At Dior, Kim Jones does what he does best: combining contemporary elegance with art references, creating menswear that’s profound and desirable. For spring-summer 2023, the show’s venue was about two houses, joined by a garden in full bloom. Jones’s models were wending their way through the greenery from Granville in Normandy on the coast of France to Charleston in Sussex in the rural south of England. The designer had found yet another pathway to connect the patrimony of Christian Dior with his own Englishness, via his own obsession with collecting the arts, crafts, and literature of the early 20th century bohemian Bloomsbury Group. Charleston Farmhouse was owned by the artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who pursued their early 20th century free-love gender non-conforming lifestyle with guests in the isolated countryside away from London. Being English, Grant also adored cultivating the garden. Kim found a way to merge his translations of tailored Dior-referenced couture refinement with relevant, relatable, outdoor technical kit. This has always been Jones’s home territory as an experienced designer who was born to a love of traveling, trekking, and living outdoors. That’s his appeal to a huge young global fanbase. There were double-layer shorts, backpacks, zippy camo-jackets, poshed-up gardening hats and Dior ankle-length wellies. Sweaters – his Dior seasonal collectibles – were based on the artworks he owns by Duncan Grant. Where we saw Christian Dior himself was in the tea-rose and gray palette; a salute to the romantic legend of the haute couture house. Dior was raised amongst the roses of his mother’s garden at the Granville house, which his family lost in a 1930s crash. Those roots might not matter all that much to a modern viewer, but Jones is always conscious of keeping those roots alive.
For spring-summer 2023, Ami went for the timeless, effortless and somewhat cliché, but always très cool theme: the Parisian chic. For the fashion show, the guests were at the top of Paris, in the grounds of La basilique du Sacré-Cœur with the city laid out below, gleaming in the sunny dusk. Catherine Deneuve and Carla Bruni were in the audience alongside Naomi Campbell and Jonathan Bailey. Extraordinarily, Audrey Tautou – Sacré-Cœur’s Amelie herself – was lured out of her long public retreat to open the show. Other key cast members included Liya Kebede, Karen Elson, Precious Lee, Cara Delevingne, and Kristen McMenamy. We were in menswear week, yes, but hey. This was a power play as well as a Paris play. Ever since budget has allowed, Alexandre Mattiussi‘s shows have been elaborate, but last year Mattiussi took a clearly very significant investment from Sequoia Capital that ratcheted up the production values several levels tonight. “They’re young, cool, easy, and they let me do whatever I want,” he said: “they are super supportive.” This was reflected in the casting, the location, and the after-party, but also, most crucially of all, in the clothes. Ami was an exclusively menswear label from its founding in 2011 until as recently as 2019, when it expanded into womenswear. Mattiussi expanded his Ami wardrobe – the presentation of carefully idealized observational fashion via looks and pieces based on real Parisian types and stereotypes but then applied with a cleverly restrained patina of enhancement. There was a formidable array of bags, a new category, and shoes all intricately detailed with the logo that Mattiussi first doodled as a student. Multiple dialects of bourgeois archetype were gently mashed together to create a beguilingly approachable and good-natured French wardrobe. “It is still about sharing the values of love, friendship, fraternity, and kindness. And not trying too hard. This is what is natural for me as a person and designer. And it is a postcard again – the latest episode of Ami in Paris.”
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.
“It’s a bit like Gothic cathedrals, a Flemish vibe… like Bruges”, Glenn Martens described his spring-summer 2023 collection for Y/Project. Bruges is a tiny, ancient, weirdly beautiful city that never stops looking fresh because it was so madly built – depending on the time of day and the shape of your mood there are new angles of oddity everywhere. So Martens’s simile worked nicely. This stroll through Y/Project, held in the lush garden of an elite Parisian school on a raised gravel runway as shocked parakeets dashed above, combined his familiar symphonic weirdness with some stimulating fresh notes. The basenote remained distorted denim, imprinted with a so-cheesy-it’s-good Eiffel Tower logo that you wondered might be a gentle satire of the rumbustious graphics so favored at the designer’s day job at Diesel until he gently disambiguated that it had been in place here since 2013. There was a whole chapter of new trompe l’oeil pieces as a second season partnership with Jean Paul Gaultier. Instead of nudes this time the emphasis was on impressing the dressed-down – classic Y/Project jeans and vests and polos – on slips and rib-knits. There were hilarious flipped-finger earrings and four “evil baby” tops whose drawn-on distended bodies were based on a much-regretted tattoo on a drunk British guy that Martens had met while developing the collection. Possibly the most striking innovation of all – this season’s flying buttress – were the apparently impossible tank tops suspended at the shoulder by nearly invisible wiring. And yet the central architectural device underpinning all this seasonally-adjusted weirdness remained the malleable wire endoskeletons that allowed tailoring, denim, and alien eveningwear to be distorted into shockwave shapes. Like Bruges, it is worth revisiting again and again.