Menswear season in Paris brought the lofty catwalks back to the people, with a series of shows that twinned the glamour and energy of high fashion with genuine wearability.
Loose shorts, rolled-up sleeves, jackets with the arms lopped off and high-waisted loose pants in highly enviable colours added a distinctly relaxed feel to the normally frenetic 47 shows, and countless off-calendar events.
Givenchy, the strongest show of the season, which evoked tribal energy through plays on graphic lines and colour, featured some great single garments that were surprisingly wearable. It was thanks to their tonal balance and softer silhouette.
Indeed, this season was the story of a lengthened, slimmer silhouette. The boxy torso that’s been around for quite a while has settled into a shape that’s leaner and, at times, looser, as seen in some ultra-stylish suits courtesy of Lanvin.
The colour on highest rotation was a beautiful cobalt blue, with rich burgundy and soft grays adding to the cool, summery energy seen throughout the five days of shows.
Lanvin’s spring-summer 2014 menswear show evoked a film noir movie set.
Perhaps it was the huge industrial retro lights that beamed from the centre of the runway, reflecting the hazy quality of an old movie. Or perhaps it was the black-heavy looks themselves: The slicked-back hair, the turned up collar of a sheeny black slim trenchcoat or the high-waisted 1930s pants.
Whatever it was, it worked, producing a nostalgia that made this strong collection from designers Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver look so finessed. There were some great, stylishly loose suits in black and white that were light and worn on bare skin.
Elsewhere, a long retro clay blazer that hung to the mid-thigh cut a great silhouette with one sleeve rolled up. And a lightweight pale gray New Romantics-style bomber with studded crossover had a great stiff texture and hard old-fashioned upturned collar. However, the collection’s time-dial was jolted towards the end to the 1980s and 90s with colour-blocking and some garish shattered-glass effect pants.
Hedi Slimane delivered an ode to the rockabilly styles of the 1950s with a twist of glam rock in an energetic Saint Laurent Paris menswear show on Sunday.
Most of the looks, like pointy buckled “winklepicker” shoes with white socks, bolo ties, greased hair, red bandana neckscarves, sleeveless black leather and leopard jackets – as well as his signature skinny pants – produced no great fashion surprises. At points, the 44 ensembles even seemed a touch repetitive, delivered predictably on stomping near-adolesecent models.
But crucially, the vision of this spring-summer 2014 collection felt much more at ease and consistent in its style than the almost directionless rebellion of last season.
Among the looks were also some great, imaginative single pieces, like one show-stopping black piped red jacket that could have come straight out of a 1950s cabaret. Elsewhere, a Grease-style leather waistcoat featured a great, removed section at the back to expose the sparkly undergarment.
Items like this will no doubt ensure that Saint Laurent under Slimane continues to sell buoyantly, as it has for the last 12 months. Elements of the 1970s and ‘80s infused this musing nicely, with shiny, skintight black pants sported alongside a rock ‘n’ roll leopard tuxedo and black mesh undergarment.
The programme notes, which list nothing but the pounding soundtrack, are testament to where this designer’s priorities lie: His Saint Laurent shows are where fashion and music fuse.
Givenchy delivered what could possibly be one of its most imaginative shows in recent memory: A kinetic play of stripes and colour that confirms why designer Riccardo Tisci’s collections are among the most eagerly anticipated on the Paris calendar.
The mood of the show was tribal-meets-machine, with electronic circuitry prints appearing alongside loincloth shapes, leggings, printed Aztec-like neck adornments, sandals and even primal face paints.
It takes a designer as bold as Italy-born Tisci to pull off something this wacky and anachronistic. The 57 looks evoked, through their sheer number, as well as through the tensions created by diagonal, vertical and horizontal lines on multiple-layered ensembles in blue, red and gray, the feeling of a jostling army. Red disk motifs, a reference to both the modern computer and a primitive symbol, recurred on knee-length apron skirts as well as long and short-sleeved vests.
But what truly made the show a coup was that among all this intellectual musing, most of the looks were completely wearable.
“True style has no rules,” designer Maria Grazia Chiuri said of the collection – only the second menswear outing in Paris for the storied Italian house.
The Valentino show, with a uniform theme, was more coherent than last season - and felt as if Chiuri and her design partner Pier Paolo Piccioli were finding their feet in this new territory for Valentino, a label that’s known principally for its womenswear.
The idea of “no rules” played out in the 47 looks – mostly to good effect – where uniform was broken up and subverted. The show’s opener was the most successful example of this, with the uniformity of the bread-and-butter sharply tailored suits broken up with contrasting bands of blue dye.
However, in some of the military-inspired looks, a dalliance with camouflage didn’t feel very fresh.
California-born designer Rick Owens can always be expected to produce the most high-octane menswear show of the day.
But what was certainly not expected was the appearance of Estonia’s punk-metal group Winny Puhh dangling upside down in lycra leotards blasting out a tune on an electric banjo. So bizarre was the spectacle that, when the 38 all-black looks (plus the two contrasting white ones) starting filing by, revellers didn’t immediately take notice.
Despite this, it turned out to be a strong collection.
Simple black forms in leather, sheer paneling and with zippers formed a dropped-waist monochrome silhouette that ended mostly above the knee. There was a distinct feeling of the rebellious adolescent – the goth that dresses only in black – that pervaded the looks. After the show, Owens described the collection as “energy with a wink.” But when the metal music stopped, energy with a headache was nearer the mark.