For Dries Van Noten, the spring-summer 2023 menswear collection wasn’t just a bold return to the Parisian runway, but also an aesthetics shift. “The Zazous in Paris in the 1940s, and Buffalo in London in the 1980s. Both were in periods which were a bit similar. Hard times. So we wanted to make our own version of that.” Van Noten said he’d been researching male subcultures for inspiration this season. That turned out to be a strong opening statement: louche, dandified pinstripe tailoring, disrupted with lingerie-pink body-con “corsets” and camisoles. “Masculine-feminine” is how he put it. The Zazous were underground rebels who dressed loudly, frequented bars and jazz clubs, and defied the Nazi occupation of Paris. Buffalo was the subversive British style movement founded by Ray Petri in the time of Margaret Thatcher. In these, our disturbingly Right-swinging times, you could catch the significance of the timing behind Van Noten’s wanting to work a queer anti-authoritarian reference. That said, his suit silhouettes, with their double-breasted jackets and wide, drapey trousers were spot-on as non-disrupted standalones. The one that came out a bit later, the jacket and pants in two slightly different shades of burgundy was Dries Van Noten at his simple, elegant best. But he had other ideas about underground subcults going on. That turned out to be part of the reason behind his choice of the the rooftop of a carpark as a venue. “Garage scene grifters, cowboys, sleepy dreamers,” was the character gloss he put on the second half of the collection. Here, he delved into the motocross trend that’s sweeping youth fashion, hybridizing bike pants with track bottoms and translating them into satin; he also threw in Western shirting and styled cowboy boots bare-legged with shorts. This part didn’t really convince me – the result felt overly random. Yet in the heat of a Paris summer, it was easy to see an intended destination for this kind of casualized Van Noten dressing: next year’s festivals and all night raves, of course. He’s obviously out to catch a new young audience with this offering. But who knows? Hopefully the youth are more than likely to be going for those dandy suits instead.
The Rick Owens spring-summer 2023 show gave armageddon vibes. Or at least that is what the three 2-meter-ish across orbs that were set alight by technicians, slowly lifted by crane high above the guests, and then dropped to a sizzling impact in the Palais de Tokyo fountain were there to represent. Ruminating during the line-out pre-show, Owens said: “the fireballs are flaming suns, arcing across the sky, and crashing to the ground. But I did it on repeat because it happens over and over.” He was referring to human fear of our extinction – whether through war, pestilence, or other generationally specific worst case scenario. “’I’m always trying to reassure myself that whatever is happening in the world right now – whatever conflict or crisis or discomfort – it’s happened before. And somehow goodness has always triumphed over evil, because otherwise we wouldn’t be here now.” Those words bring glimpse of hope especially in 2022, with war happening in Ukraine and Supreme Court’s outrageous overturning of Roe v. Wade. Something else that happens on repeat, way less cataclysmically, are remarkable Rick Owens shows. This was another. His level is so high and his language so distinct. Owens had been in Egypt and named the collection Edfu, after the site of the Ptolemaic Temple of Horus. However the only literal souvenirs of that journey on the runway today were the three top-to-toe tulle looks near the end, “because when I was there I was wishing I had a mosquito net caftan.” Instead his time in Egypt had got Owens thinking about how its cultural aesthetic had been revived again and again across the millennia since its inventors turned to dust. Owens tweaked his own codes, introducing a flared-upper version of his killer platform boot. Another novelty was technical wear, delivered in the loose pants, shirts, and inverted jackets cut in gray ripstop nylon shot through with Dyneema, a fiber Owens said was “apparently one of the strongest in the world. I find it reassuring.” A few pieces were produced with Paradoxe, a Parisian label that unweaves surplus or vintage denim and then applies the threads to other denim pieces to create a richly textured effect. “It’s almost like lace,” said Owens. There was an otherworldly jerkin in iridescent purple made of pirarucu, a food by-product of Amazonian fish skin. Owens purists might be reluctant to embrace his rare forays into punchy color, but the eruption of yellow, pink, green, and that purple here provided extra visual texture even beyond the steaming meteorites. The volumes, especially in the shoulder, were on the up again. For Rick Owens, this was just another judgment day.
Hed Mayner‘s menswear collections are Paris Fashion Weeks’ moments of harmonious sublimity. In his notes, Mayner made it clear that he doesn’t do “overwrought statements of seasonal quirk.” Rather, season after season he revisits scaled-up proportions, honing them as a sculptor might. “I started by trying to build a silhouette that has a strong contact between front and back, and just being this two-dimensional look with a contrast,” the designer offered backstage of his spring-summer 2023 line-up. That translated into parkas, duffle coats, and jackets that looked straightforward enough from the front, until you caught the decadence of an open back. The comforts of home were the throughlines, with spoons repurposed into sculptural drop earrings and antique bed linens sourced from fleas in Paris and Tel Aviv that Mayner stonewashed, starched, and sewed into shirts. Though they were pretty, the designer said that poetry wasn’t his point. “I wanted to have elements that just look collected or found and applied on yourself, like diving into your sheets and staying there,” the designer said of a square-cut shirt in cotton embroidered with openwork garlands. Those tops and a slouchy-shouldered knit with trailing threads offered plenty of crossover appeal, though Mayner said such considerations were secondary to exploring proportions and, notably, stripping away notions of gender and status. Instead, he wanted to propose ideas of “clothes as accessories.” Even so, there were status contenders here. The midnight blue blouson springs to mind. So does a denim bomber. And, espectically, that one aviator jacket in delightful beige.
