This is now the third Fashion Week round-up intro I have had to write. Again, I will have to touch upon what makes this particular round unique to the industry and important for fashion. But honesty, do I actually need to make an argument concerning Paris and its total domination of conceptual fashion? OK, here’s an argument for you: Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yammamoto, Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, Junya Wattanabe, Olivier Rousteing, and need I continue? A lot happens at Paris: some bad, some good, and some utterly transcendent. It’s too much to write about really. It’s the longest of the fashion weeks and it can be easy to forget about incredible shows mere days after they happened. Today as I am baffled yet excited over the announcement of Demna Gvasalia of Vetements being named creative director to Balenciaga while former Balenciaga godhead Nicolas Ghesquiere continues to alter the fabric of what we know to be Louis Vuitton, I almost forgot that Rick Owens put on the funniest and most conceptual collection of the week. So another season is over, and the buying begins. See you at the menswear shows.
ADAM LEHRER'S PICKS
Dries Van Noten
There have been times when Dries Van Noten has gone over my head. He is a highly conceptual and independent designer, but more than that, I don’t always feel connected to the clothes. But I was in Opening Ceremony last week (browsing, not buying) and came across a huge rack of Dries FW menswear stuff and all one can say is wow. His clothes have a physical touch that is vibrantly unique. You want to wear it, all of it, even the stuff that doesn’t in anyway line up with your own style.
So I keep the fact that I’m looking through a screen in mind when I watch Dries Van Noten’s SS 2016 collection come down the runway. Dries is a wonderfully referential designer, and this collection seemed like it was in the same ball field as Marc Jacobs’s New York stunner a couple weeks ago; a look back at the beauty, ugliness, glamour, and tragedy of old Hollywood.
When you think of “elegant fashion” you probably conjure up something glitzy or couture-ish, but Dries has totally created his own version of elegance. His color palette; often marked by shiny hues of green and bright magenta; always look slightly off allowing the garments that much more of a statement. Only Dries could send a huge printed satin dinner jacket right before a bright pink robe. The looks started to get more brutal after about 20 models culminating in a stunning black flared out skirt. And as chic as this collection is, Dries wants women to wear these garments. I can tell just by looking at them that they would probably feel very special to wear.
Some might wonder when Rick Owens, if ever, will not use some kind of conceptual gesture within his runway shows. It has to be said, wondering what Rick will do has become one of the premiere talking points at Paris Fashion Week. Not only did the man completely invent an entire look (Health goth or grunge chic or street goth whatever the fuck you want to call it), but he also has a knack for generating enormous buzz in a way that feels smart, thoughtful, and funny. Rick Owens, the Dark Lord of High Fashion, is the funniest motherfucker in the whole game. For the last menswear show, garments revealed penises. The clothes in the SS 2016 womenswear show were, in some cases, models themselves. And somewhere backstage, Rick was grinning.
Rick had models’ legs hanging from the necks of models while other models cradled models like babies. Who knew there was this much you could do with a model? Rick was commenting on the strength of women (not a “strong woman"). Rick sees that women are able to shoulder the burden of others peoples’ pain as if it were their own, which reaches its metaphorical realization during childbirth. It felt like Rick was saying to his own mom, “Mom, I know things aren’t always perfect, but I love you. You are amazing.” By that stretch, the show was both funny AND poignant, and even made me want to call my own mom.
Some of the garments; cropped and grungy bomber jackets, black and white cloaks, asymmetrical tunics; felt like good old Rick. But as he’s done more of in recent seasons, there were some risks taken here with both color palette and shape. The introduction of orange and light pinks did not feel at all out of place within the collection, and transitioned nicely to the more brutal looks.
So, once again, Rick nails his show with equal parts theatrics and the fashion design chops to back it all up. Here’s to the last independent 100 million dollar man in fashion!
I am amending this review upon learning that the leader of the enigmatic design collective that is Vetements, Demna Gvasalia, is taking over for Alexander Wang at Balenciaga. Wang’s Balenciaga show was one of his strongest, melding the coture looks and streetwear aesthetics that he often tried too hard to keep apart from one another. But it was clear that he never made the stamp on the house that we all hoped for when hearing of his appointment. With that, I thought that the Kering group would aim for a Balenciaga designer that had a firmer grip on tailoring and true luxury. Early thrown around names like Chitose Abe and Paco Rabanne creative director Julian Dossena both made perfect sense to me. Both designers have brilliant flourishes for elegant luxury, extreme silhouettes, and experimental fabrics. But Kering and Balenciaga instead go with another designer, Gvasalia, who is once again known for grungy takes on streetwear classics. But unlike Wang, Vetements has a design aesthetic that is truly unique and considered in both their shows and the clothes that they retail. They recycle fabrics and their garments are all instantly recognizable without overt branding. They have become street style favorites of cool kids everywhere. And most of all, people are excited, with even Cathy Horyn praising Gvasalia’s appointment at Balenciaga. Gvasalia worked with Martin Margiela for eight years, and that commitment to progressing design could bring Balenciaga their first push towards the future since Nicolas Ghesquiere left years ago.
