Paris is Burning
by James Tuttle
My friend BJ’s birthday party on Saturday night left me in a rather delicate condition on Sunday. The signature cocktail of the evening, The Godfather, was two parts scotch, one part Amaretto and an ice cube and sounded like a really good idea at the time. The next morning, with my clothes spread across my closet floor and the bedroom door inexplicably propped against a wall, I realized that it clearly wasn’t. After managing a hike in record heat and splitting a cheeseburger and onion rings with Scott, I wasn’t in any condition to do much but cradle my head on the sofa in front of the TV.
I had a choice between Teen Mom 2 and watching the Sex and the City movie again, but I scrolled down a bit more and chose the E! True Hollywood Story on illusionist Criss Angel. I guess they ran out of celebrities and are doing magicians now. I remembered his show Mindfreak, where he would take off his shirt and do things like jump into a wood chipper yet emerge totally unscathed. He also did some tricks with his shirt on but I don’t really recall any of those.
In this show he has a haircut like NeNe on the Atlanta Housewives and is talking in his Elmer Fudd voice about how he fought his way to the top of the magician world by practicing his signature and changing his hairstyle. There were some bumps in the road like a metal band and a death in the family but, once he got his shit together, he mortgaged his mom’s house and put together a creepy off-Broadway magic show that, in the clips, looks like “Saw On Ice.” He also might have dated Cameron Diaz, but we never find out for sure because he starts complaining about the tabloids linking him to all these different girls. Of course, this plays over a montage of photos of him putting his hand in girl’s crotches or sticking his tongue in their mouths.
I kept wondering why any of this was relevant until I hit the “info” button on the remote and saw that this mess was from 2009 when they had just launched the one hundred-million-dollar show Criss Angel: Believe in a specially designed theatre at the Luxor Las Vegas, which opened to poor reviews. Criss said that he only cared about what the public had to say so I checked Yelp for the public’s take. Apparently, with one and two-star ratings and comments like “shit sandwich,” they hate it, too. Also, don’t spell your name “Criss”, you douche.
So, now that we’re about to conquer our seventh consecutive Fashion Week together, you might be a little frock-fatigued. As much as I hate to admit it, I am too. After Milan men’s, Paris men’s, Haute Couture, New York, London, and Milan again, I will throw you down an elevator shaft if you show me a picture of a fucking dress. That said, Paris Fashion Week is incredibly influential so, yes, we do have to go there.
After watching about a thousand shows, I can tell you that Dries Van Noten’s ducks were okay and the furry drama at Gareth Pugh was dramatic, Balenciaga’s office worker shtick fell flat while Balmain’s Faberge egg inspiration moved them forward, Céline was fine, Dior was disappointing, Ann Demeulemeester was more luxe than usual and Hermès was good if you’re a gaucho. Let’s save our energy for the best of the best—or, in some cases, the most controversial.
Rick Owens‘ dark and moody show last Thursday featured his typically long, fluid silhouettes, but this time with mostly heavy-looking long skirts and dresses in dark grays. Rick’s shows are always fascinating and a little sinister but the flames that stretched across the bleak backdrop and the rap song that repeated, “Ima read that bitch” over and over kind of pushed the envelope. I guess some people were a little put off by that, but in the end the gracefully tailored jackets and long leather coats still stole the show.
Friday’s Lanvin show was an all-out party that celebrated ten years for designer Alber Elbaz. It couldn’t have been more different from Owens’ but it was wonderful, opening with a procession of beautifully tailored neoprene sheath dresses in jewel tones that ranged from emerald and purple to red and orange. A segment of black and black-and-white looks followed before the finale of heavily jeweled gold lamé and wild party dresses with brightly colored fur stoles and gloves.
The following morning saw a somber start at Haider Ackermann as the girls walked out slowly to military drums and flamenco guitar, dressed in olive drab. These silhouettes were lean and elegantly enhanced with the signature origami-folded silk but the masterfully draped mustard and paprika silks that followed were breathtaking. More silk satins followed in gold and cranberry, then a selection of grapes and purples closed the show, completing this dark rainbow. Mr. Ackermann is the one to watch for making stunning but absolutely wearable clothing.
Riccardo Tisci’s collection for Givenchy on Sunday was dark and glamorous, opening with the black leather we’re seeing everywhere but interpreted in totally different way. The wide-cut sleeves on the jackets, for instance, are very fresh and modern and the equestrian theme that presented itself in jodhpurs and riding boots didn’t detract from the freshness. Delicate lingerie-like party dresses in bright colors with black beaded lace appliqué added another dimension, even shown with endlessly long leather gloves and those boots, while the simple low ponytails and Pat McGrath’s gorgeous makeup kept the focus on the clothes.
Monday’s Yves Saint Laurent show was designer Stefano Pilati’s last as he departs to make way for Hedi Slimane. It was dangerous and sleek with a hint of militaristic tailoring and lots of the narrow cropped pants that seem a big trend for fall. Leather tee shirts in black or dark green made a statement, as did the chain-mail dresses, tops and skirts that appeared in gold or green but nothing really stood out to me.
The same can be said about Chanel on Tuesday, where the real star was the vast Superman’s crystal fortress that served as the backdrop. There was more layering of classic Chanel signature pieces, everything over matching ankle-length pants and some looks that recalled old Pucci and those ugly sweaters from The Bill Cosby Show. If I had to pick something I liked, it would be one of the black evening looks toward the end of the show.
Valentino was also referencing its own heritage but interpreted through some of this season’s biggest trends: black leather, Russian peasants and lace. It was classic and lovely with no surprises.
Speaking of surprises, I had two thoughts when I saw Alexander McQueen. The first was “Holy shit!” This was closely followed by “What the fuck is that?” There were so many ways of making stuff fluffy—with feathers, with fur, with chiffon—that I couldn’t tell what was what. It seems designer Sarah Burton had so many options and so many skilled artisans at her disposal when she decided to create her huge women-flowers that she couldn’t decide.
The show opened with winter white coat-dresses that sported enormous fur lapels followed by pale pink, peach and champagne marabou dresses (I think) then wildly pleated white lace looks and some hot-pink ensembles covered with tiny roses. This was all just an introduction to the final looks, one of which just revealed the head sticking out of wave after wave of thousands of tiny chiffon pleats. I’m curious to see how all this translates to the clothes we’ll see in the boutiques but, for now, I’m content to smile at this happy fantasy in the midst of so much dark drama.