I don’t know how often you get to L.A.’s Chinatown, but it’s changed quite a bit since the last time I was down there picking out traditional funerary offerings to decorate our Chinese-themed Christmas tree. A few nights ago, our friend Hai invited us along to Chinatown Design Night and I noticed that several of the wonderfully dusty old antiques shops along Chung King Road have gone. The storefronts are now being used as cool art galleries and most were hosting shows the evening we were there, which was organized by the L.A. Design Festival, but the space I became most familiar with, both because the works were so interesting and because they had vodka, was Brian Gennett’s one-night exhibit at ChungKing Studio. Working with laser-cut pieces of vintage book covers, Brian has created a startling array of wall art and small tables with no two patterns alike. He uses some lovely colors that recall the old books in my grandparents’ storeroom bookcase, but I was particularly drawn to the monochromatic black table and made-to-order headboard because the textural quality was even more pronounced. You’ll be hearing more about this artist but for now some of his pieces are available at HarbingerLA.
In other design news, the latest Men’s Paris Fashion Week has ended, reinforcing some of the major trends for Spring 2014 that began taking shape over the last few weeks in London and Milan. The athletic inspiration, for instance, that was so eager and crisp at Ferragamo in Milan took a dark turn at Rick Owens and ended up as black Goth tanks and shorts accessorized with the coolest trainers I’ve seen in a while. In one of the crazier shows of the season, his models speed-walked around the borders of a surreal performance by an Estonian hardcore metal band because Rick thought that would be weird. It was.
Another interpretation of this trend surfaced in Raf Simons’ bizarre onesies for men. His Pop Art tee shirts could have been cooler if they weren’t long enough to be tunics but those oversized baby clothes were just creepy. I suppose the spring Givenchy collection fits into the sport category just by continuing the shorts over leggings and sweatshirts tied around the waist that Riccardo Tisci has favored the last few seasons. This time, graphic prints of boom boxes and electrical components or brightly colored stripes covered the looks and, to my surprise, I didn’t completely hate it but please don’t try wearing an entire look at once.
Flowers are the other relentless theme of Spring 2014 but as Gucci had its Jacobean florals in Milan, these designers had their own interpretations. Ann Demeulemeester dripped delicate black wisteria vines over her signature frock coats and jackets, adding her favored awning stripes to her Amish boy looks for a touch of circus fun. Dries Van Noten pushed it further, seeing how many different ways he could incorporate floral motifs. He used them on sheer shirts and pyjama pants and also incorporated the sport element with floral surfer shorts and baseball jackets. The result was dark, beautiful and a little crazy.
In Haider Ackermann’s first men’s collection, the only flowers appeared in the heavily inked models’ tattoos but it still seems to fit here. The silk dupionis, jacquards and satins are a direct transplant from his women’s line as is the heavily draped and layered aesthetic. I think it’s gorgeous and very different and I’m interested to see how guys take to it.
A third idea of casual, easy and classic sportswear seemed to unify many of the collections that didn’t fall into one of these two rather specific trends. I’ll call it “Classic American Sportswear”, the Americana element being most enthusiastically embraced by Louis Vuitton’s Kim Jones, who introduced blue plaid jackets, bandanas and Scout badges into his collection. The feeling at most luxe of luxury houses Hermès was also very casual with lots of tee shirts and a palette of teal, brown and midnight blue. One couldn’t really accurately attribute anything from Valentino or Dior Homme to the realm of Americana but both shows demonstrated an ease and a lack of fussiness, with Valentino going so far as to shape their signature school uniform silhouette out of denim and chambray.
Of course, every season has its outliers and a couple of these Paris shows didn’t even show up on the fucking graph. We expect Thom Brown’s shows to be weird but his fantastical collection of red, white and blue military uniforms with shiny fetish gear materials, Joan Crawford lips and full skirts was just beyond. Beautiful as art, perhaps, but as men’s clothing, it’s a clear miss. And finally, we have Hedi Slimane’s laughable Rockabilly-meets-Glam mess for Saint Laurent that may mark the last time I check in on that formerly esteemed house to see what’s happening in fashion. After seeing pants hitched up so high that they gave every model a severe case of camel toe, I came away feeling that Slimane might just be laughing at us.
Like, whatever, dude.