Paris Menswear Thursday: Louis Vuitton and Rick Owens
Paris will always be a city of radically contrasting ideas in fashion. Like this Thursday, where luxury brand Louis Vuitton blended French romanticism with hip hop, as California-born Rick Owens sought inspiration from Ancient Egypt.
Louis Vuitton: Fields of dreams
A score of Louis Vuitton, Tuscan-style flag wavers opened the brand’s latest menswear show, joined by the Florida A&M Marching 100 band, playing on an enormous “magnified playground,” within the Cour Carrée of the Louvre.
Making for brilliant pictures and endless social media posts for a line that is now fundamentally as much an Instagram phenomena as a fashion statement. Not a bad thing at all, even if every single look almost fought each other for attention.
What is also clear is that the authority of collection’s former creative director, the late Virgil Abloh, remains pre-eminent at LV Menswear. Vuitton CEO Michael Burke’s remark that the DNA of Virgil Abloh could be found in his iPhone and WhatsApp thoughts with his team has turned out to be highly prescient.
LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault – Vuitton’s patron – has always loved a big show, and this was pretty humongous. With a twisting yellow runway the size of a parking garage ramp that rose up to the third floor windows of the Louvre, before swooping down to its western wing.
Once the band had exited, the music was a blend of hip-hop and free jazz legend Sun Ra, and judging from the front row, hip-hop fans are the key clientele of the collection. Even if the clothes were leavened with the balm of French romanticism, with a brilliant final quartet of suits and coats, made in field-flower prints and embroideries – from thistles and dense summer prairie flowers.
That said, most pants were cut extra-large and made in monogram prints; and seen with oversized shearling work jackets with mesh sleeves, hyper embroidered with LV emblems.
Multi-pocket biker leather Vuitton jackets worn with ragged shorts; and in a great touch, rusty below-the-knee logo shorts over construction boots. All finished with a mustard blazer and silk shirt topped by an origami hat. The brightest of construction worker jackets or warehouse jumpsuits, but with everything given a luxurious twist. Endless rainbow monogram denim; or crocheted monogram flowers.
Testifying to the power of Vuitton, its front row included Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, J Balvin, Omar Sy, Naomi Campbell, Edgar Ramirez, Samuel Umtiti, Joel Edgerton, Russell Westbrook, Victor Cruz, Headie One, Dan Carter, Shai Alexander and Lucas Jagger.
Added into the mix a natty quotient of tailoring - wool gabardine coats and jackets in violet or periwinkle blue – for award-winning moments. Too much is never enough at Vuitton menswear these days – all the way to the faux supermarket sandwich wrap clutches for guys.
Much of the fabrics in the collection made from overstock, “created to de-programme (sic) our minds from images of obsolescence that lead to overload, overproduction and waste,” read the show program.
Virgil’s influence extended to the format of a collection notebook with its detailed explanations of soundtrack, influence and ideology. No bad thing, as this was a powerful, punchy fashion statement. Showing how much his influence lives on at LV.
Rick Owens: Rameses 'n' Roll
Rick Owens has been searching further and further afield for inspiration in his recent collections and this season he went back to the cradle of civilization itself – Egypt.
A visit to this ancient land led to elements multiple pyramidal shapes, pharaonic robes, noble kilts, kaftans and even gallabiyahs.
Though what’s great about Owens is there is never anything literal. His thought process in much more sophisticated than that. So the shapes are hinted at and never banally copied. No one looking remotely like Yul Brynner appeared in this show.
The pharaonic robes suggested in fabrics wrapped around cargo pants so long they ended inches below the ankle. Or triangular collars of fab semi-sheer nylon blazers; or ceremonial dress from Luxor recalled with peak-shoulder mesh extensions.
And where Rameses II and his wives had their clothes made in cotton, satin and brocade, Owens went into overdrive with his fabrics –from high-gloss metallic iridescent leathers to yellow python loon pants.
Before a finale with two models in nylon mesh khats, a loose headdress worn by nobility, one in yellow and the other in pink.
Rick entitled the collection Edfu, after a temple on the right back of the Nile between Esna and Aswan.
“I had recently retreated to Egypt where I found great comfort in the remoteness and scale of its history. My personal concerns and global discomfort felt petty in the face of that kind of timelessness,” explained Owens in his program notes.
Talking of petty discomforts, in a lunchtime show around the fountains of the Palais de Tokyo, the audience practically broiled in the direct sunlight. Adding to the heat, Owens had a huge crane suspend three massive cut-out balls, set them on fire and swing them almost above the front row. Before dropping them in the fountain to smolder. And increase the temperature.
A small quibble after a fine show, and one of Rick’s most commercial and cool to date. An avant-gardist par excellence refining his style and focus as he voyages the world.
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