Comme Des Garçons and Givenchy: Darkness and Light

Published January 19, 2013

 

One of the great things about Paris menswear is how the mood can veer from sweet youth to the dark arts over the course of one day, and how, in talented hands, both seem equally attractive.

A charmed sigh could be heard from the audience at the start of Comme des Garçons’ show, an ode to inoccent nighty-night in pastel chenille bathrobe coats, and cropped pajama bottoms topped with bunny rabbit and Mickey Mouse-eared beanies by mad milliner Stephen Jones. Rei Kawakubo played boy/girl dress-up with the models’ hair in a flirty Kurt Cobain flip from Julien d’Ys, but the collection’s silhouettes zero in on several of this season’s star looks: flamboyant print tailoring; loose, cropped sarouel pants; sleepwear for day; and the giant, droopy proportions in blazers, tunics, and cardigans that make men look like big, huggable boy-toys.

Givenchy’s menswear has a chic snarl to it even when there’s no dog in sight, and this collection’s all-in-one gray tailoring, black down and punished-looking leathers, infused with Riccardo Tisci’s take on the monochrome imagery of Robert Mapplethorpe, has his signature menace.

Presented within an initiatic double circle lit by hundreds of candles in a chilly warehouse far from the center of Paris, this did seem like a meeting of the dark arts clan. And items like a sleeveless argyle sweater, slapped front and center with a pentangle and body parts wet print, hinted at the underworld. What’s so interesting about this is the mix: taken one way, argyle, charcoal gray flannel, and down jackets couldn’t be more classic, but with Tisci’s graphics, razor-sharp cuts and uniform color—he strips away collars and lapels, and matches shirts, ties, and tailoring in moody charcoal—the effect is alluringly chilling. Even the mild-mannered duffel coat in tortured-looking leather—one appeared boiled, and another woven like a whip—has bite. And exemplified by America’s stars and stripes, turned upside down on one sooty velvet sweatshirt, this was a stormy pledge of allegiance.