Paris Men's Fashion Week shows there's more to menswear than suits

From Asian influences to rock'n'roll to disco

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 July, 2015, 6:12am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 July, 2015, 6:12am

Who said menswear was only about the so-called "sartorial trinity": tuxedo, shirt and trousers? The latest runway shows in Paris proved that there is far more to expect from the upcoming spring-summer 2016 season than semi-formal dress codes. In fact, menswear turned its gaze to East Asia - with a stopover in Seattle - before stepping into a time machine and propelling us back to the night fever of the 1970s.

Eastern charms

Forget about the Wild, Wild West: this season, inspiration has moved away from California's shores and turned its attention to East Asia. Chinoiseries - the French expression that stands for Asian-inspired patterns - were not to be missed this season. While Thom Browne dressed his models as geishas, paying homage to (or, as others might put it, appropriating) traditional Japanese folklore and craftsmanship, Kim Jones' latest outing for Louis Vuitton, titled "World Clique", was all about expressing a spirit of unity between East and West - think Western tailoring revisited with the charms of Southeast Asia. Thai-inspired silk embroidery on trackpants and flight jackets crafted from Japanese Kobe leather echoed this trend. Berluti's Alessandro Sartori, for his part, provided an eye-catching tailoring that was inspired by Le Corbusier's '60s modernist architecture in Asia. He introduced kimono cuts on sleeves, which allowed more movement while stripping away the outfits from all internal constructions to emphasise the lightness.

The other end of the weight spectrum was well represented. The heavily-adorned souvenir jacket was seen on the Parisian runways as well. Valentino, in particular, excelled at it, with the collection's glossy luxe college jackets.

Celebrity skin

It wasn't all about the menswear, though, as Naomi Campbell and her top model posse walked down the runway in the latest Givenchy Couture. The ladies used their celebrity factor to steal the show this season. Similarly, Ricardo Tisci's menswear might have been overshadowed by his star-studded model casting, but it was still worth watching. His sharp sportswear-infused tailoring came with a high dose of testosterone.

At Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane went for another kind of adoration by paying homage to Seattle grunge, while keeping his Cali-flavoured attitude - think Kurt Cobain, if he was a surfer bro instead of a brooding loner. Valentino's Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli chose a cello medley of Nirvana's greatest hits as their show soundtrack. However, there was nothing grunge about their silhouettes, which were preppy and clean, the opposite of what one would expect from a Smells Like Teen Spirit-type of atmosphere.

Dries Van Noten cited another icon, namely Elsa Schiaparelli, whose lobster dress was the starting point for his iridescent motifs on easy-fit and tailored outfits. This adornment was followed by further embellishments inspired by Salvador Dali, including lips, beetles, eyes, doves - oh, the joys of surrealism.

Inspiration has moved away from California's shores and turned its attention to East Asia

Le Freak, c'est chic

Crisis in Europe? Not when it comes to partying. This season, Lanvin, Y/Project and Louis Vuitton celebrated the '70s and '80s. In fact, it was not only the outstanding fashion of this era that was celebrated, but also its one of a kind festive atmosphere. Vuitton's "World Clique", for example, had Nile Rodgers set a festive tone with his '80s flavoured soundtrack.

Glenn Martens, for his part, made a sartorial statement through graphic shapes, bias-cuts and reinterpreted pinstripe outfits. In fact, ever since Martens reinvigorated the brand of the defunct Yohan Serfaty almost three years ago, he's managed to set an of-the-moment tone dedicated to youth culture in all its forms. In this sense, the "Y" of the brand name is more likely to stand for Generation Y.

Less freaky and definitely more chic, Lanvin's Lucas Ossendrijver closed Paris Menswear Week by paying a tribute to David Bowie and the New Wave era - think sharp outerwear playing with exaggerated shapes such as voluminous electric blue suits with round shoulders and high-waisted trousers.

Welcome to the boot camp

Balmain and Umit Benan showed off this season's penchant for utilitarian tailoring in the form of desert- and safari-flavoured hues and patterns, but it was Kenzo and Danish designer Henrik Vibskov who brought this trend to a new level. Vibskov drew inspiration from the Tunisian desert landscapes, playing with ideas of extreme survival conditions. His North African-inspired style was reflected through set designs and his many Arab-inspired silhouettes such as oversized kaftans, high-waisted bermudas and flared harem pants.

Kenzo's Carol Lim and Humberto Leon appeared on the show via parachutes, swapping their trendy citywear for a utilitarian men's collection. Lim and Leon's aim was to infuse functionality into menswear staples by using fabrics with water-repellent cottons, bonded jerseys, and 3D knits structured with ripcords and pull lacings. The prints emphasised this stellar and exotic journey to the unknown, featuring rippled sand and cactus patterns, as well as lunar maps. An ode to "the exploration of the deserted", as the designer-duo told the crowd.