Men’s. Nigo Knows. Kenzo AW22

Kenzo might be finally be back on the right track with a new creative director. For his sharp debut, Nigo (the legend behind A Bathing Ape) invited the fashion crowd and some big names – Pharrell Williams, Shygirl, Tyler, The Cretor, and of course the couple of the moment, Kanye West and Julia Fox – to Galerie Vivienne in Paris. It was here in 1970 that a small gallery unit with cheap rent was snapped up by 31-year-old Kenzo Takada, who had arrived circuitously from Tokyo five years previously with the dream to emulate Yves Saint Laurent and become a fashion designer. The brand’s founder’s collection was cut and sewn fabrics brought from a Montmartre market. As Kenzo later recalled: “I was looking for some kind of identity as an outsider, so I wanted to bring something very Japanese into it, and that meant textiles with a lot of color and pattern.” By 1993, when he sold his company for $80 million to what would become LVMH, Kenzo had developed that formula to become one of the most beloved and distinct designers operating in Paris. He sadly passed away in late 2020 after being laid low by Covid, but had continued to work on new projects until shortly before. But the brand without its creator has struggled to stay relevant for years. Yes, there was that period, starting a full decade ago, when the Kenzo-coded tiger sweatshirts produced under the Carol Lim and Humberto Leon went from cool to hot to way overcooked. After they left in 2019, Felipe Oliveira Baptiste delivered some interesting and criminally underrated collections, but sadly they just didn’t resonate with the customers. Nigo’s creativity and clout – and of course his personal passion for and parallels with Kenzo – make him a serendipitously synchronized recruit for LVMH. His autumn-winter 2022 line-up celebrates Takada, redefines what Kenzo’s true aesthetic is, and has some really, really good clothes to offer. The key poppy print was redrawn and applied in silhouette on washed denim workwear, by velcro patch to hats, plus on waistcoats, midi-skirts, camp collar shirts and more. The cutely kawaii stuffed animal scarves, knit and fleece, were another revival. The conversation between cultural clichés was highly enjoyable: for every souvenir jacket with a map of France on the back there was a beret (always best in burgundy) stitched with the year of Kenzo’s founding. Not at all ironic, however, were the beautiful high kimono jackets in navy, gray and olive. The bibbed gingham aprons worn over suiting were apparently adaptations of a specific Japanese garment worn during the tea ceremony. This intriguing cross-section of cultures is exactly what Takada used to in his collections, always with grace and consideration.

Nigo is of the generation raised during Japan’s obsessive absorption and reinterpretation – often more beautiful than the inspiration – of the Ivy League original into American Casual and Yankee variants. During the preview he’d commented fascinatingly on the difference between building a collection with European factories (which he said created garments more “clean” than he’d wish for) compared to Japanese (who can make it “dirty”). For this reason he’d insisted all the denim in this collection hail from his homeland, even if the top-stitching on his undyed indigo was a little too “clean” to be exactly perfect. Tightly observed post-Ivy, post-Yankee, come-to-Paris pieces here included the varsity jackets and unwashed dungarees. Shortly before the show, Williams said: “The coming together of Nigo and Kenz – it’s symbolism, right? None of us would miss it. Nigo is the father of so many things that we’ve all looked up to, and that have meant so much to all of us.” Of the collection he added: “So it’s like 1950s and ’60s clothing remade in the ’80s, you know, but through the lens of the 2020s.” Which was a pretty perfect summation of this first page of a fresh chapter in the story of the house of Kenzo.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – New Surrealism. Loewe AW22

When Jonathan Anderson referenced “metaverse” in his J.W. Anderson collection last week, he said, “I was using it more in an ironic way. The idea that it doesn’t really do anything.” For all its brilliant and hilarious techy surrealism, his Loewe collection was not a wardrobe for the metaverse. In fact, it felt a lot like it was trolling the very idea of our digital lives lived on phones, and the hoopla whipped up around trendy concepts like the metaverse. If our attraction to VR and AR and whatnot is founded in the idea of possibility, Anderson’s collection was a twisted take on how these imaginings translate into real life. He illustrated it in decidedly normal things made abnormal. Shorts were embellished with sparkles that looked like raindrops, as if it had rained crystals. A wool coat had a gilded stain on its lower back “as if you sat on a park bench and it was gold.” Coats and tops were punched with big bathroom eyelets like you’d digitally dragged your most mundane morning surroundings into your wardrobe. Shoes looked like bags, and transparent coats were actually made of leather. Meanwhile, a series of garments satirized our relationship with technology. The sleeves and lapels of a furry coat had fiber optic lights inside them creating the illusion of wetness, the illuminated waistband of trousers made them seem like they were floating, and the entire frame of a coat was lit up. “It’s the idea that you become backlit because everything on a phone is backlit,” Anderson said, referring to the way we see things on our phones and the way our screens light up our faces. Balaclavas with heart-shaped peepholes played on the idea of digital frames. Similarly, the orbital hem of a shirt and the waistband of shorts were bent in separate directions so it looked like you’d skewed them in FaceTune. It evoked the DIY editing accidents you sometimes spot in people’s selfies where the person looks like a supermodel while the retouching process has turned the background into an abstract painting. We all follow someone like that. And those t-shirts and jumpsuits with faces and bodies printed on them like optical illusions? They were worn by the models who posed for them, distorting and reshaping their physiques the way we do it on those beautifying apps.

