Le Sentiment. Officine Générale AW23

I gasped a couple of times while browsing the Officine Générale autumn-winter 2023 collection. Those were gasps of utmost awe with Pierre Mahéo‘s take on the eternal French style, which is a combination of restrained elegance and exploration of the idea of uniform. For this designer, consistency of dress is a form of elegance that he not only studies but has practiced for decades. He’s always admired people who, by choice, design, default, or whatever, stay true to their own style. He, too, continues to wear, and cherish, a timeworn pea coat. “It’s about a sentimental relationship to clothing,” the designer offered backstage before the show, recounting how last autumn, when his team was brainstorming this collection, he realized he wanted to just focus on the two colors he’s been wearing himself for the past 30 years or so. “I don’t want to change things, I want to perfect them,” he said. Monochro-Mania therefore took shape as an ode to blue and grey, the two elemental colors of every Parisian wardrobe. For Mahéo, it was an essential exercise in exploring why he does what he does: why those colors, why he reinterprets them season after season, why continuity makes him happy despite the fashion pendulum’s inevitable swings. And, especially, expressing many things with a spare vocabulary, “in the same way that Serge Gainsbourg famously stuck to five pieces of clothing.” For the new season, the Officine Générale uniform might be a simple-looking T-shirt in wool jersey, layered over another and paired with matte wool trousers that are slightly more ample than they were last season. Here and there, Mahéo slipped in some iconic references, variously a military-inspired jacket that nods to the olive one worn by Al Pacino in Taxi Driver; a steel gray velvet jacket – perhaps worn with a touch of pink – that plays on Wes Anderson’s register; or a style of cape long favored by Prince. Here and there, a swirled print cropped up on a shirt and trouser, or a blue silk flower on a shirt (obsessed!). On the runway, the clothes gave an overall impression of reassuringly chic Rive Gauche style. Love it.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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