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In Paris, men’s fashion looks to the prince and the office worker alike

The great luxury houses, including Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Balmain and Valentino, demonstrate with their latest collections that, beyond lucrative accessories and red carpets, that they are back to being interested in dressing real men

Moda Masculina
From left to right, runway looks at Dries Van Noten, Louis Vuitton and Dior during men’s fashion week in Paris.

That the new collection by Pharrell Williams for Louis Vuitton, aside from enormous trunks, featured work jackets, ‘70s tailoring and covetable cowboy pants serves as confirmation of one of the major trends of men’s fashion week in Paris. The big luxury houses, beyond the lucrative accessories, beyond the red carpets, are back to being interested in dressing real men. Or something that approaches the man on the street, as compared to previous seasons, which seemed more oriented towards millionaire adolescents. Pharrell’s tale appropriates the legend of the first cowboys and revindicates America’s diverse heritage of race and class — from Native peoples to blue collar workers — in a festive and pop-driven collection. Its star performance was not delivered by a hip hop star, but by Mumford & Sons. It was a lesson in power. The catwalk, built in the spectacular Fondation Louis Vuitton in Bois de Boulogne, and conceived as a gigantic spherical cinema, became a stage for this escapist vision of luxury and the intimate concept of fashion that the producer has installed in the French luxury house.

All this might seem par for the course, but it is actually quite extraordinary. What many brands have taken on this season is what the Belgian Dries Van Noten has been advocating for years: that runways are spectacle, but one mustn’t forget about the clothes worn by the models. The patriarch of European fashion himself offered a careful selection of tailoring with elongated yet not restrictive proportions, large knitted scarves and his usual play on textures. These are clothes one looks to own, rather than photograph.

From there, the Givenchy collection revealed itself as one of the week’s most gratifying surprises. It was the first created after the departure of creative director Matthew Williams, and served as a perfect example of the mission of the historic couture house, which is set on making men’s ready-to-wear: real garments, but with the magic necessary to justify their price and honor the brand’s chic imagination. A trench in orange-red grosgrain and a simple, square-cut collarless blouse were reminiscent of the colors and silhouettes with which Hubert de Givenchy became the prince of Parisian fashion in the 1960s, showing that time has not passed in vain. The revolutions that have transformed the male closet in the last decade — the borrowing from the female closet, craftsmanship, but there too, the sporty, the subcultural, the hip hop identity — can be sublimated in relevant and completely contemporary garments.

Singer Pharrell Williams, men's creative director at Louis Vuitton, after the brand's show on January 16, 2024 at Paris men's fashion week.
Singer Pharrell Williams, men's creative director at Louis Vuitton, after the brand's show on January 16, 2024 at Paris men's fashion week.FOTO CEDIDA

Similarly realistic and exquisite was the collection offered by another patriarch, Yohji Yamamoto, who took advantage of his 80th birthday to send down the runway filmmaker Wim Wenders, who navigated the catwalk parsimoniously, wearing a deconstructed morning coat with shirt, vest and neck tie, with an air of self-absorption that only living legends are capable of summoning. He commanded a respect from the Parisian public similar to that shown for Junya Watanabe, one of the stars of the Comme des Garçons galaxy, who presented one of the week’s most applauded collections. His trompe l’oeil trenches and long coats — which appeared at first glance to be a short jacket and, from the waist down, torn-apart pants that metamorphize into the coat’s bottom half — demonstrated the extraordinary results of observing everyday life. His collection, rich in such hybrid garments, points to another rising trend: collaboration. Watanabe has created hybrid shoes with sneaker soles, thanks to New Balance; Louis Vuitton has put its logo on the most luxurious Timberlands of all time; and Sacai, Chistose Abe’s Japanese brand, has teamed up with the classic workwear brand Carhartt WIP. At Kenzo, creative director Nigo reinterpreted a traditional Japanese motif and several archival prints in sumptuous jacquard garments that evoke American imagery, samurai garb, and floral hedonism of the brand’s founder.

