Kimmel, Owens, Juun.J, Vuitton: Day 1 in Paris

There’s nothing more difficult in fashion than designing credible menswear. Rick Owens’ sensual robes and Adam Kimmel’s dark surfers stood out on the first day of Paris’s menswear shows. Sticking to the basics is the best route, but some dare to step up the game a bit, and when they’re successful, the results are amazing.

This was the case with Rick Owens, who has such a strong, singular vision of masculinity. Owens works on cut like a sculptor, and although he incorporates classic elements—there was a jacket in almost every look in this show—he also creates new shapes that seem to come out of nowhere. Owens’ monks (and that’s my description, not his) wore floor-sweeping sleeveless dress/tunics and Yoko Ono sunglasses. Before you say “next,” please note the overall impression was sensual, alluring and hyper-masculine. The colors, mostly grey tones, looked like a bank of fog rolling in. And the jackets! Broad-shouldered, long, and one-button, some sliced with a seam across the waist to define the torso, were timeless.

Juun.J, South Korea’s design master, was on an equally individualistic path. Juun is at that stage where every season, he segues into another dimension. Aside from his trench coats and a penchant for ponchos, there is no fixed silhouette in his collections. Last season, he was airy and light; this time, he went cubist, and it looked like Juan Gris’s portrait of Picasso. Suits made from a collection of protruding squares, with abstract gold bars in the breast pocket as a new form of handkerchief sculpture, were otherworldly. And the shoes: squared white bucks set on a fat gold platform looked like launch pads. Juun slices waistbands in places, on the back of blousons and cardigans, as if to let some air in.

That inseparable duo Viktor & Rolf are the Gilbert & George of fashion. And just like G&G, their personal style is obsessively passé partout (banal). While their women’s wear is flamboyant and conceptual, V&R dress themselves and create their menswear with extreme restraint. It’s all in the details. In the ballroom of La Monnaie de Paris, a French Neoclassical pre-revolutionary palace, they covered the windows overlooking the Seine with a graphic of white clouds and blue sky, hid the ornate lighting with cube shades, and masked the armoires with mirrored Mylar. In this surreal setting, Viktor & Rolf’s dandy anglers showed off their natty wardrobe: sky-blue suits with marlin-patterned sport shirts and separates just right for Miami, or Palm Springs in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s or ’80s. Timeless menswear kitsch, like the two-tone faded blue leather jean jacket and smokings (tuxedos) in more of that surreal Miami sky blue, with contrast lapels and matching bow ties, are guaranteed to make you look like your father or grandfather back in the day.

The brilliant British designer Kim Jones, in his first season as Mens’ Studio Director at Louis Vuitton, picked Peter Beard as his traveling partner. An excellent choice. Beard, the glamorous photographer of African wildlife whose sartorial shine can be traced back to his great-great-grandfather James Jerome Hill (founder of the Great Northern Railway), who is credited with popularising the tuxedo, has that perfect mix of classic and offbeat that puts him an a par with Lawrence of Arabia. The grey suit that opened this show with cuffs rolled above bare ankles, worn boyishly with a loud, loose tie, was pure Beard. By that, I mean the polar opposite of a stiff banker’s look. And the varsity jacket, fronted with waxed alligator, was an LV-worthy bit of fashion luxe on the wildlife side.

Which brings us to Kimmel, who usually stages happenings but this time opted for a traditional runway show. How smart of Kimmel, who is so good at picturesque style, to show real, down-to-earth clothes this season. “This is one of the most wearable collections I’ve ever done,” he trilled in his show notes. The idea was simple. Take a look at what real surfers wear. And guess what, it’s not shocking pink or acid green! Kimmel surfs, and as usual, he took the time to really observe other guys who practice this sport with passion. What he found is in this collection of easy-to-wear, no-nonsense shapes with technical details for comfort like mesh knit sweaters and dark colors (lots of navy and olive). Kimmel even over-dyed Hawaiian prints in black.