And about the Vetements SS 2016 show, well, it kicked ass. I’ve been loving this brand for a while, with their gigantic bombers and sweatshirts that fall on women just so and their denim made of random pieces of recycled jeans. No brand on earth is nailing how style-minded people want to dress so well. Really want them to start doing menswear. But anyways…
Staged in a Chinese Restaurant (the FW 2015 was in a gay club, they are the best at finding random amazing places to stage shows) and with street and Instagram-casted models walking alongside professionals, the SS 2016 show was worthy of any and all hype. Always featuring dude and girl models wearing the clothes, The first model to near-run down the runway was none other than other weird dude designer Gosha Rubinchinsky wearing a standard open short sleeve black shirt, yellow t-shirt and cropped leather pants, a simple opening making way for more extreme but always wearable looks. Stand outs were lime green blazer and mini-skirt over a chopped up tank top worn by a beautiful long legged athletic girl, big blazers worn over argyle sweaters with sharp cut leather knee highs, and dudes wearing huge smocks. Gvasalia also introduced some new dresses that still spoke to his gallery girl following with everything looking just perfectly off. New hoodie designs were introduced as was a ‘Star Wars’ poster re-imagined as wide legged trousers. Perhaps the most Vetements-defining look was the final: a Chinese collar trench coat with top buttons buttoned, no shirt worn underneath, studded leather belt, cut off denim mini-skirt, and thigh-high black leather boots. Vetements is a brand for the creative people that are so successful they can wear whatever the fuck they want whenever they want: Kanye West, Lorde, etc.. The brand is intimately aware that the modern artist with Internet access is a little into everything: from the lowest forms of pop culture to the most head scratchingly avant-garde, from big t-shirts to couture. Balenciaga, bring it on.
The former Raf Simons apprentice Yang Li doesn’t get his due credit. Paris is saturated with talent, and perhaps his all black everything feels a bit overdone to some of the style set. But if the Swans-referencing SS 2016 presentation is any indication, few designers understand brutal fashion like Yang Li.
Dan Thawley’s take on the collection for Vogue was interesting; that Yang Li’s punk girl is returning from her years of rebellion to her bourgeoisie past and creating a new identity for herself. In that, you will find traditionally elegant garments cloaked in references to dark post-punk music and dingy clubs full of unsavory behavior. The girl can change her life, but those memories brand her and build her. In a flourish certainly reminiscent of his teacher Raf, Li introduced beautiful overcoats sewn with patches emblazoned with lyrics by the mighty Michael Gira of Swans (I actually really really want one). Asymmetric coats covered black dresses embellished with elongated skirts. Li stretches out minimalism and though he references some of the key conceptual designers of the last 10 years (Rick, Raf, Rei), it feels like he is really carving out a new identity in fashion.
Yohji’s SS 2016 menswear collection saw the designer apply his own artwork to his garments, and his womenswear collection was soundtracked by Yohji’s music. At 72, the designer continues to find himself re-invigorated creatively. We are lucky to have him.
In some ways, Yohji went to his all-black roots with this collection, but the flourishes spoke to concepts for the future. The excess fabrics coming out in all directions in the dresses and the near tye-dye looking color splashes looked so wild that there was absolutely no way Yohji didn’t consider every angle. His experimentation with denim was like nothing I’ve ever seen using the fabric to embellish an avant-garde dress. The clothes looked quality and made for Bjork’s next runway excursion. The final dress deviated from the all-black concept in a deep blood red. This was Yohji’s statement of vitality. Leading avant-garde fashion through four decades now, he is here to stay.
Though John Galliano once again opted out of the bow for the SS 2016 collection in respect to Martin Margiela’s house codes, he certainly wasn’t hidden. Galliano’s stamps were all over this collection for Margiela feels all the better for it. His first couple collection saw him playing with Margiela ethos with his takes on the masks and such. But Galliano has always been a punk designer even when working at the biggest houses. In that, he’s not so out of place at Margiela as some editors speculated he might be. On the contrary, the house feels new again, but it’s still Margiela.
