On the second day of the Paris men’s shows, designers raved, rioted and rejoiced in nature.
If there was youth rebellion in the air at Dries Van Noten on Thursday evening in Paris, it was executed with pomp and circumstance. Who, after all, but the overlord of magnificence is bold enough to mention the Renaissance paintings of Bronzino in connection with a collection largely based on 70s and 80s streetwear? “It’s everything from punk, rave, new wave, new romantic, hippies, R&B; all these things, but mixed with the elegance, the fur. I really wanted to bring these ideas together,” Van Noten said after the totally thrilling show, noting that he fused his modern, urban foundation for the collection with elements of eras long gone. “The sportswear becomes something else,” as he said. The show saw exquisitely graphic colour-blocked formations of boys – pink, blue, green and yellow – march around the dusky subterranean riding ground of the Grand Palais to a Kid Koala-mixed soundtrack of The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil and Gimme Shelter, which could only ever have given the collection a whiff of romantic revolt.
With its over-dyed vibrancy of tie-dye, bleaches and acid treatments (Van Noten referred to these as wilfully “mistreating” the garments), there was a rich rawness to the collection, which seemed hyper-modern and decadently lavish all at once. It was Van Noten’s yearlong work on his exhibition of influences, which opens at Les Arts Decoratif in late February, which moved him to create a collection whose vivacity and hallucinogenic high changed the game from his previous seasons, yet again. “It was like, ‘Shall we do something to do with the exhibition or shall we do a reaction against it?’” he said. As a dipstick for the autumn/winter 14 season, Van Noten’s collection blew the socks off the themes of social angst and global betterment that have flooded through the collections, and took the menswear game to a new level. Designer to another group of rebels, Rick Owens put on a revolution against what he referred to as his own theatricality.
Relocating to Palais de Chaillot from his usual show space at the Palais omnisport de Paris Bercy – a controversial move for the Owens worshippers, who spent the best moments of their lives in that 80s bunker – the designer put a lid on the choreographed music and dance numbers of recent seasons and went back to the stripped-down core of Rick Owens. “We had reached the end of the cycle in theatre. It got theatrical to a point where I didn’t want to keep going. I don’t want to be that theatrical designer, so we had to pull back,” he said. The bright space and peach frescos of Chaillot acted as a clarification of Owens’ work and gave sole spotlight to a superbly sculptural streetwear collection inspired by police uniforms, which merged the designer’s brutalist trademark with a sense of ease. “I love these jumpsuits. I can’t help it,” Owens said of the clean-cut sleeveless, cropped one-pieces that opened the show. “I’m gonna be sharing them for a long time so you guys are gonna have to get used to it. I’ve actually started wearing them. I always stand behind what I design.”
Along with Alexander Wang, who held appointments for a distinctly modernist collection of geometric print jumpers and utilitarian leather jackets, and Damir Doma, who got his inner contractor out with a stark collection of architectural lines where a long, fluffy grey coat stood out, Van Noten and Owens added a little urban edge to a Thursday of shows, which for the most part dealt in the thrills of nature. 3.1 Phillip Lim lived out his Americana prairie dreams with denim cloaks, floral prints and jumpers featuring horse prints, while Kolor sent knitwear with reindeer motifs down the catwalk in a serene collection of forest green and The Sound of Silence on the stereo. Kim Jones had looked at satellite images of Earth during the making of a Louis Vuitton collection, which approached the travel legacy of the house from a technical point of view. It materialised in tailoring and jumpers with graphic lines across them, and some particularly amazing cobalt blue numbers, which also paid tribute to the introduction of Vuitton’s new Damier Cobalt bags.
At an intimate Balmain presentation, Olivier Rousteing showed off his opulent animal print streetwear influenced by photographer Perter Beard and his love for East Africa. But it was Issey and Yohji – fashion’s favourite first-name basis houses – who took nature to the max, or, in the case of Issey Miyake, itsmax. Yusuke Takahashi took inspiration in extreme nature for an electric collection, which seemed to effortlessly – or should that be naturally – morph into rave-wear in prints almost resembling abstract aerial imagery, and metallic outerwear skilfully honouring the technological heritage of the house. Uniting the season’s ideas of free-spiritedness and gloom, Yohji Yamamoto did giant floral skull prints as part of a vibrant collection of fantastical flower motifs on Yohji-fied tailoring, the odd snake print hinting at a sense danger in paradise. It was the youngest Yamamoto’s menswear has looked in a while, thanks in no small part to pieces like a dark red camouflage coat and an amazing bomber with big zips along the back of the arms, a detail echoed at Dries Van Noten later that evening.