I flew into Paris on the evening EasyJet flight, accompanied by a herd of street style photographers, the English indie mag attache, and about 60 male models who took great joy in running up and down the aisles while the flight was in motion, swapping battle stories and taking swigs from beer bottles the older ones had purchased on-board. And for those of you rolling your eyes at the gilded lives of those lucky enough to be born thin, poreless, and high-cheek-boned, it must be noted that most were taxiing directly from the airport to fittings which lasted well into the night, before waking up for 5:00am call times. In the meantime, some of us took the opportunity to catch up on some zzzs. Now, on to the shows.
First up was Carven, a sixty-something-year-old French house that's been generating a lot of buzz for its quirky, colorful, and well-priced men's-wear. For SS14, designer Guillaume Henry took his inspiration from the colors of Southern France. Think marigold and azure, periwinkle and hay — the same hues that once entranced myriad artists, but perhaps none so expressively as Van Gogh. No small wonder they're the types of clothes you could imagine Vincent rolling around in were he alive today — exaggeratedly textured, endlessly paintable. Highlights included the brand's take on seersucker, manifested in an off-kilter intersection of blue lines on a pair of white pants; bright short-sleeve shirts with oversize collars and zipped plackets; the somehow glorious union of leather sandals and socks; and that signature Carven detail of an elongated center vent on jackets, which serves the dual purpose of being aesthetically pleasing and keeping some air circulation going. This is a label that should be at the top of all your watch lists. If Henry continues in this vein, expect very big things.
One thing's for sure: It's hard to beat Paris when it comes to impressive venues. Valentino showed at the Hotel Salomon de Rothschild, the former abode of the banking magnate. Dual stone staircases lead up to a generously proportioned foyer, and at the top of another curved set came the richly decorated salons, lit by chandeliers. The soundtrack featured a violin concerto version of Pink Floyd's "Education," and suggested that designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli were turning the rarefied world of luxury men's-wear on its head. What do guys wear? Uniforms. Some by necessity, others by choice. The show opened with denim suits; morphed into designer army fatigues; transitioned into camo, plain white tees, and the sturdy khaki drill usually reserved for postmen and garbage collectors (though you ain't never seen it cut like this); and finished with a healthy dose of proper eveningwear. A full spectrum of uniform options for men in every possible scenario. That casual take on the suit was particularly apt. We're living in an increasingly ruleless world, so why not give guys formal options made from the same stuff as the garments they'd live in if they were able: jeans and khakis? I know what I'd rather wear.
Raf Simons SS14
Raf Simons took us on a joyride a good 45 minutes out of the city center and all the way over to the Gagosian Gallery near Charles de Gaulle airport. After that long trek it made sense that he'd kick things off with a bang. Never one to disappoint, Mr. Simons started with a short-sleeve, mid-thigh-length, collared, buttoned… dress? On closer inspection it was actually a cleverly concealed romper, but any gent walking down the street in that thing would be erring dangerously on the side of cross-dressing.
What followed was a camp collection of color-blocked shirts, Fifth Element-esque space sneakers, and Pop Art-inspired tees emblazoned with made-up brand names like Yo-Ga and Clusters Super Nylon. Let's break it down: Clothing is the packaging we humans use to brand ourselves, so it follows that at some point we'll just end up advertising ourselves quite literally on our sleeves. Or, like, something along those lines, right?
If you take away the more extreme garments, you're left with pure Raf Simons gems — smart blazers with short lapels and three closely spaced buttons, elongated polo shirts, crazy but collectible sneakers, out-there printed shirts, and graphic tees that will no doubt be among the most coveted designer items of next summer.
Funnily enough, towards the end of the show he sent out a bottle green version of the opening romper that was belted low at the waist, and it managed to look pretty damn masculine, which proves that anything can become normal the more you see it. That's what I call inception at its best.
This post originally appeared on Esquire.com.
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