Paris: Where the Men are Glamorous and the Sheep are Scared
by James Tuttle @TuttleMode
After some practice chukkers for next month’s Second Annual U.S. Gay Polo Tournament, I was a little sore and battered so I cleaned off my boots and crashed in front of the TV. On the screen was some show I’d never heard of called Love & Hip Hop on VH1. This sounded like something I’d enjoy watching about as much as “Love & Skateboarding” or “Love & Pictures of Disgusting Skin Diseases” but I was too tired to look for anything else.
As I tuned in, an older black lady with a five-pack-a-day voice was going on stage at a nightclub to introduce her new single. It looked like one of those nights when they wait until everyone’s wasted enough for some unknown pop act to go up and lip-synch their soon-to-be dance hit without getting booed off the stage.
I wouldn’t rate this launch among the most successful I’ve seen because this place was lit like the fucking sun and the grandma had, for her pop star transformation, simply donned a red Superman cape over her T-shirt and jeans. I hope she didn’t overpay her stylist for this genius move. Oh, and her shirt has the words “I’m a Psychotic Bitch” on it which, it turns out, is also the name of her new single about how much she adores her doting son. Charming, right?
It turns out that, rapping grannies aside, this show is mostly about young African-American ladies fighting with each other, lamenting their rapper boyfriend’s other girlfriends and jail sentences, and changing hairstyles so frequently it’s impossible to tell who’s who. And then this girl named Kimbella pops up every few minutes in her blue contacts and Glamour Shots lighting, announcing that she’s launching her solo career or getting a divorce or something. Except for the wig changes, it’s pretty much like a black Mob Wives!
Speaking of the mob, after the warm and nostalgic feeling of the men’s shows in Italy last week, Paris Men’s Fashion Week hit us like a cold, bracing slap in the face. Gone were the dreamy nineteenth century poets and aristocrats and hip Sixties jet setters we saw in Milan. Instead, futuristic soldiers, rebellious punks and the Death Star’s top brass strutted the runways to creepy disjointed voices broadcast in bleak white boxes or bare hallways. Rather than escaping into the romantic past, these designers seemed to collectively envision a dark, dystopian future with slicked hair and an aggressive, take-charge attitude. Is this a reaction to the current European economic situation and their so-called “austerity,” or have they just been watching Gattaca on Netflix and reading too much George Orwell?
The Paris Fall collections began last Wednesday with a Thierry Mugler show that started out promising until you noticed that it looked like it was being staged in some seedy basement leather bar. Christian Lacroix followed later that day and, though I usually don’t follow the men’s line, I do love declaring “It’s Lacroix, sweetie!” like Edina to Patsy whenever someone asks me what the hell I’m wearing. This season, the clothes were pretty wearable but nothing that needed to go on my wish list.
Thursday welcomed Rick Owens’ cool black and white collection of super high-waisted trousers, some with the dropped crotch we saw in Milan, paired with skinny white shirts that made the models look like they had wildly long arms. The double-breasted jackets, long coats and leather details seemed right on trend but don’t be fooled because Rick always has his own peculiar take on things.
Soon after, the Louis Vuitton show was introduced in a futuristic glass-walled hall by the voice of a French “Darth Vader.” The collection itself was a collision of classic silhouettes from 1920s Oxford bags to 1950s baseball jackets and 1960s skinny trousers. The focus seemed to be, and rightfully so, on the shoes and slim suitcases and doctor bags that are the mainstay of this house. All said and done, I really loved that one-button brown velvet blazer.
Dries Van Noten had some smartly tailored, crisp suits but the bold 1960s psychedelic calligraphy on coats and jackets was the focus of the show, especially as there were still painters applying that pattern to the backdrop while the show was happening. The idea was meant to be a combination of the elegance of Oscar Wilde paired with the coolness of Frank Zappa, but that was a bit of a conceptual stretch and the painters (aka: the atmosphere) stole a lot of the focus from the clothes and that can’t be a good sign.
The YSL show was Friday’s highlight and, for me, the definitive collection for Paris’ Fall 2012 season that should have been called “Gattaca Revisited.” It was sleek, black and fast and those leather touches that had been popping up were integral here in lapels, shoulder inserts, trousers and everything else. The Kris Van Assche show later in the day was geeky fun but edgy, too, with the wide cropped pants. Givenchy was just silly with the crazy shoulders and man-skirts that no one is going to wear. I don’t know why they bother, really.
Dior Homme on Saturday was what I’d really been waiting for because it usually defines for me what the Paris collections are about. This season, Van Assche took a different direction from his namesake line with a completely military stance in olive drab, complemented by the touches of leather that we’ve been seeing elsewhere. It was slim, industrial, monochromatic and kind of depressing but I didn’t hate it. Also on Saturday, Hermès showed a typically classic line in dark shades with a bit more leather (pants!) than usual. The silhouettes were slim and there was a subtle sheen on the fabrics that was very current. The black crocodile trench coat was a showstopper but, given how much wallet costs at Hermès, forget about it unless there’s a black Amex somewhere with your name on it.
The final jewel in the crown of Paris Fashion Week was Lanvin. I like what they’ve been doing in menswear the last few seasons and this collection didn’t make me want to put on a Nine Inch Nails album and kill myself so that’s a plus for the Paris contingent of 2012 which was mostly too, too dark. The high-waisted, sometimes boot-cut trousers are easy and a bit slouchy and the big rounded drop-shoulders that we also saw at Rick Owens and Viktor & Rolf add an odd counterpoint to the overall Seventies feel, but the piéce de resistance is the final look: a parka-over-tailcoat evening ensemble that makes a St. Moritz film premiere seem like a wonderful proposition.
So, the message from Paris is dark, sleek and futuristic. Also, if you haven’t noticed it yet, the most identifiable trend from these collections was leather, leather, and more leather. There were leather trims and lapels, leather panels in jackets and the soft, expensive-looking lambskin trousers that were everywhere. If any of our ovine friends are reading this article, I suggest you close your laptop, pack your shit and get the hell out of Dodge because they’re coming for you. For the rest of us, it’s just time to take a deep breath and have a little fun because, in about seven or eight months, your going to be listening to techno and wearing black leather every day.