The “Lo-fi, sci-fi” titled collection saw Galliano introduce dozens of products to the Margiela arsenal including huge cumbersome looking bags (maybe not so successful) and some really interesting shoes marked by ankle bracelets and stockings brought over the shoes. The collection moved deftly through color, styling, and theme: geishas in Navy jackets and skirts, Margiela-recalling minimalist lime green and white all-over coats, guys in black chest-exposing dresses. Galliano is surely happy to be able to design anywhere, let alone at a house as coveted as Maison Margiela. With this collection, he looks poised to bring Margiela into the future.
You know I’m going to write about Raf Simons. Like Khaleesi (Emilia Clarke of ‘Game of Thrones’) said before the show, “I get to wear some beautiful costumes on the show, but on the street few things feel like wearing Dior). Raf redefined menswear luxury countless times, but now at Dior he seems to specifically tap into what exactly is luxury in womenswear. His clothes bring out the innate beauty of a woman without cloaking her in an abundance of fashion.
Raf is rightfully thought of as a conceptual designer, but at Dior he has relished the ability to take on commercial appeal as a concept. I love records like the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds,’ Janet Jackson’s ‘The Velvet Rope,’ or most recently the Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness.’ These are big and bold experimental records that apply adventurous sound techniques to music that never veers from pop sensibilities. I see Raf’s Dior in the same way. The SS 2016 looks were pretty breezy: black and white dresses, power suits, minimal pops of royal blue and red. Raf looks as comfortable in his position at Dior as he does wearing his Raf Simons X Sterling Ruby paint splattered shirt that he wore taking his bow.
Honestly I knew nothing of Paco Rabanne creative director Julian Dossena until Olivier Zahm interviewed him for the most recent issue of Purple Fashion. From then, I was intrigued. Dossena worked at Balenciaga with Nicolas Ghesquiere until the latter quit four years ago. With him, went Dossena. He was quickly snatched up by the Puig Group to consult for Paco Rabanne to revive the futuristic image of the label that was cultivated by its namesake designer in the 1960s. He earned the creative director role eight months later and now it is safe to consider that futuristic image revived.
Paco Rabanne’s SS 2016 collection feels both retro-futuristic and regular futuristic with a line of sportswear that utilizes progressive fabrics as well as an overall vibe of attractive sleaziness. Pleather fabrications come in gold and look breathable and wearable. A tracksuit top looks on par with what menswear label Cottweiler does with its re-thinking of fabrics for the future. Sleeveless shirts carried prints with Native American motifs reminding the viewer that progression must first come in the form of thoughtfulness. Julian Dossena was being tossed around as a name to take over Balenciaga, but honestly, I’m so much more excited to see what else he has in store for the Paco Rabanne label.
Chitose Abe, the other design name thrown around as a Balenciaga recruit, has an extremely popular aesthetic. Because of her brand’s recognizability, people seem to forget that she is also just an amazingly complex designer. Her clothes all reek of design. There isn’t one color or shape that isn’t 100 percent considered.
Her SS 2016 collection was filled to the brim with conceptual layers and interesting construction choices.
Abe has her touchstones with the vintage vibes and exotic looking blankets, but she seems to take it into new realms with each collection. Like her SS 2016 menswear collection, Abe referenced ‘80s LGBT friendly New York club Paradise Garage with the collection in the form of t-shirt prints. And like that club, the SS 2016 womenswear collection is full of chaos and nonsense. But within the chaos lies a well-planned and executed political statement.
I know it might be early to say, but I am finding Nicolas Ghesquiére’s version of Louis Vuitton way more interesting than I ever found Marc Jacobs’s to be. Ghesquiére has always been an avant-garde designer, but he has managed to tailor his vision to brands with well-established house codes and re-create those codes over and over. Louis V is a travel brand, and Ghesquiére looks towards the future of traveling. The SS 2016 collection references ‘Tron’ and the sci-fi movies of Ghesquiére’s truth as an army of globetrotting cyberpunks marched down the runway. The clothes here were really crazy: opulent and luxurious in equal measures.
It’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting to buy pieces like the leather moto jacket printed with Lou Vuitton logos and American stripes. I also loved the color-blocked pieces. Ghesquiére speaks to a very specific customer: his own. Those who love the house of Vuitton will have to progress their tastes because Ghesquiére drastically moves Louis Vuitton forward. Fashion is barely able to catch its breath to keep up with this man’s imagination.
