Men’s – Fire. Rick Owens SS23

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Layered Oddity. Y/Project SS23

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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Men’s – Harmonious Sublimity. Hed Mayner SS23

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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Take It Slow. Lemaire SS23

The Lemaire spring-summer 2023 presentation was a beautiful, harmonious scene. “It’s always nice to see people when they are in between things,” Christopher Lemaire said. “And people are very much themselves,” Sarah-Linh Tran added. Outside this presentation at the Musée des Arts et Métiers were clustered lots of fashion folk with no time to spare, waiting to go upstairs to see models in Lemaire acting as if they had time to kill. On the staircase a brace of male models idly swayed on their heels in top to toe monocolor stone, one wearing a crisp trench over full white pants in cotton and a split-upper slipper, the other a wide blouson over a collar-popped shirt and a multi-pleated silky pant with the same shoes. A female model in a culotte-integrating version of the outfits we’d just seen stood on the landing above. Up into the hall, there was a guy leaning on a window frame in brown blouson and work trousers with a bag strapped around his shoulder and a mini torch on his key fob. Across from him a woman in an interestingly halter-wrapped shirt and brown five pocket pants read a battered Luis Bunuel paperback. Further along another woman wore a dress and a guy wore a camp collar shirt that were both in the same hibiscus print. A female slept on a bench, warmed by the shafts of sunlight through the window, and cushioned by her softly blushing shirting and crisp cotton pants. A guy leant against a table in more pared down brown workwear reading Le Monde. At the end of the room, Ana Roxanne played mood music on multiple instruments and we saw more model groupings wearing super attractive printed pieces by the Indonesian artist Noviadi Angkasapura. This was a refreshingly straightforward collection that put the clothes on a pedestal of reality.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Being Dressed. Saint Laurent Pre-Fall 2022

I never gave up on being dressed, even when the trend was about sportswear,” says Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello of his pre-fall women’s collection, the until-now-unseen curtain raiser to his sublime and epic winter show, presented earlier this year. “I am glad that people want to dress up again, because for me nothing has changed.” Never let it be said that Vaccarello doesn’t have unerring instincts. When the rest of the world was letting it all hang out while being holed up at home, he was showing hyper-colored tweedy suits dripping with jewels on an icy tundra, or had marabou and pop-floral chiffon marching across a vast Sahara-like vista; big themes, big landscapes, big drama. In their way they were as much paeans to hope for the future as statements of intent about how you might want to dress in the present. Except change was to a degree part of the narrative: Vaccarello also took on board the prevailing desire for comfort and ease, he just didn’t do it in the obvious, cliched or un-YSL of ways; there were modern compact jerseys and fluid silks to move in and to feel free in. This pre-fall collection builds on that as much as planting the seeds for the aforementioned winter, which he describes as “lots of volumes, more rounded shapes, a bit of Art Deco, a bit ’90s and a bit of Poiret.” His trick is to take all of that and work it through some of the classic Saint Laurent-isms. The columnar line for evening that Yves loved so much now looks perfect for daytime, partnered with a tough belted leather jacket and an armful of bangles. The iconic le smoking also makes it to the other side of the dawn, as an eased up suit, a cape, or a sharp-shouldered coat. Those are just some of the strong outerwear statements on show here: oversized faux furs, cozily chic but with a casual flick-the-collar-up attitude; voluminous-shouldered cocoon coats and nifty leather trenches thrown over some particularly ravishing slithery lingerie slip dresses, a hint of romanticism given by their guipure or frothy lace edges. Finishing all this off: stretch velvet high-heeled boots; gilt-trimmed square-toed pumps; and frame topped handbags. Magnifique.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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