[FASHION REVIEW] Paris Fashion Week Review

text by Adam Lehrer

I usually preamble my fashion week round-ups about how the written-about fashion city stacks up against the others, for example: “New York Fashion Week is very commercial but is experiencing a conceptual renaissance.” Something to that effect. Believe me, I know how trite writing these introductions can be. Let’s face it: the fashion industry can look ridiculous to those on the outside. Designers try to imbue their ideas with politics, art, and concepts in what basically amounts to a glorified sales pitch. But in a recent interview about his film ‘The Neon Demon,’ which takes place in the modern fashion world, filmmaker Nik Refn was asked what fashion means to him: “It's melodramatic, emotional, creative; a little bit creepy but also very campy.”

Paris Fashion Week is all of those things. It’s fashion at its best and fashion at its worst. We live in a capitalist world, and creative commerce is the only thing that can push culture forward within a capitalist system. Paris is the center of fashion. To show a collection in Paris is to get signed to the Yankees in baseball. That seal of approval and commercial visibility has enabled Paris-based designers to make grand conceptual gestures to an audience of millions upon millions. While technology has radically altered the way we communicate, fashion has radically progressed ideals of gender, race, and beauty. With Milan being too steeped in antiquated Italian notions of glamour (with exceptions), London designers working in a more cult and hype-driven business model (with exceptions), and New York being far too dictated by conservative retail outlets (with exceptions), Paris is and seemingly always will be ground zero for delivering radical concepts through the medium of fashion design on a global scale. As Nik Refn points out, fashion is an industry no different than the film industry; it’s entertainment. But as technology has enabled us to interact with the fashion industry with previously unprecedented access, it has become the primary entertainment industry for shifting societal norms. With Hollywood cinema having become the medium of The Avengers and popcorn sleaze, the fashion industry has taken center stage as our most important capitalist art form. If Paris Fashion Week is the epicenter of the industry, than it is 2016’s version of what Hollywood cinema was to 1976: a commercially robust platform that enables its audience to question what is presented to them.

(note: this list is in no particular order, all these collections were too good for that)


Saint Laurent Spring-Summer 2017

Hedi who? Sorry for the pun, but I’m mostly serious. I liked some things about Hedi Slimane’s tenure at Saint Laurent: his photography, bringing couture back to the house, and his ability to take creative control over the brand’s entire marketing strategy. But despite his doubling of the brand’s annual take, I never much liked the clothes. I never bought into the whole, “Bringing back Saint Laurent to its rock n’ roll roots.” There is no way that Yves Saint Laurent ever listened to anything that didn’t have a number and the word “symphony” in its title. Of course there were some great pieces delivered during his tenure, but Saint Laurent should be an innovator. The leather jackets were great, but they weren’t any better than Schott Perfecto’s. Yves did believe in taking normal and easy-to-wear pieces and making them incredible. But I’m sorry Hedi, there is nothing incredible about a pair of cut-off denim shorts, no matter how expensive you make them.

And that brings us to Spring-Summer 2017, the first Saint Laurent collection designed by Anthony Vacarello. I was watching SHOWStudio’s live panel on the collection, and typically they had nasty things to say about Vacarello’s first collection for the label, particularly about how over-sexed the models looked in Vacarello’s clothes. Seriously? We’ve gotten so sensitive that a designer can’t make his models look sexy? Vacarello focused on the sexiest era of Saint Lauren’t history, opening the show with a puffed shoulder dress from 1982 that he re-created in black leather. There was much leather that followed: a bustier paired with jeans, a bomber jacket with exaggerated shoulders, a trench over a black dress, a blazer. But where Vacarello excelled in his leather was its silhouettes; each piece was cut and/or shaped in an odd but appealing way (certainly something that Hedi never did with his addiction to skin tight everything). There was see-though shirts, gold lamé, breast exposing dresses, and everything tailored and sharp. I’m really not understanding the criticism aimed at this excellent debut collection. If my girlfriend came out of our bedroom wearing any one of those pieces my jaw would hit the floor. That is what what Yves wanted to do for women: make them feel like the best versions of themselves (my jaw notwithstanding). 

Koche Spring-Summer 2017

Streetwear with a couture twist is a certified trend in fashion at the moment, from the damaged luxury of Berlin’s Ottolinger to Demna Gvasalia’s reign over Balenciaga. But there is still something extraordinary about designer Christelle Kocher’s approach to haute street at her two time LVMH-nominated label Koché. Kocher also serves as artistic director of Maison Lemarié, which provides Karl Lagerfeld with the feathers he needs to make Chanel. Therefore, with Koché she is able to indulge her laissez-faire attitude towards clothing while bringing her rebellious sensibility a remarkable sense of craft and skill. She really wants to make you the last hoodie you’ll ever need to buy.

