Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I'd just walked into the Paul Smith show and was about to go backstage to snap some shots when the man himself popped out. I pulled out my camera and he happily posed for me.
Nothing like a bit of good old fashioned British friendliness to lift the spirits after six weeks in Paris.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I've never seen a team so at ease prior to a major show as Lanvin's Creative Director Alber Elbaz and Menswear designer Lucas Ossendrijver. The pair breezed into the venue at 8:30am, Starbucks in tow, and were so confident with everything going smoothly that neither left the front of house until 30 seconds before the show began. "It's the first time we're not backstage!" said Elbaz as he greeted guests, posed for photographs and took interviews. His secret? That age old curer of all ails, a good laugh. "In times like today when everything goes sour, when everything is hard, maybe what we're looking for is something to lift us up a little bit, you know, a sense of humour," said Elbaz. "We're looking for something to cheer us up, and you get a choice: Tylenol, or a Lanvin suit. Good psychiatrist or a coat!"
And trust me, after seeing this collection even the most depressed will take the coat.
A foreboding soundtrack of strings (Vivaldi I believe) set the scene for the most climactic offering of the Paris Autumn/Winter collections. Lanvin's typical softness was given an injection of traditional masculinity as military inspired looks stormed the runway. Trenches were belted high and tight, and pants tucked into tall boots with thick socks; gotta keep those feet dry on a long march. This was Lanvin's war against the slump, led by Alber's Army.
Set in a school, there was something of the collegiate uniform too; maroon, grey, green, navy and beige dominated, but with the Lanvin touch - my high school bottle green blazer didn't hold a candle to the rich, inky hues seen here. These colours were so rich as to be almost decadent, but like Elbaz said, maybe a suit is what you need right now to cheer the heart.
Speaking of suits, I'm not sure that I saw one in its entirety. Ossendrijver is known to prefer slightly mismatched jackets and pants, and there were plenty of those. Juxtapositions were evident throughout - slim, tailored jackets were paired with the silkiest full, flowing pants, and coats with tight waists flared towards the ground.
And then the music changed. From suspenseful and dramatic to an upbeat Bacharach-esque love song. Out came a smiling, waving Barack Obama (pictured above), complete with navy overcoat and American flag pin on his lapel. If Alber Elbaz gets tired of leading the war against the downturn he can think of one man who'll keep a smile on our faces.
If writing doesn't work out, I reckon I could make a go of paparazzi photography. While waiting outside Dior Homme yesterday (they refused me entry on the basis that New Zealand isn't a growth area – I wonder what John Key would have to say about that?), the first Hummer SUV I've seen since being in Paris pulled up. Out jumped Karl Lagerfeld. Out sprang my camera...
A moment later the Kanyemobile rolled up.
And, finally, the reasons for my standing outside.
I'd love to be snide and sour grapesy about not seeing the show, but after looking through the photos on men.style.com I'll stick to being gutted. Despite what I thought was a largely lacklustre Kris Van Assche show on Friday afternoon, his Dior Homme collection was easily the greatest he's done thus far with the brand, and I'd go so far as to say (though probably not in the presence of most Dior lovers), that it neared Slimane-era heights of cool.
Van Assche's strength is always in the shoes, and the highly polished black lace-up or strapped desert boots in the show shone when paired with his signature voluminous (though not so much as usual) Hammer-pants.
The collection's one moment of confusion came for me when the Katherine Hamnett-esque slogan tees came out, proclaiming RAISE YOUR VOICE LOUDER LOUDER LOUDER. They first appeared on a black model, so perhaps Van Assche was making a belated statement about Barack Obama, one that would have presumably been better and more powerfully made before the election? Beats me, but after talking to other attendees post-show it seems I wasn't the only one scratching my head.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Over the course of four 12 hour days at the Paris menswear shows, I learnt something. If there's tomfoolery going on backstage, Ash Stymest is the guy behind it. Wherever there's a camera he'll be performing for it, whenever there's a rule he'll be breaking it. Whenever I was backstage and he was around I kept my camera firmly focused in his direction.
These are the results.