, but certain eras can only be gleaned for new ideas so many times. Case in point, this season was obviously inspired by the early years of Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones - from frontman on down to the young students and models in the audience. Slimane’s deft tailoring skills produced a number of desirable pieces: the red embellished bomber was reminiscent of his earlier work at Dior Homme, and the jeans have been loosened up ever-so-slightly as to border on the accessible. But the vast majority of the collection seemed more costume than homage, and for a designer with this much sheer talent, wading through 68 looks in order to find a handful of good looking jackets shouldn’t feel like such a chore. The denim jacket and patterned shirts will still be popular with regular customers of the label, but there was little else that spoke to how much this designer at this house could potentially offer.