Jonathan Anderson is nailing it again, being in his surreal element. Back before Anderson started producing his in-your-face de-gendered mood-driven menswear in 2008 – the “shared wardrobe” concept that ironically led to him being practically frogmarched by his fans into expanding into in-your-face de-gendered mood-driven womenswear a few years later – he had plans to be an actor. That plan changed during an audition for Juillard in New York, where he performed a piece from the in-your-face ’90s play The Pitchfork Disney by Philip Ridley. Nearly a decade later The Pitchfork Disney, which he recently reread, was revived by Anderson as a central element in this first live Milan bow. Anderson said afterwards he’d been moved by “the shock of theater” that the play represented (some of the audience at its premiere in 1991 fainted) to shape a collection that tested our perceptions of clothing and modernity. The BMX handlebars, shattered skate decks and CDs were there to remind us of the intrinsic ephemerality of modernity, and its inevitable descent into anachronism. Anderson tried to add “eating canned goods” to this category of faded fads while speaking to the Italian press, but these pieces seemed more like witty acts of wearable assemblage. There was certainly a cheekiness to the project. The embedded bar codes made consumption provocatively both the ends and the means of engagement. “Fashion is a very modern device,” he said. “But it is not a modern act.” To underline the illusion of modernity he cast Rembrandt as the protagonist in his fashion play via intarsia reproductions on knitwear and prints on sneakers featuring the artist’s leery etching, Self-portrait in a Cap, Wide-eyed and Open-mouthed, from 1630. The nearly 400 year-old selfie stressed that while technology upgrades, the way in which we use it stays pretty constant. All these devices – along with industrial gloves, a stock photo of an apple-eating kid, and hardware-store door hinges – were placed within or adjacent to borderline generic contemporary canons of clothing. This created a have your cake and eat it result: you could wear JW Anderson-issued versions of 2023 uniform, and through those in-your-face interventions included within them simultaneously signal that you understood the narrative was entirely contingent – just a wearable moment in time.
It’s end of an era at Etro: with a new creative director appointed, the Italian brand is departing from its family roots. Marco De Vincenzo is taking the lead, and will show his first collection in September. Veronica Etro and Kean Etro waved a good-bye with their last collections: women’s resort and men’s spring-summer 2023. These two line-ups were quintessentially Etro, at its best. For menswear, Kean Etro delights in layering multiple references with the ease that comes not only from experience but from true cultural curiosity. His love of literature and poetry are just some of his many interests, and this season, instead of invitations, he had actors phone each of the show’s hundreds of guests to recite a dedicated poem to each one. It was a gesture of exquisite sensitivity. “Poetry and utopia go hand in hand,” he said backstage before the show. “In its etymology, poetry simply means making, composing. I wanted to give value to the idea of creating, which shouldn’t be separated from utopia.” Quoting Oscar Wilde, he added “there’s no progress in society without utopia.” Following circadian rhythms, looks were presented in circular chromatic cadence, from morning whites through sun-at-the-zenith brights to velvety darks dotted with starry figments. Archetypal in shape – kimonos, kaftans, djellabas, wrap jackets closed by obis 0 it was elevated by what the designer called “a florilegium,” that is a plethora of sparse floral images delicately overprinted with the number 432 Hertz. “It’s the number indicating the frequency of the universe’s good vibration,” said Kean. “It’s the frequency of beauty. It’s like when you charge crystals or bio-dynamic particles with energy – I’ve used it to somehow energize the garments.” The energy-charging ritual may have worked: there was a lively feeling to the collection that propelled it forward, despite the stifling heatwave which made the air feel unnaturally still. Billowy see-through chiffon kaftans and elongated shirts and kimonos in liquid satin were worn open to reveal nude skin, as well as boxing shorts exposing bare legs. The body was perceived through mesh textures, broderie Anglaise inserts, and impalpable silks and linens. The breezy, cultivated Bohemian feel which is the Etro siblings’ signature looked vital and delicate in equal measure.
Meanwhile, for resort 2023, Veronica focused on the classic summer-version of the brand. The label’s staples – the glamorous caftan, the dressing gown duster, the flowy dress – were given a fresh interpretation. The paisley motif was blown up into a vibrant abstract rendition, printed on a long chiffon dress with butterfly sleeves, or onto a masculine bermuda suit, or again on a tight body-con number with an asymmetrical ruffled hem. Punctuating the collection with an artisanal feel, a series of crocheted pieces including an elongated mesh cardi, a handknit knotted-fringed miniskirt, and a show stopping robe/poncho exuded the haute hippy vibe that is trademark Etro. Its free spirited attitude will surely transition into Etro’s new direction.