Paris pulse: what the cool guy next door must wear next summer

Chinese designer Sean Suen and Japan’s Junya Watanabe’s urban everyday looks contrasted with the party-hard bling offerings from Rei Kawakubo as major houses roll out their kitsch vs normcore, 1950s vs ’80s menswear collections

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2017, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 6:01pm

After London and Milan, it was Paris’ turn to showcase the latest men’s spring/summer 2018 collections and style face-offs such as “kitsch vs normcore” and “’50s vs ’80s” were predominant over five days. Here are some menswear must-haves for next summer:

Kitsch was king in Milan – Dolce & Gabbana’s love-themed catwalk setting and heavily embellished dolce vita menswear. In Paris, Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garcons Homme Plus show took kitsch to another level.

Known for her intellectual take on fashion, Kawakubo’s collections were all about disco and party-hard bling. Her sequin-covered models danced on stage wearing 1980s-flavoured menswear with an edgy spin and disco wigs.

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Kris Van Assche offered his take on kitsch for next summer while celebrating his 10th year at the creative helm of Dior Homme. There was a dreamy and youthful “coming-of-age” spirit to his collection, that switched between late ’80s-inspired evening wear and athleisure-flavoured pieces and accessories.

Standouts were Van Assche’s too-cool-for-school basketball shirts with a reversed “Paris” print; the “Christian Dior Atelier” printed tuxedo; the wide-legged, sporty suit trousers; and photo-printed bomber jackets.

The fashion industry has for the past few seasons been mimicking and appropriating lower-middle-class aesthetics and subcultures in an apparent rejection of elitism. This has translated into a style that has become distinctive by being indistinctive – “normcore”.

But why is an industry that tugs at the purse strings of a select wealthy few so obsessed with the so-called “ordinary people”? In Paris, Demna Gvasalia had the answer: because it sells.

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The founder of Vetements and creative director of Balenciaga, Gvasalia has even designed Balenciaga-branded bicycles this season. These are already being sold at exorbitant prices in Paris’ much-hyped concept store Colette. Balenciaga’s latest collection featured rugby and polo shirts; slouchy granddad jackets and parkas; shorts, work pants and jeans; and supermarket-style flat leather bags.

But Gvasalia was not the only one to aim at the guy next door: Chinese designer Sean Suen and Japanese designer Junya Watanabe also tapped the trend. The latter collaborated with Levi’s and Carhartt and offered a new spin on urban-flavoured outerwear and work wear. His men’s staple pieces included regular T-shirts and collared shirts, wide-cut trousers and functional jackets, vests and coats, as well as sporty accessories and footwear.

Sean Suen offered a slightly romantic and grown-up menswear collection with clean cuts and lines in tonal colours.

Elsewhere, it wasn’t about fashionable kitsch or day-to-day normcore clothing, but about a ’50s and 80s face-off – a true clash of the decades. Designers in Paris were nostalgic and reinterpreted style decades of the past.

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Celebrating the late ’50s with an ’80s postmodernist twist – and more specifically the sexy librarian and reporter look – Dries Van Noten showcased his men’s offering at the former offices of the French daily newspaper Libération. The Belgian offered one of his most subdued collections, contrasting with his signature opulent colourings, patterns and embellishments and featuring functional and desirable ready-to-wear that combined matt and glossy treatments with fluid and structured cuts.

Straight from the ’50s, the Hawaiian shirt was everywhere this season. Prada started the trend in Milan and Louis Vuitton continued in Paris with many ’80s-inspired surf culture references.

The tropical-flavoured shirt was a particularly recurrent element of Louis Vuitton’s rejuvenated look and it came in lush and warm colours. The most desirable version came in organza with a bloom and black lilies print, paired with cotton workwear trousers, an oversized leather raincoat and a “Monogram Pacific” iPhone bag, as well as slick aluminium sunglasses and clogs.