You can’t accuse the menswear designers of Paris of not doing their homework, and Saturday’s shows easily proved that the autumn/winter 14 man isn’t just a pretty face...
“It’s about Mr Dior himself being extremely superstitious, looking at him and how used to dress,” Kris van Assche said after a triumphant Dior Homme show, which saw a departure from the modern – and at times futuristic – air of seasons past in favour of a historical and nostalgic spirit. Guests were met with lilies of the valley on their chairs, a nod to Christian Dior’s superstition that a model had to wear his favourite flower in each show for it to succeed, and from beginning to end, the collection was loaded with tributes to the legacy of the house.
The pinstriped Savile Row suits of Dior’s own wardrobe had been skinnified and covered in archive Dior embroidery from the 50s, giving the collection a romantic sophistication and a certain matured bouquet, which instantly gave Dior Homme a new sense of personality. “Dior today is about traditional tailoring and high-end streetwear,” van Assche said, summing up a collection, which gracefully merged the two histories of Dior menswear: the line before and after its reboot in 2001. While street elements such as massive trainers and rolled-up jeans kept things young, a series of majestic floor-length coats gave the collection a kind of old-worldly splendour, which looked very much at home at Dior Homme.
The thinking, philosophical man was in the limelight Saturday, not least at A.P.C. where Jean Touitou presented a collection inspired by the “restraint” of four of his favourite dressers, Yves Saint Laurent, Marcel Proust, Marc Jacobs (“before he became a yoga star”), and Kurt Cobain. Touitou’s much-loved intimate, self-narrated presentations are legendary in Paris, so when Kanye West took to the floor to present his A.P.C. collaboration, he had big shoes to fill. Ever the performer, the artist didn’t disappoint, joking about his “poor fashion education”, which he attributed to having had to gain all his knowledge “from Style.com and Tommy Ton” since Professor Louise Wilson wouldn’t let him study at Central Saint Martins.
West explained that his infatuation with fashion design stems from the fact that you can’t wear a CD and get complimented for it, and said things like, “Jean has a dope-ass archive,” and, “Shit isn’t authentic enough when I’m shopping,” praising A.P.C. for its easy merchandising and concept. As for West’s collection, it borrowed elements from his own style – for instance the cargo trouser, the poncho, and the fur coat – and had all the instant appeal of any A.P.C. collection. Mrs Woo had put the thinking hat on at Wooyoungmi as well, presenting a collection that drew on the man who frequents exhibitions. It made for sculptural tailoring and shirts and jumpers with various abstract motifs on them, echoing the arty heart of the autumn/winter 14 season.
It was an idea similarly reflected at Acne where models made their way around an exhibition-like space of walls in a collection, whose grey colour palette beautifully portrayed the pale crispness of a winter beach. Jonny Johansson's architectural leather outerwear and big, sculpted trousers had an almost windswept curve to their structure, hinting at the shape of sand dunes. It was a kind of austerity echoed at Hermès where Véronique Nichanian joined in on the stark darkness that very much ruled the London collections, albeit with the strict Parisian elegance that epitomises the house's menswear. There was an exquisite coldness to the collection, heightened by the perfect precision of slick tailoring, which was easily some of the finest in a season that's seen its share of suiting.
At Sacai, Chitose Abe tackled autumn/winter 14's penchant for abstraction with reversed tailoring, literally turning garments inside out. The result was a luxuriously utilitarian aesthetic with all the ingenious detailing that makes Sacai's die-hard fans swoon. The everyman's wardrobe has had something of a second wind this season, fuelled by a recurring focus on Americana and the workingman's wardrobe. And who better to interpret it than Paris' most playful Americans? For their Kenzo show, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon looked to the northwest of their home country with a Centorial turned into an ordinary American town, complete with houses and fences on the runway. "We’re really kind of taking these very recognisable things and giving them different shape. A lot of them were inspired by really kind of classic Americana elements, whether they were diners or hotels," Leon explained.
It materialised in utilitarian garments, kept primarily in autumnal browns but with the odd punches of lime, and in the season's Kenzo print: an "x-ray neon check", which hinted at fluorescent diner signs. "We wanted to give it new shape, so taking a plaid but making it out of neon from some of those diners, or taking tools that you find on the floor and giving them life. We wanted to explore the darker side of things, but also the beautiful side of things," Leon said.