blurred lines: day two at paris men's shows
The lines between the fashion establishment and anti-establishment blurred on the second day of autumn/winter 17 men’s shows in Paris as Louis Vuitton teamed up with Supreme, and Dries Van Noten, Rick Owens and Off-White braved a fashion landscape in...
Louis Vuitton fall/winter 17
Since the emergence of Instagram, as the history books would have it, the face of fashion has changed. Irreverent streetwear brands with a penchant for Martin Margiela have taken promotion into their own hands, eliminating the print press once so integral to the fashion system, creating a new anti-establishment in the industry-and setting a whole new agenda. The second day of autumn/winter 17 men's shows in Paris reflected these winds of change better than ever before, with a new schedule that saw Instagram superstar Virgil Abloh's Off-White - part of the Marcelo Burlon-backed New Guards Group, which also owns Hood by Air and Palm Angels - on a prestigious 11 AM slot, in between Issey Miyake and Rick Owens. Abloh's brand is the Acne of the social media age. Back in the day, the Swedish label was simply an affordable hype brand until Jonny Johansson decided to elevate it to Parisian salon status. A decade on, Off-White - perhaps best known for striping the back of Justin Bieber - is following that same route, only now the quest for Parisian avant-garde is part of a streetwear movement shared by people such as Abloh's collaborator Kanye West - designer of Yeezy - as well as Vetements and Gosha Rubchinskiy. And so, Abloh took out the sleekly designed UNESCO building favoured by Jonathan Anderson for his women's Loewe shows, filled it with trees and leaves and a very intimate audience, and showed dramatic streetwear shapes with arty motifs on them, luxe hoodies, and intricate bomber jackets.
For all their Instagram irreverence, brands like Off-White undeniably aspire to be part of the establishment while retaining their subversive, young cult factor. Being a social media brand phenomenon, however, isn't something money can buy-even if you're Louis Vuitton, who partnered up with one of them instead. It was Instagram gold that had the cult fashion hordes salivating in the Palais-Royal on Thursday afternoon: Louis Vuitton in collaboration with Supreme-the ultimate feast of prestige logos, whiffs of limited editions, and mile-long overnight queues waiting to happen. The crowds went mad (there was literally a row of girls squealing behind yours truly as a denim jacket covered in LV and Supreme scribbles walked by) and so did Instagram. In fusing his collection with Supreme's priceless brand value, Kim Jones did the impossible: he made Louis Vuitton, the world's perhaps most sought-after luxury brand, even more covetable. This was the establishment bowing low to the anti-establishment and taking a leaf out of their intelligent streetwear book. If the winds of change were blowing, it felt more like a hurricane. You wouldn't be mad for thinking Dries Van Noten - one of Virgil Abloh's ultimate fashion heroes - had been fascinated with a fashion system in evolution, too. His collection was his most conceptual in recent time, in that unassuming, dressed-down manner the kids go crazy for these days.
It was Van Noten's show number 99, presented in the first venue he ever showed in anno 1993, and so the Belgian master did what all the newbies are doing, anyway: he looked to the Dries Van Noten archives for inspiration. "The oldest jacket we've seen here is from 1986. The second one without the lapel," he explained. "But it's not that I really wanted to make a collection made out of archive pieces. It was really important to say, what do we want to take with us to the future? Good adaptations, new things, new volumes. I really wanted the collection to be grounded. Archetypes of men's fashion: jeans, a khaki coat, a navy coat, a ski jacket, a Norwegian sweater, a Peruvian sweater. The white shirt: what can you do to proportions? Button-down, classic, washed, not washed," Van Noten reflected. He reintroduced the magnified shoulders of his back catalogue, a favourite element of the young Instagram generation, who are scrupulously studying the archives of Antwerp's idiosyncratic legends such as Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Van Noten. His answer to the slogan and logo sweatshirts, which that same audience so adores? Tops adorned with the blown-up labels of the manufacturers the designer has been working with throughout his career, from Hainsworth - purveyor of wool for royal uniforms - to Scottish weavers Lovat, lamb's wool specialists Marling & Evans and many more. In highlighting the experts he employs, he didn't just celebrate fashion's unsung heroes but played the niche nerds of the social media age at their own game.
"This season I didn't want to play with embroideries and those things. It was shapes. You have to change volume and silhouettes," Van Noten said. "Here we are, ready for the future. And optimistic!" Rick Owens shared that point of view following what he referred to in his self-penned show notes as "a reaction to the last cycle of my collections, which were about facing physical and ecological decline gracefully." He continued: "I might have summarised that sense of doom with the last few shows and now it's time to move on." No one in fashion does honesty and emotion like Owens, and unlike the Instagram generation that loves him almost as much as Margiela, he has no pretence in his showmanship, no ulterior commercial motive or quest for avant-gardism. Like his recent seasons, this collection was pure creation-an unforced expression of Owens' feelings and fears, conveyed in large sculptural padding, which kind of looked like human hearts. He likened them to a sense of protection from a world he's still scared of, even if he's decided to go against the gloom. "I wanted it to be a new leaf. I wanted it to be a joyous leaf, but then I saw it and it was all very bound up and it was very batten-down-the-hatches, we're-in-for-a-bumpy-ride kind of thing, so it was still very much about protection," he admitted.
"It was supposed to be about glamour, flamboyance, extravagance and joy, and Dionysian pleasures, but it was still about fear, a little bit. The clothes were about responding to fear in general. So you can't avoid it." Going to a Rick Owens show these days is the closest you come to therapy during the gruelling fashion week marathon, and in that also the most authentic experience you could have on the road. He is as far-removed from the social media fashion circus as a brand can be in this day and age, which almost makes him the most anti-establishment designers of them all-even if he is, as he recently said in an i-D interview, now part of the establishment, too. Owens isn't involved in any trend race or wave. He is absolutely his own: emotionally acute and eternally sympathetic. "I always want everything I do to be a positive influence. I have the opportunity to either put something good out there or something bad out there, and this is my judgement of what's good. So it's a very personal thing," he said. "I think in general I am optimistic, but I think I'm also very realistic. The best advice I ever got was, 'Life is not fair so get over yourself,' and I take it to heart. It helps your memory to be grateful for everything and not... What's that word that's very good? Entitled."
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Mitchell Sams