Paris Menswear Spring 2010, Part 2

Mihara Yasuhiro’s Little Princes

Japanese menswear’s rising star read between the lines of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince—one of his favorite books—and what he found was the key to contemporary style: a mix of softly worn out leather jackets, notably the aviator and other military classics, grandfather vests over filmy tunics, baggy paint-stained pants and sarouels in T-shirt knit worn with cropped boots so distressed they resemble sandals. This was all in a sand storm of dusty colors and droopy, stretched out proportions.  The twist came in a collection of princely jewels (a collaboration with designer Husam el Odeh) in precious metals, rubies, and sapphires for military medals, regal necklaces and a  sterling silver crown finished in black gold plate and studded with a constellation of pearls.  

Bernhard Willhelm: Make Art Not War
The gallery of self-portraits on the invitation to Bernhard Willhelm’s “Cabbage Redemption Council” show features the designer, and partner Jutta Kraus, wearing a series of cabbage leaves with eye and mouth holes cut out jack O’ lantern style  was a pretty good tip off that Willhelm, never a slouch in the sardonic  fashion department, was preparing one of those humdinger shows capable of provoking laughter to the point of tears.
The models, a motley international crew, dressed in a combination of  restyled army camouflage, African print tunics, Hari Krishna orange pieces, psychedelic-patterned cardigans and two-tone knee socks worn with sandals, or rubber galoshes, arranged themselves tableau vivant style around the easels, piles of old books and stuffed tigers, lions, and cabbages set up in the heavy gilt salle d’honneur at the Paris Bourse (stock exchange).  There they began to paint, on the canvases, on the books, and finally on each other. By the time a pair came out their Louis XVI curly wig  was twisted into animal shapes, and the audience had moved beyond the fashion question altogether.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of  Bernhard Willhelm and Jutta Kraus’s collaboration, Holland’s Groninger Museum will hold a major solo exhibition from December 13, 2009 through April 11, 2010 art directed by the Berlin-based Scenographer Zana Bosnjak and curated by Mark Wilson and Sue-an van der Zijp, who have produced solo shows on Viktor & Rolf, Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, Marc Newson, Hussein Chalayan and Azzedine Alaïa.  In conjunction with the show,  Rotterdam’s Nai Publishers will come out with a  monograph including over 500 illustrations from the duo’s decade in fashion.

Ann Demeulemeester: Horsemen
You have to look closely at Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester’s shows.  She’s not one for massive change: It’s all in the details. Patti Smith’s favorite designer put her men in horsey harnesses, or rather a black leather cummerbund. It’s worn like an orthopaedic belt next to the skin and peaks out sexily from the waist of light silk trousers. Instead of a coat, Ann likes  billowing boxer’s robes in peach silk worn with boxy shorts. And instead of a top, there’s a filmy silk cardigan, covered with rusty sequins.  There’s lots of vests here too, usually worn next to the skin and then there’s the troubling details, like barbed wire necklaces, which bring to mind that every rose has its thorns.

Yohji Yamamoto: Mystery Man 
Yohji Yamamoto is a mysterious man. On one boxy blue jacket in his new collection, his name, written in Russian, rises from the inside of the chest pocket in a faded stencil print like a trail of smoke. Then on the inside lining of the jacket, his name appears again, written this time in Japanese. And on the lapel is a reproduction of a Russian medal with “Anyways” engraved on the reverse side. There’s no explanation for why he designed this. The representative in his Paris office said only that Yohji had the Russian medal for a long time and that when he reproduced it, he said he felt like adding a little message. This collection looks like a young man inherited clothes from his grandfather and adapted them to his younger life. The jeans are baggy and some of them have elastic waists, boxy black jackets have full dress collars in black satin and there are sweaters in a patchwork of spidery fisherman’s net. First impressions can be deceiving: One of the best pieces in this collection looks like a pair of pyjamas in a typical blue stripe, only the jacket and pants are completely lined and constructed to fit like a properly tailored suit.
In 2001, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum will stage a major exhibition of Yamamoto’s work, and at this summer’s Festival d’Avignon, the annual theater festival in the south of France, film director Christophe Honoré will present his first major theater project, an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s  “Angelo, the Tyrant of Padua,” starring Emmanuelle Devos, about the tyranny of desire, costumed entirely from past and present collections by Yohji Yamamoto and his daughter’s brand Limi Feu.

Dunhill: Big Money Goes Downtown
Kim Jones is in his second season at Dunhill, the venerable men’s line known for its exquisite and oh-so-pricey pens and lighters. It seems like only yesterday Jones was the idea man  responsible for the cool gear at Umbro, the UK’s football uniform maker, as well as his own Kim Jones label for hip young Englishmen. With sport and street behind him, Jones has poured himself into the chic suit world and Dunhill for spring looks like it’s for a stockbroker who leads a double life as a jazz musician. In fact, the collection resembles David Bowie in his Thin White Duke persona, minus the manic addict side. The suits are slim, with the season’s hot narrow cuff pants, a silver Arman sculpture style brief case, trilby worn with everything and a silk print neck scarf  held down with a tie tack.  Very dapper and high maintenance.

Hermès: Verde Que Te Quiero Verde
Hermès is quintessentially French and so tasteful it’s almost off-putting.  Yes, some other people really do live like this.  For spring, the entire collection was in shady tree browns and greens, colors like taupe and verdigris. I’m tempted to add olive drab to the list, but that’s a military color and there’s nothing warlike here, just drapey linen suits, paper thin calfskin blousons, shorts in tie prints, silky sleeveless twin sets and one great apple green sweater in fisherman’s knot stitch.  

Maison Martin Margiela: Ghosts of Summer
Creepy all-white dressing used to be the providence of boys whose moms dressed them funny, or mafiosi in the summer. Maison Martin Margiela has a jones for creepy and keeps  mining men’s wear louche archive for new gems.  This season it’s white from top to bottom, florals with floral shaped tears, leather vests with chain décor (very creepy), floral painted blousons, sheer shirts and unnatural wrinkles for that ‘I’ve been sleeping in this overcoat’ look.

For part one of the Paris Menswear diary, read on.