Paris Menswear Spring 2010, Part 1

Alexis Mabille’s Homme Fatales
Full-tilt Parisian dandies are a bit high wattage for breakfast, but Alexis Mabille has never been the low key type. His gilded lilies, fresh after a night at le Montana, strutted their stuff at Angelina’s tea room on the first full day of the Paris collections nearly all of them in the house’s customized sequin embroidered Converse sneakers which look like next spring’s It shoe for fancy feet of all genders. Mabille is a proponent of unisex dressing and this was his first all-boy show.  The result was a kind of Jean Cocteau/Tom of Finland hybrid, the kind of  man who steps out for his morning Croissants in gilt kimono brocade jeans and a Chanel-esque cardigan with the house’s bow tie worn dangling on the side of an unbuttoned shirt collar.

Louis Vuitton: Send me a Messenger
Every cloud has a silver lining. If there’s one good thing about the financial crisis it’s that Paris is  giving all that luxury glitz a rest. Nowhere was this more evident than at Louis Vuitton, where men’s Studio Director Paul Helbers traded in the house’s usual mink-for-all for big city men on bikes in a hurry. Louis’ butterfly messenger boys have their keys hanging around their neck on a cord even when they’re wearing a suit. Antoine Arnault, son of LVMH’s chairman Bernard, sat next to Keziah Jones, who once again looked like the man of the moment,  just down the front row from the Black Eyed Peas. A taxi-yellow washed linen racing blazer, a pair of rolled cuff fleece shorts, simple zip pullover and car shoes are really all the chic you need.     

Dries Van Noten: Pattern Bright
So often the simplest pleasures are the finest, like when the DJ for Dries Van Noten’s show, held on the steps of the Paris Bourse, pulled up in the back of a U-Haul truck. The stunt set the mood for a collection which was all about the elegance of making do, or as the show notes put it, “Tokyo meets Calcutta in a mix of the rigorous with the irregular.” That translated into slim and cropped shapes, from judo pants to sharp-shouldered double breasted jackets served up in a united nations of prints from batik and ikat to dark English plaids, jacquards, polkadots and checks all piled one on top of the other for a wallpapered look down to the pocket squares, flip flops and socks. 

Issey Miyake: Technically aged
Issey Miyake’s Dai Fujiwara gave his collection a lived-in look with arty wrinkles, mosaic textures, paper knits and the Noribuse technique, in which pieces are glued before dyeing for a cracked surface. Fujiwara was inspired by Turkey, where he found a rainbow of blues (Turkish, Iznik and Persian) which he mixed with bright pink and red taken from  the country’s national flower, the tulip. Jackets in a sultan’s crossover style, sport an asymmetrical print inset which looks like a tie floating over the front.

Juun J: Skeletons in the closet
Before his show, Korean designer Juun J hinted that he wanted to explore his feminine side by   using sheer women’s fabrics for men. The result was more like an X-ray of complex tailoring constructions from his favorite trench coats to blazers and trousers. Juun covered pristine white jackets and pants with a stiff, transparent black layer covered with seams which gave the strange impression that one could see inside the clothes. Extra large, transparent shorts over cigarette jeans, shortalls in Juun’s favorite trench style, sarouel pants with jeans topstitching and double layer cocoon parkas looked a bit like skaters from another planet. For the timid among you, there’s  Juun’s first ever collaboration with Speedo, featuring  anatomically banded swim trunks in a kaleidoscopic  black and white checkerboard.        

Jean-Paul Gaultier: Back to the Future
“It’s an homage to Pierre Cardin,” said my clairvoyant friend Serge Carriera looking at the Mr. Clean jackets and pants in white and orange stretch wool which opened Jean Paul Gaultier’s show. True, Gaultier started his design career at Cardin, and maybe he’s nostalgic for the 1960s, when he and everybody elsewas looking at the future with stars in their eyes. But then Gaultier picked up on his favorite sailor style and the show started to look more like Querelle, as in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s final film inspired by Jean Genet’s novel, featuring Brad Davis as a homoerotic sailor. Jean Paul Gaultier is always looking for a new taboo and he sort of found it in the male bustier which he styled like a jean jacket before going all out diva in black sequins. These looked really strange at first because you have to wonder: without breasts, how can a man keep a sleeveless/strapless  top from falling down? After about a dozen of them had come down the runway my eye adjusted, I forgot about the anatomy problem.


Meredith Danluck’s video for the Adam Kimmel presentation

Adam Kimmel: How the West was Redone
“I looked especially at Roy Rogers (The American cowboy actor and singer from the 40s  and 50s),  but his style is pretty fancy so  I toned it down with the Marlboro Man,” explained Adam Kimmel about his recipe for modern westernwear. Kimmel prepared his spring collection on a road trip which took him all over the western states from Utah and Wyoming which he found “too cold for inspiration,” down to Taos, New Mexico where he thrifted a bit before ending up at the ranch of the bull rider champion Rocky McDonald where Jim Krantz, the original photographer of the Marlboro Man cigarette ads, photographed Kimmel’s collection on the local cowboys.  Video artist Meredith Danluck shot  Rocky and other riders in action as well. Kimmel’s favorite pieces are the suits styled like cowboy shirts with piping details and crescent “smile” pockets. Jean jackets with leather flap pockets , faded old cowboy scarves and high waisted pinstripe pants with matching suspenders blend  in perfectly with the rest of Kimmel’s American workwear staples.    

Henrik Vibskov: Not the Boys Next Door
The boys in Danish designer Henrik Vibskov’s show had their faces covered in Cousin It blonde bobs, wore black metal nose caps and propellers on their heads, but underneath it all they’re just regular guys. His  shows always have an installation component, and this season two men were covered head-to-toe in fringed body stockings, operating two giant size umbrellas that opened and closed at the start of the runway as though they were drawing in the models from some distant point in outer space. Once you get past all the staging, the collection is full of the kinds of sporty basics young men like to wear: pinstripe overalls, cape-like shirts and parkas, a great cardigan in an abstract jacquard pattern, riding trousers cropped at the knee and bright sweaters with a shadow pattern scary animal head which if it could speak would probably say something like: “Boo!’