For the SS 2017 Koché collection, Kocher took inspiration from her fellow Parisian industry standard flouting renegades at Vetements and subverted the fashion show. She allowed public guests to sit at the show space of Les Halles while forcing industry insiders to stand (as someone who has personally witnessed a buyer make an elderly woman get up from his seat at a show, that brings me immense satisfaction). The models, a notable multi-racial pack of street-casted youths and Kocher’s friends, walked top speed around the perimeter of the show space several times. This performative gesture had editors trying to focus in extra hard on the clothes to catch all their unique detailings. A parka in sweatshirt fabric was frilled with black lace, track jackets were reconstructed through the reassembling of disparate pieces of silk, hoodies were transformed into Dracula capes, and summer dresses came in vibrant colors of the sunset and were paired with low top combat boots. I love Vetements, clearly, but unfortunately the buzz around that label has distracted from the fact that Demna is one of many designers leading a renaissance of artful fashion in Paris. Christelle Kocher is right up there with him in the front.

Balenciaga Spring-Summer 2017

Between Balenciaga and Vetements, Demna Gvasalia has created so many signatures silhouettes at this point that he can start to tweak and embellish them without having to change his whole approach season to season. There is no designers being more ripped off by high fashion right now (except for Issey Miyake’s pleats, oddly enough): Jil Sander employed Gvasalia’s hulking shoulder pads, Dior just did print t-shirts, Veronique Branqhino put out a hoodie for chrissakes’! Considering Gvasalia’s success, the mimicry shouldn’t surprise anyone. One thing is certain, however, and that is that no one does what Gvasalia does as radical or disruptive as he does. I even find myself looking forward to seeing new work from Demna, the same way that I look forward to the next Scorsese film or Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition. Other than Raf Simons, there’s no other designers on Earth that instills in me that insatiable fandom.

The Balenciaga Spring-Summer 2017 collection saw Demna incorporating even more Vetements touchstones into the Balenciaga ethos. It’s been wonderful to watch how despite Demna’s penchant for freak flagging that his approach to fashion design feels so right at the house. It’s about structure. It’s about shape. It’s about idiosyncratic notions of glamour. In the Vetements SS 2017 collection we saw Demna collaborate on waist high stilettos with Manohlo Blahnik in leather, and here we see a similar product in waist-high heels that double as pants or tights. In spandex no less? Since Eddie Murphy championed the fabric as skinny version of The Nutty Professor, the fabric has lost its haute connotations; but Demna rectified that with these hard-to-turn-away-from shoes. Then there were the hulking shoulders even further exaggerated by the use of whale bone. A nylon rain parka was made seductive with see through fabric. A little red riding hood was made black and mutated into shiny PVC fabric. Demna’s use of slight tweaks to make the ordinary divine will keep him in free Balenciaga baseball caps for a long time to come.

Side note: I also loved the use of Chris Issak on the soundtrack. It furthers my view that Demna is almost post-taste in his cultural references, bouncing back between standard artist approved post-punk like Sisters of Mercy to total pop cheese. It really nails our current culture on the head, one in which hipsters no longer care about what music is cool and care more about irony and individualism.

Y Project Spring-Summer 2017

A couple seasons ago, Y Project was one of the more skippable shows of the Paris menswear schedule. The late Yohan Serfaty started the label as a menswear brand seriously indebted to the gothic pea-cocking of Rick Owens and fashion unanimously agreed upon the fact that we already have the only Rick Owens we will ever need. So when Glenn Maartens took over the label after Serfaty’s passing, he totally departed from the label’s original aesthetic. Since adding womenswear to the label’s repertoire, the label has received gobs of praise and a nomination for this year’s LVMH Prize, not to mention beloved conceptual stockists including Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony, and Machine-A.

Maartens has a sense of humor, and his light sensibilities allow for incredibly palatable abstraction in his ingenious fashion creations. His SS 2017 collections, his second for womenswear, found the designer employing styling techniques to achieve a bit of shock. But everything here was actually wearable and built to be styled in different ways: adjustable sleeves, loosening bustiers, laced dresses. There was also some fun play with sexual provocation: the white denim chaps, for instance, barely concealed the model’s ass crack. Or the halter top that coiled at the waist and used an unbuttoned neck to conceal the model’s considerable boobs. I can see Y Project particularly appealing to young female artists that are hustling Instagram and making a little doh but are far from financial security. These are easy-to-wear clothes that are embellished and specialized enough to be adored by the buyer and also beg the buyer to wear them from day to night. Maartens is shaping up to be one of the most malleable conceptualists in fashion design.

