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.
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.
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.
The Miu Miu girls (and boys) are on fire! It was only fitting that Miu Miu would have the final say this season – thanks to a change in the traditional schedule, the show rang out a month of collections, for which its last proposal set the tone in a big way. Other than Balenciaga, no brand has been as impactful as Miu Miu on the silhouette we’ve encountered on daily runways over the last four weeks: an oversized blazer or coat worn over a lingerie element and a mini- or evening skirt. This season, Miuccia Prada reiterated that influence in a collection that continued where the last one left off, reminding the industry who got the idea in the first place. The winter embodiment of the Miu Miu muse was less of a workaholic and more of a sports freak. After disrupting archaic office dress codes last season, she set her sights on the tennis court, giving Wimbledon officials more than they bargained for in super-short, low-riding Y2K skirts and tops with cheekily placed see-through lace panels. She didn’t care if it was winter because she’s too hot to get cold. Memories from her junior ballet phase (she outgrew it) manifested in ballerinas and knitted socks before her inner rebel really took over and things went hell for leather. As the same theme appeared in new variations – shearling, snakeskin-printed or stained leather, with faux-fur lapels – a more gender-diverse expression of the Miu Miu person took shape, demonstrating how the skimpy silhouette also works on nonbinary and traditionally masculine physiques. Along with every fashion girl and their mother this month, men have been wearing last season’s cropped Miu Miu cable knits and little jackets to the shows. This time, there was new material for them to obsess over: lace-up leather trousers, big buckle boots, and some prettily encrusted sheer crystal dresses, if there’s time for a drink after tennis. Miu Miu closed its menswear line in early 2000s, and 2022 feels like the year to revive it.