throw a little glitter on it: day three of paris men's shows
It was what Friday in Paris called for as Comme des Garçons Homme Plus, Givenchy, and Berluti lifted spirits on a downcast Inauguration Day.
Comme des Garçons Homme Plus fall/winter 17
The ultimate excuse for not watching Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday evening French time had to be the Comme des Garçons Homme Plus show in Paris. And so, at 5:20 PM as the enormous stage lights started charging in the gilded ballroom of the Westin Vendôme, two editors from London and New York turned off their BBC live stream and reminded each other that whatever came out of that runway exit, it would definitely be a better experience for the soul. To a gritty, rootsy soundtrack by gothic folk singer King Dude, Rei Kawakubo brought us to the deepest, darkest pockets of the American heartland where blues are a different shade of black. But that's where she left the Weltschmerz that could so easily have defined a show set on this momentous day for the humanity Kawakubo always seeks to communicate through her work. Instead, she threw a little glitter on it, sending out de- and reconstructed sparkly tailcoats on pink-haired models. She bejeweled her predominantly formal collection with rubber figurines like toy cars and bathtub ducks, evoking a kind of childlike naivety within the rigidity of all the tailoring, which didn't just serve as a poignant contrast to her spleeny soundtrack, but to the earth-shattering oath we all knew had been taken across the pond by the time the show was over.
You could see it as a starry-eyed reminder of the innocence we're all born with before the Fall of Man — before some become Trump-voting pessimists — or simply a sharply pointed jab at the infantile stupidity of a fear-mongering 2016 that brought us said president as well as Brexit, which happened on this Friday of Paris men's shows last season. Seeing key world events through the looking glass of fashion is a reality for those, who spend their lives traveling the fashion weeks. And you start taking for granted that everything is an expression of what's going on outside this fantasy bubble that covers even the gravest of realities in glitter. When you're at the Comme des Garçons show and Rei Kawakubo puts the word 'freedom' on the back of a jacket like she did on Friday evening, you're all in the big conversation together. The designer and her guests are collectively documenting a moment in time, which is why we interpret it in writing and why fashion reportage is so vital to the sanity of this industry, with its increasing focus on shows and events. There's meaning to the madness. Just ask Riccardo Tisci, who couldn't have made it clearer backstage following an uncharacteristically sanguine Givenchy show at the Bibliotèque nationale de France, currently stripped of furniture due to renovations.
"I wanted to do something that wasn't so dark, but light. Something that made me feel happy to work on," he said. "I've done darkness for nine years. I want to give out a more positive message, and fashion is a tool for that." While the show started with a moment of silence in honor of Franca Sozzani, the Italian Vogue editor who died in December, what followed echoed the optimistic childlike approach of Kawakubo's sentiment. Tisci based his collection on the Wild West seen through the naïve eyes of a child. He expressed it in odes to Native American graphics and magnified everything from buttons to stripes, injecting his gloomy Givenchy signature with his very own take on light-heartedness. The reference fed through to the haute couture spring/summer 17 looks that closed the show where prairie and saloon dresses were lifted to fantasy highs. You didn't have to think hard to see the parallels between Inauguration Day and Tisci's choice of inspiration, and his aim to lighten the mood was well noted. Speaking of elevating things, Haider Ackermann's debut collection for Berluti did exactly what it said on the tin.
There weren't any massive surprises, but there didn't need to be — this was the perfect fusion of Ackermann's louche rock 'n' roll romanticism with the expert craftsmanship he now has access to through the artisans at Berluti. The show, presented at the Grand Palais, was a parade of heightened Ackermannism where everything was just a little bit grander and a lot more luxurious. Through his work, Ackermann often aims to convey a sense of deep breathing in the madness that surrounds us. "A ray of light," he's sometimes described it, and while he kept Berluti's casual sporty formality, that feeling was there all the way through, most excellently in a heavy camel coat with a bright rainbow blue astrakhan collar that seemed to illuminate the entire Grand Palais, or a dusty regal purple suede jacket that had all the bohemian opulence that made fashion love Ackermann — a brilliant colorist — in the first place. It was the perfect match. And while there wasn't much childlike naivety about the Berluti show (nor should there be), Ackermann's collection expressed all the desire for fantasy that ran through the veins of this Inauguration Day in gay Paree. Fashion, Mr President, is watching you.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Mitchell Sams