as paris menswear draws to a close, peace is the message
On the last day of spring/summer 17 men’s shows, Paul Smith and Lanvin’s Lucas Ossendrijver flew the flag for a diverse and peaceful world.
The world changed a little bit during the men's shows this season. Sadly it wasn't thanks to fashion, but to two defining tragedies in history: the massacre in a gay nightclub in Orlando, and Great Britain's exit from the European Union. On the last day of shows in Paris, Paul Smith and Lanvin's Lucas Ossendrijver had no choice but to comment on it, both literally and in their collections. At first, some of us mistook the Rastafari tricolour that appeared on the collar of Paul Smith's opening look for a rainbow flag, and it easily could have been.
The Caribbean-influenced collection's sentiment was nostalgic and all-embracing. "As a teenager in the 60s, I'd travel from Nottingham to London most weekends, crashing on the floor of a mate's flat in Powis Terrace in Notting Hill. I used to go the Flamingo Club in Wardour Street, which was always full of such an eclectic mix of people, who were all interested in showing self-expression through the way they wore things," Sir Paul reminisced. "It was an amazingly energetic time to be in West London. There was bright colour everywhere you looked and all these influences from all over the world. This collection was all about that, all about the individual. My way is always very positive and in a world that's seeing so much trauma through war, terror, financial crises and so on, it's important to bring a ray of sunshine however you can. The show is optimistic, happy and very reflective of my attitude to life."
The green, yellow and red of the Rastafari flag appeared repeatedly in looks either pieced together to create the tricolour, or in garments featuring that colour combination. "It's Scotland gone mad," Sir Paul quipped as he described the crazy check used throughout, and right now First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would no doubt appreciate his global outlook in her efforts to keep Scotland in the EU. Two knits simply read "Peace" while a super diverse cast cemented the worldly point of view that's always been at the heart of Paul Smith.
It was echoed at Lanvin in the morning where Lucas Ossendrijver put all his money on diversity, in his cast as well as his garments. "Because it's such a strange time in fashion and in the world in general, I really wanted to let go—to feel free, to not be constrained by something. I really wanted to be creative. Actually it's the only answer I can give. There's not much I can do but be creative. So the collection for me was really varied. All the boys were different. I wanted them to be free in the way they look," he said after the show. It was expressed in a sense of looseness: undone, flowing pieces, the diversity of which created all different looks, tied together - quite literally - in the brilliant styling of rope and straps hanging from models' belts, hinting at the season's hiking theme that Miuccia Prada referred to as "the idea of travelling, sharing and joining cultures" in Milan last Sunday.
As we're hit by world-changing events with increasing frequency, fashion week is now more of a platform for social, political and encouraging statements than ever before. And while the reason for it might be sad, the outcome is amazing. Whoever said fashion was shallow hasn't gone backstage to speak to the politically astute designers that shape the fashion landscape right now, and the mood is clear: if you want to make fashion just for clothes' sake, there's no room for you in this industry. Opinion is everything.
And so, it was only natural to ask the most British designer of them all what he thought of Friday's EU referendum. "I was surprised by the outcome," he said. "In the short-term I'm hoping the effect won't be too dramatic besides the financial aspect, which could be very serious for a lot of businesses in Britain. Fortunately we sell in over seventy countries and have offices in London, Milan, Paris, New York and Tokyo. Personally I would've been happy to stay as we were but the world is a strange place. We're an international business and I have total respect for Europe. Hopefully things will settle down after the initial shock and we can focus on the most important thing," he paused. "Which is peace on Earth."
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Mitchell Sams