Paris Menswear, a digital engagement with fine art, dance and nostalgia
There’s been much about the marriage of fashion and fine art at the Paris Fashion Week Menswear, the first purely online season in the history of menswear. Fashion is ultimately an applied art, but its distance from fine art has rarely looked shorter than in this series of digital presentations.
Consider Berluti, whose contribution to the season was an insightful Zoom conversation between its designer Kris Van Assche and the ceramic artist Brian Rochefort, focused on the power and influence of color; and how the French brand employed artist Rochefort’s artistic hues in its spring summer collection. Showing images of Rochefort’s dramatic bowls and sculpture; as he narrated how he gets the maximum effect from any pigment by trying dozens of glazes and textures.
“That totally relates to what we do with patina. A brown is never going to just be a brown but an accumulation of 25 shades of brown,” notes Van Assche.
Rochefort’s globular sculptures look like futurist alien organs with lunar textures; volcanic eruptions or cylindrical vessels completed in crackled Technicolor rocks. Which Van Assche skillfully incorporates into the most beautiful shirts of the Paris season. Even fusing the artist’s cracked finishes into a new Berluti shoe.
Van Assche’s first collaboration since joining Berluti two years ago, the results looked splendid with the new languid suit that Kris has made his signature at the house.
“I think the art audiences needs some cheering up in these times. People are inundated with all sort of crazy information form social media. Sometimes it’s best to just tune out a little and enjoy the celebration of color and excitement in art works, rather than the depressing concept behind come contemporary art,” concludes Rochefort.
Issey Miyake’s choice of artist was a trio of dancers, who pirouetted around in some great Homme Plissé deconstructed jackets; drawstring pants; and shorts in some dazzling combinations of salamander orange; ultraviolet orchid; amethyst and streaky anthracite. The sheer exuberance of the dancers underlying the malleability and ease of the collection with the season’s best color palette. No wonder they named it Meet Your New Self. Breezily written and directed by Japanese actor Yusuke Kobayashi it ended with a whole host of characters wearing the clothes in multiple locations worldwide.
Few designers have dressed as many artists as Japanese master Yohji Yamamoto, who concentrated on actually showing his latest collection, even printing fabric mixes besides looks in his dark video. Moody melancholic music for his posh militarism and divinely embroidered Tencel, triacetate and polyester coats all finished oval-shaped buttons with all-seeing eyes. And, of course, a great mordant version of walking blues. Yohji can still cut like surgeon, and when the mood takes him, strum like Neil Young.
Rick Owens took the simplest option, but sometimes they are the best. Just a couple of parallel camera views of him in the midst of a series of fittings with the same sculpted-bod, blond male model; with white noise and industrial sounds churning as background. Social distancing fittings for the summer of 2020. Hard to tell much about the clothes, but the pair clearly enjoyed each other’s company.
Cool T.M, the indie French label, took the novel approach of sending senior editors 3D viewers, into which one inserted one’s mobile phone, in order to mimic a virtual reality experience of their collection – sort of. On the actual Federation website one got a better view of the tartan mafia shirts; cocktail hour rocker suits; checked cardigans; oversized trenches worn by boys and gals - all shown in a trashy old warehouse. A loosely enforced social-distancing-free zone, which suddenly became a Miami nightclub worthy of Tony Montana.
The big surprise was the posh rock 'n' roll aesthetic of Amiri. From American Iranian designer Mike Amiri, whose blend of retro Steve McQueen glam, Bjorn Borg sportswear and off duty basketball attitude all combined to make a strong statement. His video, Welcome Home, did have a text that was, however, cringeworthy, a never ending series of obsequious compliments from fashionistas and retailers. But the actual look of the city; detailing shots of the collection, looked great, while his voice was smooth as tequila sunrise at sunset on Sunset Boulevard.
Ernest W Baker, which despite its name hails from Portugal, and is designed by Reid Baker and partner Ines Amorim, had the most charming contribution. For their official Paris debut they produced a joyful video with old Super 8 family footage of their ancestor, Ernest W. Baker Jr, who was born in 1926.
“I’ve some wonderful children and great grandchildren. So, life’s been pretty darn good to me,” comments the gent, before we witness a shaggy haired “grandson” parading around a nostalgic coastline in modish suits; Elvis shirts and natty blazers.
Nostalgia was also a recurrent theme at Uniforme, whose founders Hugues Fauchard and Rémi Bats referenced their contrasting youth, one in the scouts – sometimes seen in France as preparatory schools of Catholic conservatism. But which fondly recalled in their video for the sense of “fellowship, peer support, sharing,” and love of uniforms. The actual clothes were nostalgic too, albeit with a 2020 twist, like the coolest pleated white safari shorts worn by a handsome black model.
They named their plaintive video 'Be Prepared.' Ironic, perhaps, since last month saw calls for the removal in Poole, England, of a statue to the scouts’ founder, Robert Baden-Powell for being homophobic and pro-fascist. Baden-Powell’s motto was To Be Prepared.
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