If Milan is the capital of menswear, Paris is the home of men’s fashion. So it would figure that after a remarkably progressive show from Raf Simons one night, we’d wake up the next morning and head to an equally forward-thinking designer’s presentation. Hello, Rick Owens. (By the way, he was in the audience at Raf’s show.) Like usual, the Rick show was held at Bercy, an enormous grass-covered concert/sports center opened in the early ’80s, and, like usual, we walked into near pitch blackness, with a dull spotlight sweeping around the perimeter to assist with seat-finding and such. Then the light shut off, and something happened on the catwalk.
When the spotlight returned, a lone figure bearing a striking resemblance to Gandalf the Grey could be seen shuffling up to a microphone standing in the middle of the catwalk. He began to make… noises. Moments later, a bass player walked past him and started a beat. Another man arrived, carting a giant mandolin-type instrument. Then the lights came up, revealing two drummers seated opposite each other at the far end of the catwalk, mounted sideways on a spinning wall. They drummed, while spinning, like some strange rock ‘n’ roll theme park ride. Did I mention they all wore freakish hair masks on their faces? There was that, too. Notice I haven’t mentioned the clothes yet — it was a little hard to concentrate with all that visual sensation. But yes, the show had started. And I’ve gotta say, it was my favorite Rick Owens collection to date.
This is the man who’s famous for putting guys in goat hoof-inspired wedge boots and for shaving the front of models’ heads — making them look like Victorian-era frontal lobotomy survivors — but he’s also the man who’s constantly being name-dropped by A$AP Rocky, so his current place in the world is a rare fusion of avant-gardist and hype beast. Perhaps in an effort to cater to a newfound mass audience, spring 2014 was a far easier-to-wear collection than usual, featuring two colors — black and white — and plenty of the oversized, layered tees and asymmetrical zippered leather jackets Owens is known for.
The other development at the show was a first look at his brand spanking new collaboration with Adidas: running shoes designed by a self-confessed hater of cardio. They were black, white, and gray, well-padded and minimally detailed (unless, of course, you count their chunky silhouette). But the show wasn’t over yet. It all climaxed with the guitar players being hung upside down by ropes from the roof, still thrashing and playing their instruments while suspended in mid-air. And there they stayed till it was all over.
REM’s Michael Stipe sat front row alongside David Beckham at Louis Vuitton in the afternoon, but only one of them provided the music for the show’s soundtrack. It was held inside a glass box at Parc Andre Citroen, and “The One I Love” blasted while models walked in a series of boy scout-inspired looks, from the subtle (a checked suit with a bandana knotted around the neck), to the literal (a khaki parka covered in award badges). All areas of the boys’ lives were covered, from hikes in the great outdoors to prom night — jackets even featured boutonnieres on the lapels — and things closed with an LV monogram tux that shone like a pāua shell when hit by light. (That’s a shellfish native to New Zealand, if you haven’t already earned your geography badge.)
The day finished as it began, with a live musician soundtracking the show at Dries Van Noten. The drumming virtuoso Cindy Blackman Santana walked up to a golden kit set up in the middle of the room and began to thump out a beat. It grew more and more complex as models appeared in pattern-on-pattern florals and soft, ornate coats that moved languidly as they walked. The Belgian designer had two men on the mind this season: Jean Cocteau and Jimi Hendrix, eccentrics who most definitely marched to the beat of their own drum. He called it “rebel formality” — dressed up garb in patterns that were once championed by free-thinkers.
Methinks many more men will be seen in florals next summer after this onslaught of the pattern from some of the world’s most powerful brands. Watch this space: The seed has been planted.
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