Paris put a versatile full stop to the menswear season on Sunday as designers embraced reality and fantasy all at once.
In a menswear season that's seen the brutalism and collectivism of London, the opulence and free-spiritedness of Milan, and the urbanism and romanticism of Paris, how does a boy find his true identity? It was a question Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver answered on the last day of the shows as they presented a diverse Lanvin collection, which seemed to encompass all of the above. “The new modern man of today, is he multi-faceted or one?” Elbaz asked. “In the past there used to be one thing. Today, every day he has a different me. It's about giving the people the freedom to choose. It's not one look, it's not one guy, it's not one sort of casting, but it's an individual.” It was a notion expressed in youthful, semi-slim tailoring, a series of face prints and the fusion of a romantic colour scheme of dark green, camel and fuchsia with urban elements such as long scarves and wrist warmers. But above all, the collection catered to the modern young man's obsession with the individual garment: the perfect trench coat, the perfect aviator, the perfect peacoat, and, of course, the interesting suit. “There are a lot of prints, cuts, fabrics, silhouettes, and colours. And how do you put all of it together? It's about the chemistry between the linear and the round. It's not the bland,” Elbaz said.
Giving the kids what they want has become something of a specialty for Hedi Slimane, who followed suit with a Saint Laurent collection, which - similarly to Lanvin - largely focused on said individual garments. For the die-hard Slimane fan, the multi-faceted aspect of his personality is found in each choice of garment within a fully established aesthetic, from the skinny check coat to the skinny maxi-houndstooth coat to the skinny leopard varsity jacket and so on. The Saint Laurent collection presented a set uniform of black trousers or jeans paired with a wide array of perfectly desirable tailoring and outerwear pieces, with little room for failure - as long as you can foot the bill. Agnes B. turned up the Victorian horror on an otherwise pretty preppy collection, which wasn't lacking in the (shall we call it) trophy jacket department, either. With all the urban streams flooding through the menswear collections, the addition of Y-3 to the Paris show schedule was only appropriate. Drawing on graphic novels, Yohji Yamamoto gave his sporty streetwear a working man's twist, but the collection wasn't short of the ravy vibes that Yamamoto's fan base comes to adidas for, and which so many designers have taken up this season.
“I think it's time to move away from that very perfect look we've had. It's still important and we still have it in other collections, but around the world people are looking for something stronger and a little bit more powerful from a runway collection, so that's what we did,” Sir Paul Smith said after his awesome show at the Bourse de Commerce where models walked a circular catwalk traced with Persian carpets. “Some of them take twenty-five years to make so it's very much about a reference, not necessarily to carpets, but to artisan. In this homogenised world, let's please try and do things still to do with hands,” the designer said, noting that all the kilim-esque textiles had been specially woven for the show, along with hand-jacquards and hand-knits. Inspired by Jim Morrison, the collection translated the palm tree and flamingo neon signs of America's West Coast into patterns on excellent outerwear such as magnificent floor-length coats and rich pattern jackets, which - music note and camel motifs in tow - had an opulent, almost Middle-Eastern air about them. After seasons of consistently stronger men's collections, this was the collection that ultimately felt like the new age of Paul Smith.
For years, Thom Browne has single-handedly been flying the flag of theatrical showmanship on the last day of the Paris men's collections, but this season there was a new magician in town. Having relocated from Milan, Umit Benan built a baseball court inside the École des Beaux-Arts and dedicated his collection of working man's tailoring to Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to be accepted into the major leagues in the 40s. The collection had all the Americana this season has feasted on, from baseball jackets to tight denim on a muscle man, and came with an anti-racism message underlined by the 'No to racism' banner carried by a bouncy Benan for his bow. After last season's strict militaria, Thom Browne once again surrendered to the enchanted forests and fabulous creatures, which have so often occupied his mind. A wintery forest scene of trees and animals stood in the middle of the Halle Freyssinet as models in head-to-toe leaf prints and animal headpieces floated around the catwalk. If there was fantasy involved at Christophe Lemaire's showroom, it was the editors fantasising about his pristine garments more than anything else. An immaculately made and tailored grey floor-length coat seemed to sum up the menswear season's romantic austerity and appreciation of artisanal excellence to precision. Let the haute couture shows begin.