Anderson’s collection was an exercise in the surreal, but a post-digital era take on the genre, which he said was more “psychotic” in an existential way. “Who are we? Where are we going? Is it real, is it not real? Are we in that moment? Do we believe what we say?” In a world where we’re more fascinated with creating a metaverse than improving the real one, those were good questions.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Sensual Masculinity. Jil Sander AW22

There’s always been a puritanical quality to the work of Lucie and Luke Meier, but in this Jil Sander collection, it transitioned into a more articulated kumbaya. That sensibility was carried by crochet wrapped around necks and heads and spliced with oversized blazers and tuxedo jackets that couldn’t have made for a bigger contrast. “We liked this really elegant, masculine silhouette, but with a sensual side to it, as well,” Lucie Meier said after the show. “We start a lot with tailoring, just to see what we really want to do and say and what we care about. But this time, we worked it into typically feminine techniques as well,” Luke Meier added. The meeting between crochet and strong tailoring made for expressions that were more focused on trend and statement pieces than previous proposals from the Meiers, whose collections usually feel more centered around the idea of a wardrobe. Backstage, Lucie pointed as to why: “You kind of miss people who really dress up and have a kind of eccentricity,” she said, referring to the way the pandemic has cramped our collective style, or at least our opportunity to show off said style. As a symbol of “personality and individuality,” Luke said, the designers scattered astrology prints and zodiac embroideries around the collection, intensifying the hippie energy of it all, only to contrast it with the rigidity of sharp lapels poking out from layers under jackets, and suit trousers tucked into hard, pointy Santiago boots with metal heel caps. It was a bold proposition for post-pandemic self-expression, but one the aspiring street style stars of fashion week will no doubt embrace.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Strange Beauty. Dries Van Noten AW22

While many designers have now returned to live shows, Dries Van Noten doesn’t want to do a show until the pandemic ends (or at least, it’s finally under control). He spent the season thinking about how the restrictive conditions are affecting his team. “A lot of young people don’t go out anymore, they don’t see a lot of people. Touching each other, making love to each other… it’s changed. I think it’s a collection where you really feel what state we’re in, and what we’re longing for. That is the desire we wanted to explain: the frustration,” he said on a video call from Antwerp. Shot by Casper Sejersen, Van Noten’s autumn-winter 2022 film featured a bunch of models getting tactile in a big mansion in Paris. There were close-ups of three real-life couples kissing: two men, two women, and a man and a woman, who all embodied the designer’s genderless objective. “I wanted to make it even more than gender-fluid, so you don’t even think about what’s menswear and what’s womenswear. In this collection, there are as many women’s elements as men’s elements,” he said of the wardrobe, an unrestricted mix of sequins, glitter, embroidery, and transparency with traditional wools and sportswear elements. “There’s a little bit of sex, maybe, in the whole thing. It’s a surreal beauty, a raucous beauty – not a normal beauty. A very strange beauty. Just beauty-beauty is pretty, and I don’t like pretty. I think that’s boring,” Van Noten stressed, explaining the gender-bending quality of the collection had a lot to do with his investigations into truly genderless cutting. The raucous beauty Van Noten wanted to convey was there in the sort of tattered glamour he’s been practicing for a while now: wardrobe constellations that look a little bit like something you’d find in a thrift shop in a clubbing district in the 1970s; a helter-skelter of patterns, textures and partywear that feels somewhat psychedelic. “It’s not like, oh, let’s surprise people, let’s put a feminine thing on a guy. No, we don’t think like that anymore. There’s a freedom, which I’m happy with,” he reflected. “We combine everything in a very spontaneous way.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Strobe. Rick Owens AW22

I’m not the kind of designer that says, ‘I just went to China and this is my inspiration‘. But I just went to Egypt, and they have those shapes, those beautiful shapes, and I thought if I did that as a Dan Flavin helmet, that would be so cool.” This is how Rick Owens summed up his out-of-this-world, ethereal autumn-winter 2022 menswear collection. By combining the headwear profiles of Ancient Egypt with some adroitly applied Philips light bulbs, Owens created headpieces that doubled as lamps – “they’re all free-standing.” The on-and-off-again lighting meant that much of the detail was suppressed from the eye: what was left were silhouettes. These were masculine, wonderfully unconventional and diverse, and ranged from Owen’s originally parodic mega shoulder to whorled arthropod curlings rendered in piumino. He compared the Land Art of the 1970s to the emerging meta-stuff, but remained refreshingly detached. Much more passionately he dug deep into the Made In Italy provenance of his pieces, dishing detail on the family companies that fashion his progressive fashion with artisanal techniques. The great upside of this, he hinted, is that it advertises traceability. “That’s information that’s important. And I like being in a company that is talking about that, but which is also saying ‘We’re not that good at it, but we’re trying.’”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.