The world's fashion capitol wrapped its men's fashion week just a few short days ago. Paris is usually thought of as a breeding ground for some of the most whimsical elements in men's fashion; the spiritual (and sometimes physical) home of boundary-pushing designers like John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. But this year, Paris was taken with the idea of producing clothes that the men of the city might actually want to wear. Maybe it's the shift of the avant-garde to London, or maybe it's the maturation of the designers who still reside in the City of Lights. Either way, this season, Paris mens treated us to a perfect synergy of creativity and function, with designers like Thom Browne, Yohji Yamamoto (for Y-3), and Kris Van Assche (for Dior Homme) leading the charge. We put together some of the most noteworthy looks from Paris below. Take a look and let us know what we missed in the comments section ...
This season saw Yohji Yamamoto return to the house he built by way of Adidas’ upscale Y-3 line. In addition to producing one of the year’s most talked about sneakers (the Y-3 Qasa, in case you missed it), Yohji decided to turn out a full fledged collection, which consisted of more than just Y-3 branded sweatshirts and contained the perfect combination of the (often) diametrically opposed elements that define the Y-3 brand, and to stage a proper runway show. The aggressive athletic styling hid the directional and luxurious clothing that formed the backbone of each look. Yohji worked with a palette that was primarily shades of black and grey, with a few welcome pops of red, orange and a steely blue towards the end of the show. What’s more, Y-3 embraced the tri-stripe logo of its mother brand and turned, what is a calling card for soccer cleats and gym shorts, into an example of luxury branding on par with Thom Browne’s appropriation of the red, white, and blue stripe. And it looks as though Yohji returned just in time, as a number of other designers (think: Raf Simons and Rick Owens, also for Adidas) have recently embarked upon the fashion-forward approach to athletic wear that Y-3 originated, it’s as good a time as any to remind everyone who the original is.
Working for the house of Christian Dior seems to bring out the best in certain designers. To be specific, it has a way of tempering the wildest instincts of the most talented artists, and brings their sensibilities in line with something a bit more wearable - something a bit more in line with the namesake’s vision. Now that we know what an unchecked Hedi Slimane is capable of, it seems, in retrospect, that the Powers That Be at Dior Homme should have perhaps been credited with more of the house’s successes under the designer. Kris Van Assche, who, upon taking the reigns of the men’s line after Slimane’s departure, operated as a second-class designer for Dior Homme, toiling away for the past several years with considerably less fanfare than he probably deserved, is finally out of his predecessor’s shadow. The Kris Van Assche of 2014, perhaps motivated by the shakeups on the other side of Dior, has turned out what has to be the house’s strongest collection since he took over. A collection that mines the archives of the original Christian Dior, combined with Van Assche’s signature eye for razor sharp tailoring produced a cavalcade of 2, 3, and 4 button suits whose slightly wider proportions felt much more of-the-moment than the too-thin lapels usually favored by the designer. This play on proportion was present in the coats, as well, either in a cropped M-65 (one of a few instances of the designer’s military influence present in this collection), the voluminous all black overcoats that closed the show, or the handful of body-engulfing ultra-luxe coats shown throughout, lined in fur or shearling. A few unexpected pieces of denim popped up, as well, either as chore coats or pocket-ladden vests layered under immaculate suiting. Should Van Assche continue to straddle the line between his own forward-leaning designs and the refined luxury that belongs to his employer, then the blueprint for Dior Homme man going forward will certainly be made in his image.
Thom Browne’s eponymous label showed where his efforts have been spent this past season, with a collection that harkened back to the early years of the Thom Browne label. This meant a focused exploration of the designer’s uniform of a shrunken grey suit, a traditional, thoroughly American look, juxtaposed with his whimsical, avant-garde runway offerings. The first half of the collection was vintage Thom Browne, as the designer sent down every iteration of the Browne Uniform in a celebration of the grey flannel suiting that makes up the core aesthetic of the brand. Browne loyalists, who might have been turned off by the excessive branding of some of his last collections, will find plenty of his classic pieces here to obsess over. After showing what he could do with the grey flannel suit, Browne wanted to show what he could do as America’s best answer to the European avant-garde; layered M-65’s and more traditional coats in the designer’s signature exaggerated, fantastical shapes, replete with equally as complex floral patterns, made up a visual assault that was, at first glance, a bit overwhelming. Taken as a whole, it was a refreshing bookend to a collection that showed Thom Browne equally as focused on making wearable clothing (which makes sense as Browne posted a 61 percent increase in menswear sales last year) as he was on igniting the imaginations of his show-goers. Also not to be missed: Stephen Jones-created headgear, which includes a helmet with frog's eyes and a cap with a pointed eagle's beak, a bear head holding a fish in its mouth and a huge elephant mask.
Givenchy's Creative Director, Riccardo Tisci's recently-announced deal with Nike seems to be at the forefront of his mind, even when he’s designing for his day job at Givenchy. While we were definitely appreciative of his efforts to move away from the print-heavy collections that catapulted the brand into the spotlight as Fashion’s ambassador to the streetwear world, there wasn’t a clear message here about where he might take the brand next. The collection, which was staged on a gated basketball court, was a sort-of ode to the sport of basketball, the most street-centric sport if there ever was one. What felt unimaginative was the literal use of imagery from the sport found on shirts, pants, and jackets which served as the focal point of the collection. There were highlights, and the angora basketball jersey was an apt mixture of the high-and-low elements that Tisci was hoping to mine here. If only there more pieces like that, ones that felt inspired and original, instead of a long march of dress shirts with basketballs printed on them or abstract printed sweatshirts. Clearly this is a time of transition for the Givenchy brand as it is inching towards becoming a more global business and for Tisci, who is beginning to move back towards tailoring and away from the t-shirt craze he helped start, here’s hoping that next season find the brand in more comfortable waters.
Saint Laurent, which was the talk of the town only just a year ago, has managed to tire itself out in the same amount of time. Hedi Slimane, former menswear deity, presented a coat-heavy rendition of his (now) typical SLP fare. Men in too-tight pants abound, clad in boxy sport coats, often with hints of Slimane’s preferred thrift store animal prints layered underneath. There was some fabric mixing on the outerwear that was reminiscent of Junya Watanabe’s work, but without the obsessive detail found in the Comme des Garcon-produced garments. What’s too bad for rabid Slimane fans is that with each collection there was hope that a new era or sub-culture might serve as the inspiration and, often, a stunning collection resulted. Now though, Slimane seems irrevocably stuck on the mixture of 90’s grunge as 70’s rockabilly that has been so apparent the past two seasons. So, now that the novelty of the revamped brand has faded and some of the love gone, the question is: will Hedi Slimane’s insistence of the brand’s relevance and coolness prevail or will we, customers and fans, demand that he start making the brilliant, transcendent collections that made him a household name.