Saturday, June 27, 2009
Me and my mate Usher at Comme des Garcons - he obviously didn't get the memo though; nobody looks at the camera these days
I was eating breakfast with Dayne Johnston and Zippora Seven when I heard the news about Michael Jackson. I was 12 hours behind the rest of the world, I know, but I have limited internet access here in Paris and the whole different language thing doesn't make for the quickest of news gathering. I was terribly upset - just two days ago I was quoting one of his songs! - but it would seem judging from the conversation of the other diners that I was the only one. Like Princess Diana, the Twin Towers or Y2K, I'll always remember where I was when I learned of the King of Pop's death. For the rest of the day every Paris newspaper, TV and radio station blared Michael Jackson news, photos, video and music.
But would it make its way to the Paris Menswear shows?
Models backstage at Rick Owens, seconds before I was removed by an overzealous PR agent
I was too sad to make it to the first two shows of the day - Blaak Homme and Thierry Mugler (well, I missed Blaak Homme due to shoddy time management and Thierry Mugler due to getting lost in a taxi - while singing along to Michael), so first up was Rick Owens. I arrived an hour early with Steve and we made our way past security and into the backstage area with no hitches. I snapped a couple of photos and helped myself to a large juicy slice of watermelon when a PR agent tapped me on the shoulder. "Out please," he said, giving us the classic line, "we're keeping things backstage very tight this season".
A cool, calm, collected and perma-tanned pre-show Rick Owens
I walked out to the catwalk area and ran smack bang into the man himself. I introduced myself as Isaac from New Zealand and asked if I could take a photo. He seemed slightly amused (or bemused?) by me, and consented. Since I had him there, I asked him the question on everybody's lips: "so, Rick, can we expect to hear any Michael Jackson on the soundtrack today?" He smiled and said no. "Not a fan?" I asked. "Oh he was wonderful," he said, "but I never bought an album." He paused. "Actually, there was one song I loved..." He paused again. "Oh, wait, no, that was the Jackson Five." I thanked him and went on my way.
Gareth Pugh front row at Rick Owens
Walter van Beirendonck put twenty clones of himself down the catwalk at the next show, in a collection entitled WonderBear. For those of you who don't know, a 'Bear' is a large, bearded, hairy, muscular gay man. These guys were huge. When he came out for his bow at the end of the show nobody even noticed it was him - until he lingered on the catwalk a moment longer than necessary for even the most posey Bear.
I went straight backstage at Kris Van Assche and was about to take a photograph of the designer, but the poor guy was pacing back and forth looking so nervous that I just didn't have the heart to do it. It made me think - it must be absolutely terrifying putting six month's worth of work out there for ten minutes for all to judge - and Kris Van Assche has to do it all again on Sunday for Dior Homme. I took my seat as the show was about to begin and heard raucous shouting. Protesters were outside screaming about something or other, what exactly, wasn't immediately obvious. Post show I went out and asked someone what all the fuss was about. He told me that the students at the university where the show was being held were complaining about the noise being made by the show. They wanted to study in peace. Riiiiight. Obviously that one made a lot more sense in French than it did in English.
My mum complained about all the obnoxious looking male models, so here's a smiling one just for her - backstage at Kris Van Assche
There's a lot to be said for having low expectations. Most of all, you have nothing to lose, and there's no disappointment when you don't attain the object of your desire. I had no preconceptions walking up to the door at Comme des Garcons - last season I'd wanted it so badly but had no luck whatsoever in getting in, so this time, I figured that even getting an audience with the PR agent would be a huge achievement. I held back for a while, not wanting to crowd them (or get denied in front of the crowd), and I'd all but given up on the idea of even attempting to get in, when Dayne tapped me on the shoulder. "I have a good feeling about this," he said to me. "You should go talk to him." So I did. I introduced myself to the English PR agent and dropped the only name I knew that might help get me in - that of Adam Bryce. "I still haven't met that guy, but I really want to!" The PR agent exclaimed. I started to say who I was and who I worked for but he held up his hand and silenced me. "Give it a rest," he said, "you can both go in". Dayne and I exchanged a glance and walked straight in - we weren't going to argue with that.
Bears at Walter Van Beirendonck
The whole show was a surreal experience. Usher walked in moments before the lights went up and sat front row. Usher at Comme des Garcons?? I don't believe I've ever seen a more incongruous celebrity appearance. The show was Comme at its best - a style I'll call homeless bespoke. Button up coats stitched together with mismatched cloths and clumpy shoes, on a cast of less than 10 models. How they managed to get changed so quickly is beyond me, but there was certainly magic in the air. At one point Australian model (and son of Nick Cave) Jethro Cave walked to the end of the catwalk and pulled up his sleeve to reveal 'RIP SMOOTH CRIMINAL' scrawled in biro. At last! Michael Jackson appears! A moment later Ash Stymest walked out in shorts. He also had words scrawled in biro on his ankle, though I'm not sure that 'I WANK' has quite as much poignance. Must not be the son of a poet.
The new proportion in men's pants - pleated, tapered, cuffed and cropped above the ankle - on the catwalk at Cerruti
Next stop was Cerruti. I sat front row next to David from Dazed and Confused. We spoke at length about the print VS online media debate and whether newspapers were becoming obsolete. Then we exchanged blogs, and I told him I'd put him on my Google Reader. Obviously nobody communicates anymore in this post modern world. The show was short and sharp - more of those pants I can't get enough of, this time paired with desert boots and tailored blazers. I said it yesterday and I'll say it again - come next summer we will all be wearing pleated, cropped and cuffed pants.
Gareth Pugh and friends pre-show at Raf Simons
Final show of the night was Raf Simons. In perfect ring composition Dayne, Zippora and I met up for dinner in Le Marais. Zippora brought a Canadian friend named Megan. We had three invites for the show between the four of us. We assured Megan that we'd get her in. I was prepared for a blagfest of sneaking and dodgy invite pass outs, but when it came down to it there was no need - Dayne knew the guy on the door and none of us were asked for invites. We ended up front row - a far cry from my barge past security last season.
Mark Cox on the catwalk at Raf Simons
The first set of looks were all very traditional tailored suits - no narrow pants, nothing cropped, not a cuff in site. The blazers were a conservative length and cut. It made me think. If an ordinary designer put suits like that down the catwalk I'd dismiss them as boring. But because it's Raf Simons - THE Raf Simons - there must be something more to it. A few looks later some suits with reversed darts came out. Then reversed zips. Then suit jackets with lining sleeves. The Belgian designer seemed to be revealing the inner workings of a man's wardrobe - what goes in to making a man look good. With suits it's all that's on the inside that counts. Raf Simons had put that notion on its head. What does it all mean? I'm not sure I know. These things generally seem to have a habit of revealing themselves at a later date.
I will approach tomorrow with low expectations and high hopes. To quote the late, great Michael Jackson, "When you're down and out, there seems no hope at all. But if you just believe, there's no way we can fall".
I LIKE YOU!