Paris Menswear: Up, Down, and All Around

The final day of the Paris men’s shows was a rollercoaster, startingwith an idea-packed collection from Lanvin and ending in a question markat Saint Laurent. In between was a mix of colorful news and classics at Paul Smith and two out-of-this-world-style send-ups by Bernhard Willhelm and Thom Browne.

Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver are in top form. Extra-long-and-skinny marble-print ties on shirts with colorful satin inset panels, parkas with bubble hems and chic sweatshirts in wool checks, and other surprising fabrics looked quite new. Lanvin continues with its high-waist pleated trousers—a ’30s revamp—which the house introduced a few seasons ago and are now catching on all over the place. This season, Lanvin paired them with skinny turtlenecks, which is likely to send the brand’s fans running back to the gym for extra ab work. In fact, there was a turtleneck peeking out from under almost every shirt in the show.

Overall, this collection was uniformly sleek and graphic, from the subtle tone-on-tone combinations for tailoring to eye-popping items like the sleeveless sweatshirt covered with wide bands in black-on-black and out-there off-white, back-zippered boots. By the end of the show, Elbaz and Ossendrijver even got a bit cheeky, with silk shirts in transparent violet and orange worn with those narrow ties for men who want to look dressy in an undressed way.

Saint Laurent was the hottest ticket in Paris again, as everyone was anxious to see Hedi Slimane’s first formal menswear foray since his final show for Dior Homme way back in 2007. The crowd was also interested in how he might turn the tide after the mixed reviews for his first women’s collection presented last October. Well, it appears after last night’s show that Slimane’s Saint Laurent is still hovering in rock-‘n’-roll limbo.

Voluminous capes in salt-and-pepper hand knits and oversized, tunic-like Fair Isle sweaters scattered with a few polychrome sequins were the most interesting pieces in this show. They were however caught in a logjam of skinny, multi-slashed jeans and leather drainpipe pants covered with zippers; black pinstripe blazers so tight and short they looked about ready to burst at the seams; endlessly long, stripe-y wool scarves; leopard spots on this and that, including one red-and-black sequin tunic that looked like it had strayed from the Versace couture show which was presented later that evening; classic duffel coats; and plaid flannel shirts. The overall mix did have a cool thrift-shop chic, but it failed to break any new ground. Hedi, bring us more news next time!