Junya Watanabe Spring-Summer 2017

After a couple much derided seasons of racially on the nose sentiment, Junya Watanabe has come fiercely back doing what he does best: making the most structurally complex garments a human being could conceivably want to wear. While his menswear show was full of simple summer pieces adorned in tough to beautiful looking prints, his SS 2017 womenswear collection was complicated. Like artists ranging from Nick Cave to Lydia Lunch to David Bowie to Jeffrey Eugenides did before him, Junya hung out in Berlin to pick up inspiration for this collection. Also like those artists, the city’s dark and abstract culture and landscape had an aesthetic impact on this cyberpunk-leaning collection.

With Berlin-based conceptual fashion magazine 032C and its emphasis on the global merging and mutually beneficial relationship of streetwear and couture seeing its influence reverberate throughout the industry, it appears that Junya has taken note. He paired his highly abstracted geometrically stacked satin art museum pieces with slashed tights, cowboy boots, silver leather skirts, denim shorts, band t-shirts, and silver bomber jackets. There were really only two ideas here, but Junya can stretch an idea so long that an aesthetic universe pours out of it. You can see the nightclub where people are wearing these clothes: speed is being injected in lieu of cocaine, it smells of old puke and piss, bad graffiti adorns the bathroom walls, and Psychic TV is always playing on the speakers. Instead of “elevating streetwear to the level of couture,” as we are seeing in the cases of myriad designers, Junya simply decided to style couture with streetwear and create one incredibly succinct look. He is making Japanese fashion design palatable to a global audience without losing any conceptual credentials.

Haider Ackermann Spring-Summer 2017

I really love Haider Ackermann’s work. I put him in a similar category to designers like Rick Owens and Phoebe Philo; designers that can work a similar idea for a few seasons because there is simply no one else who does what he does. His work always has that bourgeois family black sheep vibe: the man or woman who decides not to enter the family business instead opting for a life of opulence, decadence, smoking, drinking, drugs, casual sex, and creative endeavors. You know whoever that person is dresses fabulously.

This was Ackermann’s first collection since being named creative director of heritage luxury French menswear house Berluti (an inspired casting choice if there was ever one, I can’t be alone in being rabid in anticipation for the punk spin he will put on the brand’s classicist and wildly expensive products). Ackermann is moving away from the draping that made him famous and this collection employed razor sharp tailoring to achieve an exacting if striking silhouette. Despite its precision, the collection still made use of flourishes of rebellion: jackets slashed at the waist, neon two-toned drainpipe leather trousers, a blood spattered jacquard coat, and that wildly spiky hair all screamed, “I’d like to excuse myself from this dinner table to smoke bowls full of opium and hash on my red velvet couch listening to Ornette Coleman.” There were also some more pleats here, also ripped off from Issey Miyake’s wildly copied Plissé line, but Ackermann’s choice to create a wide pleat skirt brightly colored yellow felt less on the nose than other recreations of the textile idea.

Loewe Spring-Summer 2017

Jonathan Anderson’s reinvention of Spanish luxury house cannot be denied: in just two years time he transformed what amounted to a small novelty act into a major Paris Fashion Week event. He did this by honing in on exactly who his customer is. What has separated Anderson from his fellow Central Saint Martin’s-educated young London designers is his unbridled understanding and embracing of fashion’s business side. Noting that his menswear audience at his own label largely consists of gay men, he live-streamed a show on hookup app Grindr. Identifying his Loewe woman as an older cultured lady of means, he decorated the set of his Loewe Spring-Summer 2017 show with ceramics, lamps, and video screens playing an art film. The Loewe woman has a deep appreciation of objects, and Anderson brings rarified objects by the dozens.

Working with one flowing and unstructured silhouette, Anderson put on a fabric clinic: cotton and nylon, patchwork and plissé, raw edges and fringes, jersey and fine leather. There was a hinting at the Spanish luxury of Loewe with dresses recalling those worn by women from 19th century Spanish villages. Everything here looked expensive, as it should, because these clothes are extremely expensive. And that’s not even mentioning the wide diversity of shoes, bags and accessories that will give Loewe fans more buying options than any collection the house has ever put out. Of all the creative director-driven brand reinventions of the last 10 years; Hedi at Saint Laurent, Raf at Dior, Galliano at Margiela; Anderson’s reinvention of Loewe is by far the most radical and arguably the most successful, considering the relative obscurity of the brand before his hiring. 


