state of the union
From Dior to Undercover, classic houses and independent designers illustrated the unpredictable state of the industry right now, as Friday’s shows marched on in Paris.
"A perfect day." In fashion week measures they're hard to come by, although last Wednesday came pretty close, with its bold decadence and thinking designer's collections of Maison Margiela and Dries Van Noten. On the Friday of shows in Paris, traditionally headlined by Raf Simons for Dior until his departure this season, Jun Takahashi gave his all to make it such an outing for us by imagining his own "perfect day," or rather the perfect day of the women of all ages, who walked his Undercover show. Takahashi is the Japanese Astrid Lindgren: there's a dark romanticism about his fairytale world -- an at once gloomy and warm Nordic noir -- that completely sucks you into his universe. There was also a grand statement to be found in his "perfect day" theme and the elfin women, who floated around the ballroom of the Westin Vendôme in their thorny crowns, gilded armor, and feathered skirts: to Takahashi, the perfect day is filled with so much magic it's impossible to live out—but as the soundtrack, a Japanese version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the escapist anthem written for Judy Garland in the Wizard Of Oz, reminded us, a girl's got a right to dream. It was a ravishing collection that launched an applause so long and persistent Takahashi had to come out and take his bow.
At Dior, the designers in charge of the interim collection that had to happen after Raf Simons left the house, got to take their bow, too. It's only been a few weeks since Serge Ruffieux and Lucie Meier presented their haute couture collection in a set that entirely matched the vision of Simons for Dior. For their ready-to-wear show, things had changed. The set was dark and futuristic, like a the Hollywood set of a Star Trek episode, the music was clubby in a Euro way, the Kendall Jenner-starring cast a little different to what we're used to with Simons, and the clothes decidedly more glamorous than his played-down modernism and subversive sex appeal. They were very Christian Dior -- the New Look shape and so on -- and absolutely flattering, and you couldn't help but wonder if you'd looked at them with different eyes had you not known Simons had left. That's always a compelling question in fashion: how affected is our point of view by the knowledge behind it? Walking out of the Dior show, most people seemed to like what they'd seen, and that's really all you could ask of a substitute teacher collection. We'll never know what Ruffieux and Meier's brief was. "Keep it classic"? "Keep it Raf-ic"? They did their jobs well.
In a fashion landscape where Gucci gave Alessandro Michele -- a then-unknown studio designer -- a go at his vision for the house and stroke jackpot, we're all wondering what hidden super talent is to be found in the ateliers of the big houses. It seems all of the industry is ready for new blood, but there's a collective hunch in Paris this week that Dior and Lanvin are both waiting for household-name designers to take over. Who are they? Any guessing game would be pure hairdresser talk from yours truly, but as someone who trots the show venues on a daily basis it's safe to say that fashion is in a mood for something irreverent, currently represented in the image of Vetements' Demna Gvasalia and his debut for Balenciaga on Sunday. If Dior and Lanvin are set on hiring star designers instead of surprising us with the unknown, by all means let it be someone exciting, who hasn't made their way around the musical chair circuit of fashion houses already. Luckily for Isabel Marant and Yohji Yamamoto, they have no such worries—just do what you do best, and your diehard following will follow. Watching their shows after Dior, you couldn't help but think how fortunate these designers are to have their own eponymous businesses in the current fashion climate.
In a time when the city needs it, Marant drew on the Paris she loves and dreamed herself back to the 80s when things were young and fun and trouble-free, echoing the sentiment of Anthony Vaccarello at his show on Tuesday. Yamamoto presented an homage to the handsome woman (it's safe to call her a trend this Paris Fashion Week) where masculine tailoring stole the show. When Jonathan Anderson was hired at Loewe, he was young enough not to be too much of a name to bore people and enough of a name to excite us, which could be the very secret to a successful round of designer musical chairs. His collection for the Spanish house on Friday morning had all the fashion-with-a-capital-F his fans die for, taking the look of the chic intellectual who goes to modern art exhibitions to the next level. It came with cat bags worn around the neck, and one of Michel Gaubert's most clever soundtracks to date: a Harley Street hypnotherapy tape for people who want to quit smoking—only the soothing voice of the hypnotist didn't reveal that this was the purpose of his cliché relaxation spiel until a couple of minutes into the soundtrack. When he finally got the point -- "you will no longer want to smoke" -- guests broke out in laughter, generating a grin from the cool-as-ice Monsieur Gaubert on the front row.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Mitchell Sams