balmain, dior homme and kenzo's brave new world in paris
Global, multi-cultural, diverse and democratic. They were the key words as Balmain, Dior Homme and Kenzo got all-embracing at the Paris men's shows.
Balmain menswear spring/summer 16
The overriding theme of the spring/summer 16 men's collections has been globalization: the worldly traveller exploring cultures, fusing them into one multi-cultural look. No season could have created a better foundation for Balmain's first menswear show - previous collections have been presentations - and Olivier Rousteing's vocal introduction of his astute philosophies on fellowship and acceptance to the menswear scene (and Kris Jenner rocking an epic Michael Jackson look on the front row). "It's all about diversity. The casting is people from all around the world: Shanghai, Africa, America—that's Balmain. It's global. And I think this man is someone who travels a lot and takes with him all the beautiful things from the world," Rounsteing said after the show: part safari, part tribal, part Liberace.
Menswear, Rousteing said, makes up forty percent of Balmain's business, a fact that easily shuts up any sarcastic comments about its glitzy opulence. More than being a celebrity and a social media phenomenon, Rousteing wants to be a designer of the people. He is, in spirit, a reflection of his diverse clientele: un-snobbish, un-pretentious, and entirely open-minded. "There's no particular man, because it's really global," he said of his wearer. "So we can have Kanye, who's really different to Justin Bieber. At Balmain, you can be a pop star, you can be a champion, you can be a businessman. Balmain is open to so many different kinds of guys, and that's why the business is going more and more, because Balmain is not only a niche, it's a brand that talks to so many different people."
The Balmain show embodied the new mindset of the menswear designers of the old Parisian houses, all so eager to translate the bourgeoise men's wardrobe rules of their founders into something liberated for the modern man. For Paris, the elitist core of fashion, it's an attitude that completely parts with the snobbishness of the old rule. There's a new generation in charge and they want to rule the world, the whole world, and not just the posh parts of the West. "For me it's really about this young guy knowing about the codes his father used to apply to dressing, and mixing them with his own codes, the streetwear codes," Kris Van Assche said backstage at Dior Homme. "It's not the done thing to mix argyle with a blazer jacket and then army trousers, but once you actually do it and you figure out a nice color code, it ends up working. And that's how disorder becomes order."
His somewhat preppy spring/summer 16 collection was based on that contrast, and the idea of mixing not global culture but wardrobe cultures. "For me, menswear is so much about codes. A blazer jacket is a code, the argyle is a code, the military elements are a street code, and the bomber jacket is obviously the ultimate streetwear code, so all these codes made into a new silhouette, that was the point. Codes from the past - the elegance - mixed with streetwear codes," Van Assche said. Replacing last season's symphony orchestra with a huge white rose garden reflected in a gigantic mirror, he wanted to convey the collection's sense of hotchpotch eccentricity. "I liked the idea of an outside garden becoming an inside garden. It's something quite eccentric to have a rose garden inside your apartment on your wooden floors."
Following last season's super formal collection, the down to earth approach was exactly what Dior Homme needed to keep the tension going between those two poles. "I think it's about elegance not being a bad thing, even when it's for the weekend, even when it's more leisurewear-y and more comfortable. It should still be thought of. Making very nice sportswear pieces: the one-layered pieces, the unlined pieces, the double-layered pieces, camouflage used high-end: all those things that make casualwear higher. That was really my focus. I mean, I even made a crocodile bomber jacket," Van Assche smiled.
Since their first collection for Kenzo in 2011, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon have embraced the idea of the people's brand. Their socially and globally conscious collections and values have played a huge part in democratizing the once so highbrow fortress of Paris menswear into the all-inclusive scenario we're witnessing this season. "It's something we're quite into," Lim said after the show, designed like a sandy beach in a warehouse, spinning sparkly rocks scattered around the huge set. "But even beyond globalization, I think for us it's an exploration between Earth and space. We like to have a somewhat dream element of our travels, so yes, I think we're definitely aware of it and we love to embrace it."
The collection was the modern adventurer's wardrobe - the same theme as Balmain's but aesthetics apart - and sporty in a kind of futuristic explorer way. Some garments had the words 'Pull Here' on them, a parachute reference no doubt, but so much more. "I feel like it's a word that kind of conjures all kinds of meanings," Leon said. "There's ideas of pulling things together, ideas of pulling people together, and also this idea that you can individually almost make it your own. And then also this kind of holistic idea of packing and what you put together in the perfect packing world. Where are we going? Are we going to somewhere that we know, are we going to somewhere unknown?" For this generation of global-minded Paris menswear designers, the universe is the limit.