The collection by Junya Watanabe, star brand of the Comme des Garçons constellation, presented at Paris men's fashion week was one of the most applauded.
The collection by Junya Watanabe, star brand of the Comme des Garçons constellation, presented at Paris men's fashion week was one of the most applauded.Victor VIRGILE (Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Paris served many jeans, and a good number of them were flared. Acne regained its authority in worn denim with a collection of dirty and distressed garments, and Levi’s, which presented a collection for the first time in the French capital, unveiled several collaborations. There were also denim items at Dior Men, though they were in a different league, with pearls embroidered on their collars, forming part of a collection of haute couture pieces with which Kim Jones introduced the exclusive, artisanal and luxurious category into men’s ready-to-wear. His collection, inspired by Rudolf Nureyev and by the photographs of the designer’s uncle, Colin Jones, borrowed much from the renowned choreographer and dancer, and included exquisite examples of craftsmanship that made reference to both imagery of the decadent Russian — large patchwork kimonos, embroidered tunics — and the alluring Paris that he inhabited. The costumes evoked the collections that Yves Saint Laurent made for Dior in the late 1950s.

Part of the Loewe collection presented at Paris Men's Fashion Week on January 20, 2024.
Part of the Loewe collection presented at Paris Men's Fashion Week on January 20, 2024.Courtesy of Loewe

High craftsmanship, as applied to men’s fashion, can translate into extraordinary fabrics, as shown on Milan catwalks, or into complex and dazzling technique. Such was the case in Paris. At Loewe, Jonathan Anderson paid tribute to the American artist Richard Hawkins, but all eyes were on his devilish hand-embroidered knitted tunics, and garments embroidered with small multicolored beads that rendered them showpieces.

Yohji Yamamoto took advantage of his 80th birthday to parade filmmaker Wim Wenders.
Yohji Yamamoto took advantage of his 80th birthday to parade filmmaker Wim Wenders.MONIC

Office fetishism

Be unafraid of ties and business suits: their recent shortage has nearly turned them into a fetish. So demonstrated the collections of Auralee, Botter, Egonlab, Juun J and Sean Suen, who have succumbed to the magic of the beige jacket, the gray suit, the formal shirt, the baggy pants and the formal shoe. AMI Paris, Alexandre Mattiussi’s in-demand brand, consecrated its reign in well-made commercial design with a show that evoked a very elegant Paris of early risers, and also did justice to a generation of legendary models, including Andres Velencoso, Will Chalker and Laetitia Casta. At Hermès, Véroniqe Nichanian practiced chromatic restraint, but opted decisively for slim-fitting, almost skinny pants. Valentino’s Pier Paolo Piccioli is also a formal purist, faithful to the idea of reinterpreting the house’s elegant evening tailoring with touches of character in the form of diamond studs and bright colors.

British model Naomi Campbell (3rd L) and models akcnowledges the audience at the end of his ready-to-wear Fall-Winter 2024/2025 collection
Naomi Campbell (with a bouquet of flowers) closed the Balmain show at men's fashion week in Paris, January 20, 2024.ALAIN JOCARD (AFP)

In Paris, there is extravagance that now constitutes tradition. For example, the iconoclastic transgression of Walter Van Beirendonck, the sole designer to choreograph an explicit plea for peace. Or Issey Miyake Homme Plus, which has revitalized the legacy of its founder with an assured, colored collaboration with industrial design star Ronan Bouroullec. It’s impossible to deny the talent and imagination of Olivier Rousteing, who after four years of skipping men’s fashion week with Balmain, presented a triumphant and excessive runway, with a self-referential leitmotif — the designer’s own lips — worth of the media personality he has become. His metallic garments, surreal twists and sense of spectacle — Naomi Campbell closed the show — are reminiscent of giants like Gaultier, Mugler and Schiaparelli, but with an extra dose of sass and glitter in shoes that shimmer to the point of implausibility, and sequined garments conceived to sparkle at the disco (or on stage). The magic of fashion lies in sublimating the everyday, but also in making tangible the wildest dreams of its creators (and spectators).

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