how paris is balancing provocation and reality this autumn/winter 15
As Paris rang out the autumn/winter 15 men’s shows, Lanvin’s Lucas Ossendrijver, Kenzo’s Humberto Leon, and Sir Paul Smith spoke to i-D about the normalities and extremes that have characterised the season.
If the shows in Milan kicked off with a certain shock of the tension between designing for dream or reality, the Paris shows ended on a more reconciling note. "I think we're kind of in the middle," Lucas Ossendrijver told i-D after his Lanvin show. "Sometimes you have to let go and sometimes you have to hold back." But rather than dreamy, Ossendrijver referred to the balance between reality and what he called provocation: more extreme fashion for a more directional man. "We always ask ourselves when we talk about a collection, 'Do we talk about texture, do we talk about colour, do we talk about the shape, do we talk about the fabric?' This time we asked ourselves another question: 'What is more important? The image or the clothes? Reality or provocation?' And all those questions made us change the way we work and change the way we do the show."
It was manifested in opening looks that took an easy-going approach to men's fashion in the shape of the uniform motif that's ruled the autumn/winter 15 men's shows almost autocratically, while the conclusion to the collection tapped into a much harder futurism. "And everything that's in the middle is individuality," Ossendrijver said. "Those are the things that are important. For us it's neither about provocation nor sort of normcore normality, because I mean, is normal bad for the image or can they co-exist? Is there a way to find a right way to do something for everybody? Do we exclude anybody, do we include anybody? That's the story." Set to the ambiguous lyrics of Siouxsie and the Banshees' Happy House - "not that happy, if you get the drift," as Ossendrijver said - it turned out to be a pretty democratic collection, which primarily challenged in the daring silhouette of boxy trousers and some pretty epic outerwear.
"Very directional, very brave, and exactly what we need in this current climate," was Sir Paul Smith's no-fuss conclusion to his runaway hit show on Sunday afternoon, which continued the steady climb he's been on these past seasons towards a more provocative proposal, to use the Lanvin term. Drawing on Bauhaus and the weave work of Anni and Josef Albers, it was in the volume of the 70s tailoring, which the designer co-invented in his youth, that the collection found its character. After a victory march of insanely deluxe, slightly oversized coats, Sir Paul sent out a gang of massive sheepskin numbers, which wouldn't have looked wrong on a flaneur in the 70s. Backstage, a French TV reporter asked the designer if men can really wear 'fur' like that. (It was sheepskin.) "You tell me?" Sir Paul said, no-fuss attitude still present. "Listen, this is a catwalk collection for the very top of my business and yes, we'll sell some 'fur' coats. You have to have a certain way of thinking to wear lots of these clothes, but that's fair enough because it's the catwalk collection."
For Paul Smith, the provocative fashion that Lucas Ossendrijver talked about at Lanvin comes as natural as his understanding of tailoring - something way more conservative - because the designer's history was spent building part of the foundation for the menswear we now revisit in more extreme ways, the reason his autumn/winter 15 collection felt so natural and unforced. "Basically it was revisiting a lot of my past, really. When I was eighteen years of age, I was making clothes for rock stars. People like Jimmy Page and so on. It's just really revisiting my link with music and my link with the hippie era, like the big fur coats," Sir Paul explained. "Of course it's dangerous sometimes when you've been in the industry as long as me. You think, 'I've done that. I can't do that," but of course you revisit it and everyone thinks it's fresh." He couldn't have been more spot-on.
At Kenzo, who showed at Jean Nouve's newly built Philharmonie de Paris on Saturday morning, the balance between the normal, the real, the dreamy, and the provocative created one of Carol Lim and Humberto Leon's best collections to date. Why? Because all those factors blended together perfectly in garments that you really wanted to wear.
Performance coats and outdoorsy outerwear with a certain futuristic overtone (the collection was inspired by UFOs and aliens) had an instant gratification about them, which gave them all the commercial desirability of the Milan men's shows but simultaneously, all the directional fervour that menswear craves right now. "I think Kenzo has always been known for having this very tribe quality, so I think it was our interpretation of having this community with a lot of individuals within it," Leon told i-D, and no better words could have summed up an autumn/winter 15 season infatuated with the fellowship feeling of uniforms, the free mindset of the 70s, and, indeed, the relationship between reality and dream in menswear.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Mitchell Sams