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.
Whenever Prada delivers a collection focused solely on all-time classics, it’s clear that some sort of recession is coming. If shopping for new clothes, no fashion-statement impulses – only rational choices. Investment pieces that will become a wardrobe staple: that’s exactly what Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons‘ spring-summer 2023 menswear collection is about. First, we’ve got reasonable suiting. It came black, skinny in the pant and cropped at the top of cowboy boots. Jackets were single or 1.5-breasted, cut slim and low. Then up popped eternal leather: frisson-making black double-zip short-shorts worn against sleeveless tops and coats. Shortly afterwards the shorts came accented with a series of striped rib knits. Next up were some leather-edged back-buttoned shirts in shopping bag checks, with craftily naïf ric-rac trims that echoed Prada’s pyramid cipher. There was a brief section of attractive washed denim. The shorts underpinned the looks. And of course, the coats – some in beige, some in naive gingham (a Miuccia classic, think autumn-winter 2013). The models were sometimes double-coated, sometimes single. According to the brand’s release, “choice” is the keyword behind the line-up. Said Mrs. Prada in her pre-quote: “So much that is the base is really a conceptual choice – a coat, jeans, a suit. They appear simple but are the result of a process, of choice – there are hundreds of coats, why is this the right one? It is a combination of a long process of design and decision, and then of instinct. It is a matter of style.” Adjacent on the page Simons was reported as saying: “The garments are classic, but their mix contradicts, making them exciting and new. There is leather against the body, then cotton on top – there’s a kind of anti-logic to the combination of the clothes, an oddness.” Kinky, corporate, normcore and craft – the ingredients in this menswear minestrone of a Prada collection looked pretty weird on the menu, but tasted fresh when seen on the flesh.
Then ride it with my surfboard, surfboard, surfboard
Graining on that wood, graining-graining on that wood.
For spring-summer 2023, DsQuared2 went surf-boy-mode. Dean and Dan Caten’s layering extravaganza inspired by surf culture and 1970s Jamaica is just what a stinking-hot summer wardrobe needs and wants. The Catens worked with the Bob Marley Foundation, which granted them permission to reproduce a portrait of the reggae genius on T-shirts, beach totes, and bags. “We liked the vibe of that time, and the freedom and rebellion he represented,” they said backstage. “Peace and love, and the joy of music.” From the Jamaican flag they extracted bursts of color punctuating the sporty pieces they excel at, while cool formal options were styled imaginatively in well orchestrated chaos, as in the collection’s hero ensemble: a sloped-shoulder evening tux or checked blazer worn with a low-slung tie-dye sarong, or over multicolor printed beach pants. Each passing season, the Catens’s layering reaches new heights – with Vanessa Reid’s masterful styling help. It’s a fun formula that they’re able to articulate with gusto, keeping it rather fresh and entertaining. Another collaboration, this one with Honda, energized biker jackets and various patched leather pieces with a ’70s flavor. They added a tougher spin to the mellow, quirky surfer look of slouchy striped knits, humongous bermudas in printed nylon, and patchworked flares with appliqué marijuana leaves.