Kaiser Karl Lagerfeld arriving at Dior Homme
It's kind of hard to write right now. My housemates are hosting a rowdy and unbelievably stinky fondue party downstairs (those French love their cheese), but I'll do the best I can. Every fashion week has its big show. That one show that everybody wants to see, that everybody tries to see, but only the exclusive few actually do see. Milan has Prada, New York has Marc Jacobs, Paris has Christian Dior. Dior Homme for menswear. It's a show I've wanted so badly to see for the past two seasons, but no matter how hard I've tried, I've never succeeded in getting in. Today was the day. It just felt different. Plus I knew somebody on the inside.
Rough hobos at Miharayasuhiro
The day started once again at Les Beaux Arts in Saint Germain. The show was Miharayasuhiro. This time round the Japanese designer had set out wooden chairs in a zig zag formation to make a sharply contorted catwalk that filled the entire hall. A solo violinist stepped up to the entrance of the runway and began an impressive display of his skills.
...and polished suits, also at Maharayasuhiro
The collection featured a mash up of themes all at odds with each other. The haves and the have nots, the office man and the manual labourer, the prince and the hobo. Lumberjacks, vagrants and stowaways sauntered out in old denim and flannel checks, threadbare jackets and ripped up knitwear; while suits fit for a lawyer, a politician or perhaps a Maharaja emerged in spotless wools in greys and beige, with voluminous pants that seemed to scream, 'I have so much, I don't even know what to do with it all'.
Wrapped and gathered fur coat at Ann Demeulemeester
A short bus ride over the river and we arrived at Ann Demeulemeester. There's always a Victorian, Dickensian, gothic undertone to a Demeulemeester show, and this season the ashen-faced, slow walking models brought to mind Edward Cullen in all his Twilight glory. Black and grey undertaker stripes suggested a funereal procession (no doubt brought on by those pesky vampires), and talismans worn on belts were obviously to ward off evil spirits - or those pesky vampires. There's a real sense of wintery doom and gloom at such a dark show (you can almost imagine the mist rising from the floor), and the gathered and wrapped fur coats were the perfect protection against the chill. All in all it was the best Demeulemeester show I've ever seen, and my favourite collection of hers to date.
Me and Michael Whittaker backstage at Dior Homme
It was time to give Dior Homme another try. I have this theory that the more confident you are, the easier it is to get in - you look like you're supposed to be there. The more scared or hesistant you appear, the more likely you are to be stopped at the gate by security. They're like dogs - they can smell fear. This season I was feeling pretty good. New Zealand model Michael Whittaker was to walk in the show, and he was sure he could get me in. He met me at the gate, introduced me to the security guard and walked me backstage. It was as simple as that. No unnecessary chit chat, no convincing, no dramas. Very Kiwi.
Me and Aaron De Mey backstage at Dior Homme
Speaking of Kiwis, the first person I met backstage was a guy named Aaron De Mey. Aaron is a New Zealander who's been living in New York since he was 21. After teaching himself makeup artistry and doing a hairdressing course at the Servilles Academy in Auckland, Aaron moved overseas and found himself working for famed photographer Bruce Weber within a week of arriving. He was doing the makeup on a fragrance campaign with Weber when he met former Dior Homme designer Hedi Slimane. The pair hit it off and a few months later he invited Aaron back to Paris to work on the shows. He's now not only the head makeup artist at Dior, but Hedi Slimane's go to guy for shoots. Oh and he's also Lancome's international creative director. He'd just arrived in Paris a couple of days ago after shooting a Vogue Paris editorial in Mystique (a private island in the Caribbean) with Kate Moss.
Michael Whittaker dressed and ready to go at Dior Homme
The show was about to start, so I headed out the backstage entrance onto the catwalk. The room was packed. Absolutely teeming with people. Most were looking at a mob of about 20 paparazzos and cameramen flashing lights and shouting on the left side of the runway. I ran over. The Kaiser, Karl Lagerfeld, was being led to his seat, posing for photographs, greeting friends, chatting with bystanders. If you can show me a cooler 76 year old man on the entire planet, I'd be very interested to meet him.
Oversized overcoat and short pants at Dior Homme
I found a seat on the second row and sat down as the lights dimmed. The past two seasons at Dior Homme have been good, particularly last January's, but thank God I was here for this one. The show was amazing - here was a new proportion in menswear. First up was a series of black oversized overcoats with dropped shoulders, paired with skinny, super-short black pants and black lace up ankle boots. Then boxy beige suits in heavy flannel, but with jackets that started out normal-length at the back, and came down to knee-length points at the front. Still with the drop shoulders, still with the short pants, but the skinny was becoming slightly more voluminous. The jackets got bigger, but it was all so perfectly balanced that it never looked too much. I'm convinced that this will go down in history as one of those collections that changed the face of menswear. If Kris Van Assche has gotten it right, this time next year we'll all be wearing our boxy suits under oversized coats with short pants. Time will tell.
Matvey Lykov backstage at Raf Simons
Last show of the day was Raf Simons, Michael Whittaker's second of the day. I arrived early and went straight backstage to watch the action unfold - the hair, the makeup, the catwalk rehearsals, the backstage photographers getting in the way while the dressers tried to get the models into first looks, the makeup touch ups, the outfit tweaking, the lineup, the countdown.
Raf Simons (in Comme Play sweater) putting finishing touches on an outfit
Like Dior Homme, I left the backstage moments before the show started and found a place to stand next to fellow New Zealander (and Zambesi Man designer/buyer) Dayne Johnston. If last season's Raf Simons collection was a journey into luxury suiting with a conservative twist, this season was all about the body. Buttons and velcro strips adorned every piece, allowing the garments to be pulled and stretched around the body to achieve figure hugging contours or stretched out exaggerated shapes. Knitwear was key to the show, with lambswool wraparound skirts (yes, skirts) over long, tight woolen tops, and the long layering so common this season appeared in sweaters underneath suit jackets. Last season seemed to be all about looking back, and this season couldn't have been more progressive. The final look featured a plastic parka, velcroed and shaped to achieve a jacket that wouldn't have looked out of place on a spaceship.
All in all, a very good day.
Catwalk photos: GQ and The Fashionisto.
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