It should be no surprise that if you want me to remember what I did last week, then show me what I was wearing. Most people line up their memories to an event by datebook, pictures or places but if you want me to better recall what I was doing a certain day then tell me what I was wearing. Clothes are like wearable timestamps that help create the memory and in my case, when you love clothing like I do, there is no memory without factoring in the ensemble. So I often go back in my closet, since I rarely ditch any clothing, and that trip to an arena in Jersey, first walk through the feast of San Gennaro or fudge-imbibing at Oktoberfest at Bear Mountain comes to mind again in the folds of wool worsteds and Sea Island cottons. It's often then that I realize, your clothing completes the story.
There was no clear unified story from the Paris Mens Fall 2013 shows that ended a couple days ago but one thing is clear. Designers definitely sought to offer a variety of clothing to create stories, and in many cases, dominate the plot. The broader outlook though is a diverse round of collections that offer a wide range of clothing for the various lifestyles, activities and eccentricities of the modern man.
Kim Jones is a master at adding an active and sporty air to luxurious clothing without making it seem too casual. The collection he showed for Louis Vuitton was all about making tailoring seem as soft and comfortable as casual clothing. Jones' mission with his sherpa hiking details on cozy down vests worn over suits, remixed plush parkas in velvets and pile fabrics all make a case for tailoring and luxury to become more approachable. Issey Miyake took a ride into the future with a forward collection of new takes on his ideals of pleating. His collection with asymmetrical pleats, color-blocked slices and fabrics from vinyls to metallics explored new shapes and finishes like a suit that was painted right over the lapel that when moved created a sliced and skewed shadowy abstract effect. Rick Owens and Balmain took rides to the Far East. Owens showed a collection of pared down kimono ideas in pony, techie, velvet-like and shearling fabrics that had a strong futuristic air hinting at Japanese garb crossed with more progressive moon travel imagery then 'Goth-ed' up in beautiful showy Rick Owens revelry. Rousteing showed breathtaking collection for Balmain that had subtle Japanese and Asian themes combined with the classic silhouettes of the house like moto jackets and biker pants. The love affair with military continued this season with a fusing with biker themes in leather jackets and tailored suit jackets. The sublime leather obis on top of textural ornate leather kimono jackets and the pared down Mao jackets showcased a nice mesh of Eastern and Western and the chunky heavy textured wools and puffer quilt pullovers brought to mind a modernized Samurai's armor.
The whimsical and the themed also came to life on the Paris stage. Walter Van Beirendonck channeled Bowie and bespoke with a collection that was both glittery with lame-toned fabrics and tailored with theatrical beading atop suits in fun Ziggy Stardust homage. Commes des Garçons took a wild ride into the innocence of youth. There were bright colors, print mixing and textures like geometric terries and wallpaper pattern fabrics and the models donning Mickey Mouse and rabbit ear hats that had a cheeky childish naivete sort of like a 'child dressing up like dad, but dad was a complete eccentric'.
There were certain designers whose collections made a strong appeal to a seasoned youthdom. Kris Van Assche merged his youthdom with tailoring sensibilities in the form of morphed sweatshirt designs with jackets and dress shirts on top of track pants and some pretty cool trainers. The sliced morphing took more strides with abbreviated cable knits and multi horizontally pieced sweaters that were all fresh looking and wearable. Paul & Joe offered cool clothing perhaps for the mid-century trapper's son with plaid mixing, fur collars and fresh color paired with a fuller pant, trim solid-plaid mashed-up button ups and country caps in classic menswear fabrics. 'The collegiate frump with nice pieces in his closet who pretty much wears what he wants and it turns out to be cohesive for some reason or another' was the mood at Sacai. Nubbly textures, cool paisley prints, funky plaids and windowpanes shown on duffel coats, wool puffers in ivy league colors, varsity style jackets and awkwardly cuffed trousers all created a disjointed cool.
Marching on with clothing carrying youthful verve was McQ Alexander McQueen that was a refined punky party with pixilated collages of different sizes printed onto bombers, shirts and pants that were cool and modern. Raf Simons' connection to youth is always evident in his collections. In true Raf fashion his collection infused youthdom by breaking rules with unorthodox layering and offering a young spunky energy. This energy was further conveyed through sweaters with fun graphic prints, horizontal knit sweaters and the textural repetitive weaves on overcoats with elongated belted necks. The pulse Raf rides on is just too cool.
Paris also wouldn't be Paris without the designers who shake up the Paris skyline. Maison Martin Margiela showed multi-layered tailored clothing highlighted by slight color variances of the same hue and familiar elements with a bit of cheekiness thrown in. The twists from the house of Margiela are always cool with that 'look twice factor', my favorite being an oversize motorcycle jacket poncho. Where Bill Gaytten went at John Galliano kind of tinged on an avant Charlie Chaplin meets abstract art with windowpanes prints, neon colors and colorful graphic all-over prints on full oversized shapes.
I'm so very glad the twins of Viktor & Rolf know how to have distinguished fun. The suiting and shirts with boots and eyeglass graphics were genius and whimsical while remaining utterly wearable. The textural striated wovens for outerwear and suits looked cool and the trim piped suits were great new offerings of a sweet Paris with a modern edge. I'm also very glad that everything in Alexis Mabille's collection was also cute and wearable. His 'I Love Bows' sweatshirts were too cool and looked appropriately cheeky when worn over dress shirts that have bedecked collars and paired with patterned tailored trousers, stylized Western style button downs and pristine velvet suits. Jean Paul Gaultier puts the cheeks in cheeky. He showed a collection of pieces for a fashionable man in touch with his vampy side. Topcoats with one half being a biker jacket, suits with jackets that had all-over riveted sleeves, jackets with kilted skirts that zip off, pull-over jersey blazers and unorthodox layering like cable sweaters over pristine tailoring were all right up Gaultier's 'tongue in cheek' alley. The models at Dries Van Noten sauntered out conflicted and romantic, draped and cozy. Oh Dries, Dries, Dries!! I love what he does!!! You almost don't want to wear jeans anymore after seeing this collection. How can you not want the large paisley prints, micro pajama print and nubbly 'wear outside the house' robes, dressing and smoking jackets. It was casual feeling laid back clothing made elegant by strong bold print and texture that created a dreamy depth. The quiltings on top of the great tapestry patterns were so elegant, easy and deep. In Paris, it's clear that the story told here is always one of the best.
*My coverage of the Paris Mens Collections will be in two parts.
*All photos courtesy of Style.com.