Comme des Garcons Spring-Summer 2017

You don’t watch Comme des Garcons' main line collections anymore to find new pieces to buy. You watch it to feel awe. Rei Kawakubo has been slowly emerging as something more akin to a conceptual artist than a conceptual fashion designers, at least in her womenswear collections. Of course the dozens of other subdivisions she designs weld tons of clothes that you can’t wait to get your hands on: CdG Homme, CdG shirt, CdG black, etc.. But all those brands financially support the pure creations that Kawakubo devises for her Comme des Garcons show. Of all her artistically grandiose recent collections, from the red blood soaked and Sunn O)))-soundtracked SS 2015 show to the punk empresses of FW 2016, Kawakubo’s SS 2016 collection might just be her most exquisite yet.

The hulking sculptures in the collection beg countless meanings. Sarah Mower noted the girth of the stomach linings as potentially being a comment on being a woman (“pregnant with meaning,” she put it) or perhaps simply examining Kawakubo’s contributions to the medium and examining where to go from here with it. But I don’t really care about attaching any meaning to her work. Like all great art, Kawakubo’s work begs personal projection on the part of the viewer. When necessary, I prefer to lay back, shut my brain off, and bask in the glow of pure creation.

Off-White Spring-Summer 2017

While its clearly a beloved label, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White often feels like its critical praise is dimmed under the considerable glow of contemporaries like Matthew Williams, Demna Gvasalia, and Glenn Maartens. I will continue to challenge this notion, because Virgil’s vision is just as succinct and unique as his friends and collaborators. Off-White’s SS 20177 collection explored the conflicted notion of the modern business woman. Of course, that left the door wide open.

Abloh envisioned these women in everything from jeans (made with Levi’s Made and Crafted) to pants suits, track suits to stunningly draped evening gowns. But Abloh’s real trick is the sell. This collection could easily look like two separate collections from two very different designers. But Abloh’s nonchalant approach to presentation, complete with a new wave soundtrack and Frank Ocean finale, felt exceedingly modern and customer aware. For the Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid types, this is who they are. They can go out in the day with a hoodie and bootie shorts and wear a Versace gown later that night and still look scarily hot in both the photos. Abloh, a rapid pop culture and art consumer, also employed some Mondrian colors in both tie-dye pants and a color blocked patchwork sweater. He loves aesthetics, and has the ability to make his very Tumblr-fried diverse tastes work for a high fashion pack. I just wish he’d start showing in New York. No designers gets the tastes of young New Yorkers better than Abloh.


Rick Owens Spring-Summer 2017

A beautifully pained Nina Simone soundtrack. An ethereally industrial Palais de Tokyo setting. Shapes, cuts and drapes that you’ve never seen before. An evocative and theatrical mood that most designers could only dream of achieving. Voila: another incredible Rick Owens show.

I’m almost sick of including Rick Owens on every Paris round-up and near purposefully left him off this one (perhaps to shine line on a newer voice like Lutz Huelle, Alyx, or Vejas, or even another brilliant Nicholas Ghesquiere Louis Vuitton outing), but upon second viewing I had to include Rick. He’s the most idiosyncratic fashion designer of my generation. No other fashion designer can make such emotionally gut-wrenching statements while still holding true to his position as a man who needs to sell clothes to survive and keep his business afloat. Like last season, there was lots of the now-signature Rick draping methodology, where mounds of fabric are used to make a perfect wearable garment into something more transportive. The dresses, in a beautiful muted color palette of black, purple, yellow, and white, saw creases folded on top of one another like an ancient sculpture. Towards the end, those dresses came under capes made of loosely weaved yarn, not totally unlike Luke’s clothing choices in the icy beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. Rick has total confidence in his unique conception of beauty and, it’s true, no one else could create this kind of beauty quite like he does.  

[FASHION REVIEW] Paris Fashion Week Round-Up

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

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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.

Rick Owens

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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!

Vetements

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.

Yang Li

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 Yamamoto

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.

Maison Margiela

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.

Dior

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.

Paco Rabanne

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.

Sacai

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.

Louis Vuitton

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

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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.

Loewe

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.

Céline

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.

Haider Ackerman

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.

Miu Miu

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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.

Saint Laurent

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