JULIANNA VEZZETTI'S PICKS:
Comme Des Garçons
The elegant birds of paradise flew at the Comme des Garçons SS16 showcase. The conceptual practice of adornment was living and breathing in this collection: the oversized ostrich laced collars and the rose-like crown hair designs. I believe the spectacle of it all actually helps one focus on the tailoring and design rather than overpower it. Rei Kawakubo forever draws the connections between fashion and art. The dresses here appear to hide certain aspects of the female frame and then radiate new life from the garment itself. The oversized button holes in the tweed peacoats give a fairytale ending to a seamless collection of wit and glamour.
Ice queens gallivanted down the runway at JW Anderson’s second collection for Loewe. The SS 2016 collection featured drool-worthy trousers made from plastic to the embossed metallics and a silver high waisted pleated pant. The theory of less is more would be better categorized as giving more in the right places. JW Anderson has mastered that tact. The collection had an asymmetrical balance to each look; one mirror shard earring would be paired with black patent lizard embossed trouser and a tan suede jacket. Though I’m slightly appalled by the “put a bird on it” brooch but the rest of the accessories make up for it. I loved the shimmery long bracelets and the oversized Koi fish necklaces (I have vintage versions of the real thing!). I detected referencing to Japanese atelier; note the slight resemblance to Issey Miyake “Pleats Please” collection. The monogrammed pieces brought a sporty component to the collection without losing its “Posh Spice” elegant simplicity. J.W. Anderson can be a mood ring changing colors but stays true to his style DNA.
When we reminiscence about past Céline by Phoebe Philo collections, we often think about smooth lines marked by a casual chic but twisted by a pervasive surrealism. That is not what we think of when faced with the SS 2016 collection. In this collection there was a subliminal sexuality expressed with white sultry silks and black tailored lace. The woman is a housewife preparing her escape to the concrete jungle. The elegant ribbed knits with the high chalk tailored waists accompanied by safety pin necklaces appear safe but sharply drawn out. The palette of burnt oranges, pastel purples and army greens are complimentary to a woman that may be harboring a secret lover. The optical illusion within the disappearing waist in the finely tailored long blazer coat is design at its truest.
I am caught inside the net of Haider Ackermann. The SS 2016 collection’s hidden detailing in the soft exposures of fishnets and candy colored hair veils leaves you feeling intertwined and in love. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the electric array of colors and textures. It was obtuse to his latter collections of dark blacks and greys. This would prove to be a challenging transition for some but not for Haider. Each drop-crotch trouser adds a new intermixture of color, sheen or a classic black. The SS 2016 look is very punk as well poetic and romantic. The long duster cover ups are luxurious silks and velvets that transcend the effortless quality of a Haider woman.
Cohesive chaos is the body of work that Miu Miu presents eloquently time in and time out. I’m in love with the layered and tailored looks of tulle skirts and see thru apron dresses that populate the SS 2016 collection. The color story of rich purples and soft greens paired with a plaid laidback slack. The whimsical dark beauties race the runway like witches from Stepford. The oversized jackets and collars are a fatal sight; the collection of tobacco browns, colorful patterns and winter whites. The clash of Victorian silks with the strong dexterity of the leathers make an effortless collaboration. The eclectic style of art deco shapes and argyle patterns make a style reference to this timeless era. The Fred Perry-esque polo shirts make it a tangible line to collect and covet. The subtleties of the anklet lace ballet slippers and embellished boots w will be dancing in my head until the ever hopeful sale season.
The Saint Lauren SS 2016 collection felt a little different than previous ones. Hedi Slimane’s collection embodied maturity. Models wore long draping embodying a rigorous elegance. There were not many baby dolls here. This is a look I love and will wear with my Adidas campus sneakers. The women adorned crowns like princesses of the runway. They looked unfazed and too cool. The Wellington boots reminded me of a festival fairy with tousled hair smoking a cigarette while kissing your rocker beau. No one does leather like Hedi; it has become a staple piece for every season. This season’s leather jacket is slightly more slouchy and oversized than his classic perfecto. There is an honesty in the models that Hedi casts and the way he styles them. His ideal woman just woke up from a bender, had some morning sex and ran to another show. I adore the tenacity of it all. Bring on the texture and bring on the lush lifestyle.
Text by Adam Lehrer (Autre Fashion Editor) and Julianna Vezzetti