We humans are creatures of habit and I am no exception. Every morning I wake up, get ready to go, then stop by the local boulangerie (bakery) to buy two pain au chocolat on my way to the first show. The ladies at the boulangerie utterly despise me. I’m public enemy number one. Alas, I am a victim of prejudice and persecution. My only crime – the first day I went, I asked (in French of course) for a bag to carry the three baguettes, four pain au chocolat and six croissants I had just paid for. “A bag!?” The elder of the ladies exclaimed in shock, “No! We don’t have a bag.” Then, turning to her esteemed colleague, “Imagine – somebody asking for a bag!?” Imagine indeed.
Take, my new friend, shot by The Sartorialist
I got lost this morning trying to find the first show of the day. Although I pride myself on a good sense of direction, I fall short on the organisational side of things and hadn’t looked at a map to see which Metro station to get out at. A friend in New Zealand came to my aid, Googling the correct stop for me, and as I was coming out of the station, I ran into one of the Japanese fashion journalists I always see around the shows. We got talking. Take is a lively middle aged man with the sprightly air of a teenager. Quick to smile and quicker to laugh, he’s been coming to the shows every season, four seasons per year, for the past 25 years.
We were the last to arrive at Blaak Homme, and sat straight down. It started soon after. Imagine a priest. Now imagine an English skinhead. Put the two together and you get an inkling of what the show was like. Part religious symbolism with large white cross necklaces, oppressive black habit-esque coats over crisp white shirts, and a crown of thorns on the head of one of the boys; part 80s soccer hooligan with yellow and black plaid-check shorts, black leather boots, and a soundtrack chanting “England! England!” When it was all done it was fun to see the two designers run shyly down the catwalk waving to the clapping crowd.
Second on the board was Yves Saint Laurent, a much-coveted show held in a small venue 15 minutes away from Blaak Homme. We arrived late and doors were already closed. There was no getting in. Unless you were Kanye West and Amber Rose, who turned up about ten minutes after we did and breezed right through. It pays to be famous.
Next up, Rick Owens, a show I’ve requested invitations for three times, been denied three times, and been allowed in three times. Like Dries Van Noten last night, I was in the right place at the right time when the gates were being closed and was one of the final four people pulled in by the PR agent. Rick Owens is a label I always have a bit of difficulty getting my head around. It’s highly conceptual, difficult to wear and pushes the boundaries as far as they’ll go – think men in high heeled boots. For the first time in three seasons, today I really liked what I saw.
A murky, pulsating noise like a spaceship idling in a swamp surrounded us as blinding white lights rose from behind the black wall of cloth at the entrance to the catwalk. A strange voice sang a strange song, with the lyrics, “I’m feeling ugly,” repeated over and over again. Models (including New Zealander Aiden Andrews) began to file out in weighty woolen suits in pale browns and light beiges, paired with boots reminiscent of goats’ hooves on their feet. The most complexly-cut and layered leather coats emerged, mostly black or white, in every type of skin imaginable. It might not be the easiest label to understand, but there’s no doubt that Rick Owens is a genius in the design room. And the guy’s got a die-hard loyal following. Despite being what I would consider a boutique label, it had the biggest turn out of the week so far.
At Kris Van Assche, the majority of the crowd’s attention was solely focussed on Kanye West and Chris Brown, who sat opposite each other on either side of the massive, two-laned catwalk. Until the show began. Kris Van Assche holds two shows every season – his own eponymous label, and Dior Homme, at which he is the head designer. It’s no small undertaking. This season he played it fairly safe with a reprisal of most of his signature pieces – closely cut blazers, black and white shirts and voluminous tapered trousers. The colour pallete was restrained; black, white, a charcoal plaid and a bit of blue. My favourite pieces were the baseball jacket in black with charcoal sleeves, and the ultra sheer knitwear over white shirts – the best of their kind we’ve seen so far. It’s not a collection that will receive huge critical acclaim, but as his most commercial to date, it’ll no doubt be a retail success. Over all they were the types of clothes you could imagine on the backs of angsty hipsters the world over – probably Van Assche’s target customer.
I got talking to Take again on the bus to Comme Des Garcons. We spoke of New Zealand, of Japan, of writing, blogs and how we were both feeling old compared with the teenagers in the back seats (every season scores of very young fashion addicts pile on board the bus in an attempt to gain access to all the shows… sound familiar?). The bus parked a good 500 metres from the venue and Take led the way, pretending to hold up a flag so that all the ‘children’ (his word) would know where they were supposed to be going. When we arrived, Take walked in, looked at the PRs, pointed at me, nodded, and pulled me in with him. Security melted away like the Red Sea. I’d found my own personal Moses.
I stood on a raised plinth, in front of the worst kind of London scenesters imaginable. Excerpts from their conversation included: “I’d love to put on weight, I try really hard actually. I just have such high metabolism.” and “Oh you know the guy I’m talking about, he used to date Gareth (as in Pugh) like, way way way back in the day.” and “Did you see the Walter show just before? I was moved. Literally, moved.” and my personal favourite, “Oh yeah, like, I directed this music video years ago with a whole bunch of club kids I discovered in the ghetto. It was so totally ahead of its time.”
Like last season’s show – and I assume all their other ones – Comme Des Garcons just did their own thing. Send out a model, then another, then another, wait 20 seconds or so, then another, 15, then another, and so on and so forth. There’s no rhyme nor reason, but that’s the beauty of it. And the clothes, like last time, were crazy. The first few outfits featured corduroy blazers with busts jutting out and fur hoods covering faces so you couldn’t tell if the models were boys or girls (they were boys). Shorts sat over top of pants, other pants sat over top of pants, and strap on pants – similar to the ones Christchurch ravers in the 90s loved so much – sat over top of pants. One has to admire such singular – if a little ridiculous – vision and individual spirit.
Final show of the day was Cerruti. They showed my favourite of the more wearable collections in June, and always seem to interpret the season’s emerging trends in the most accessible way possible. The four trends that have really shown up so far on the catwalks for Winter 2010 are charcoal and green, long layers under short layers, checks and plaids, and padded nylon suiting. They were all there at Cerruti, once again done in a way that the most sartorially disinclined gentleman could pick up on. Basically, take a green or grey suit (preferably in some form of plaid) throw a short padded nylon jacket over it, and Geronimo! you’ve got your whole look covered for the season. Genius.
There’s nothing I like better than some simple to understand and easy to interpret menswear, so with that show finished, I was more than happy to call it a day.
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