THE FRENCH MODERNISM EMBODIED IN THE FALL/WINTER CLOTHING TRANSGRESSES THE BOUNDARIES OF BOTH COLOR AND CUT
Paris’ winter chill beckoned wide- eyed fashion week enthusiasts to don their warmest outerwear as they arrived in the French capital for the world’s most anticipated runway shows. With such an illustrious bevy of big names participating, it’s never an easy task to choose which show to go to, let alone nail an invite—if you haven’t already gotten your name in the game. That aside, the season is brimming with creative and sharp tailoring, and a welcome shift in color spectrum to one that adopts many shades of grey (perhaps the infamous novel was a hit in France too?) The creativity is most profoundly manifested through an apparently curious urge to deconstruct men’s sartorial elegance, making it less about obeying traditional rules and more about displaying taste through a fusion of unregulated styles. The spirit of deconstruction also departs from (though only fleetingly) the trademark color of black, more interestingly opting for a variety of rich, deep dark tones seen sashaying along the catwalks.
Of them all, designer Kris van Assche truly shines this season, be it in his work for Dior Homme or in his own label Krisvanassche that is currently entering its second year. The former epitomizes the progressive direction of fashion favoring the youth, with formal blue navy suits conveying a rebellious streak through non- conventional patterns: pinstriped lines in varying sizes, lily of the valley or polka dots. Assche’s eponymous brand fosters a similar edge: sleeveless wool or leather tops worn over a suit and untucked shirt. The ensemble gives a decidedly new, smart extension to a dull office look rather than reverting to the well-trodden preppy vibe.
For extreme style deconstruction, it is Yohji Yamamoto who finds the optimal balance in both layering and silhouettes. At first glance, the fall/ winter collection may appear an overbearing feast of loud patterns: a skull-and-leaf-printed suit over a pinstriped white shirt and a metallic polka- dot tie; or striped knitwear swaddled in a dark camouflaged biker jacket sporting long zipped- open cuts on the back of the arms. But each look not only manages to carry a natural swagger, but also completely rewrites the rulebook on mixing patterns. Some of the suits also bear long cuts at the back of the torso, which cleverly add room for body movement while showing a satisfying glimpse of the shirt motif beneath.
Yet despite the omnipresence of grey in designers’ collections, black remains a formidable force, particularly in the sartorial offerings of two French fashion houses. Givenchy is all about basketball this fall/winter, with basketball court markings replicated onto black sweaters and trousers. Even on a sharply tailored black long coat, Riccardo Tisci audaciously inserts a splash of beige and orange—an allusion to the court—that visually imbues a spirit of dynamism and movement. On Hermès’ runway, black is also the subject in question. While the catwalk displays immaculately cut black suits for several of the first looks, many outfits that follow are agreeably deep
and dark in color, but importantly not in true black. Véronique Nichanian calls her “deconstructed” black hue faux noir or fake black.
Yet the idea of deconstruction can permeate more than just cuts, colors and silhouettes. In spite of its stature as the oldest running couturier in Paris, Lanvin dares to reinvent the brand’s trademark approach to elegance by adopting a sartorially debonair punk attitude for the fall/winter ’14. Taking place on a windy Sunday morning at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the house’s show opens with an all-black ensemble: a beautifully cut long coat, understated shoes and a versatile dark green leather bag. Outerwear of various kinds such as jackets, trench and fur coats are styled to perfection—the shoulder cuts, fabric choices (punk can look so expensive!) and fitted silhouettes—and paired with highly covetable sneakers. Yes, Lanvin is the longest-standing fashion house in Paris, but there is nothing old about its catwalk performances.
Also exhibiting a renewed brand identity is Saint Laurent under the helm of Hedi Slimane. Championing a rock star persona, a slim black leather jacket is paired with Yves Saint Laurent’s signature ruffled dress shirt— creating a look that manages to be simultaneously dramatic and nonchalant. References to music are much more literal in Paul Smith’s fall/winter collection that showcases knitwear emblazoned with musical notes. The shoes exhibited are also noteworthy, cast in an eye- catching greenblue metallic finish.
For Louis Vuitton, not only metallic touches but also bright lines are employed to complement the typical somber colors of the fall/winter pieces. With the Inca site of Machu Picchu serving as a primary inspiration, stripes and vivid purple lines accent grey-toned coats, while a metallic tube bag adds a cosmic edge to an otherwise earthy brown ensemble. Louder and brighter fall/winter separates are seen on the runway of the energetic and forever-young Kenzo. But for suave and sophisticated elegance, and less of a focus on “deconstructed” styling, Valentino and Berluti—two French brands with Italian founders—are definitely not to be missed.
Yohji Yamamoto's skull-printed suit opposite page Dior homme's signature suit for the season
Berluti's elegant ensemble; Valentino's stylish suit paired with striped sweater opposite page Givenchy's long black coat with a brushed accent