It's time for another fashion review for the spring/summer 2021 season. And this time around, the typically womenswear schedule is hosting a smattering of menswear collections. We won't be able to experience all the fashion action in real life, but that's not stopping us from analysing each collection and breaking down our favourite looks and accessories.
On day three of Paris Fashion Week, colours were aplenty at the three best showings of the day. Balmain's Olivier Rousteing took reference from the fashion house's '70s era with highlighter hues and heavy doses of a heritage motif, while Dries Van Noten did what he does best: vibrant prints and colours in clashing permutations. And at Kenzo, Felipe Oliveira Baptista highlighted the beauty and fragility of the planet with an homage to bee-keeping.
No other fashion designer is as attuned to social media as Balmain's creative director, Olivier Rousteing. His personal Instagram account has amassed more than six million followers and features a combination of his work at Balmain as well as snippets of his day-to-day dealings. Rousteing is also close to the Kardashian clan and counts Kim Kardashian as his muse. Followers would've already been treated to a sneak peek of Balmain's direction for spring/summer 2021 ahead of the show, mostly thanks to a photo of Kim in a pagoda-shouldered fit that was gifted by Rousteing.
The pre-runway show started as a clear homage to Pierre Balmain. Six veteran couture models took to the runway in '70s Balmain looks featuring the revived PB monogram as audio clips of the founder were played—reiterating the concept of French elegance, and waxing lyrical about the colour black and his opinions of it. And then, to the repeated track of The Weeknd's 'Blinding Lights', the spring/summer 2021 collection came forth strong with a quarter of highlighter-hued suits, all crafted with structured shoulders.
Look and feel: Rousteing's been at the creative helm of Balmain since 2009. He's crafted a signature aesthetic comprising of sharp military lines and details with a penchant for houndstooth motifs. That has steadily made way for more diverse collections that don't necessarily stick to the same proportions and rehashed details. For spring/summer 2021, there's a clear '70s inspiration that's marked not only by the PB monogram, but also in the skinny, bell-bottom trousers and bike shorts, both juxtaposed with top-heavy proportions.
Favourite looks: There's nothing quite as powerful as a suit in menswear and there's plenty here to choose from. While the opening menswear looks were a much-needed jolt of colour, we're leaning towards look 10's more pared back combination of a safety yellow top under a power-shoulder suit (check out that subtle draping right at the front). Look 51's exaggerated lapels on a classic Rousteing for Balmain suit blazer was a clever use of proportions, worn with a camp collar shirt over a black leather top—luxe but not overwhelmingly so. For a sleek and debonair take on the PB monogram, look 70 (it's full monogram save for the trousers) was excellently put together.
Favourite accessories: It's only right that the PB monogram bags were the stars of the collection's slate of accessories. While they came in a multitude of iterations, it's the roomy totes that got us. There's something chic about only being able to clutch them at the top handle; a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. They may be less practical than the usual bags of today but the size more than made up for it.
Dries Van Noten
Like most fashion designers, Dries Van Noten has had to make changes in how his collections take shape. The Belgian designer has never done anything remotely digital before the pandemic—Van Noten is a traditionalist in that aspect, choosing instead to always present collections on the runway. The brand's presence during the menswear schedule was only a sneak peek into the spring/summer 2021 collection, and featured a model air-drumming to music as multicoloured images were projected onto him.
Now that the entire co-ed collection (also a first for the brand) has been revealed, it all made sense. The highlight of every Dries Van Noten collection lies in its prints that are often conceptualised from scratch based on a main inspiration, or in collaboration with an artist. For spring/summer 2021, Van Noten took to late New Zealand artist Len Lye's celluloid film paintings. Working with the Len Lye Foundation, the prints turned out as hand-painted stripes—irregular and at times, in swivels—as well as carried the impression of a tie-dye but with more intent.
Look and feel: There's always a certain level of consistency to every Dries Van Noten collection. The pieces often strike a balance between commercial and fashion-forward quite effortlessly. Metallic chain vests and oversized fishnet layers were added to the vibrant spirit of the spring/summer 2021 collection, as foil fabrics fashioned into outerwear and shorts accented Van Noten's typical clashing combinations.
Favourite looks: Right off the bat, look 17 is the perfect embodiment of the collection–a beautifully oversized jumper (for a larger scale of a Len Lye print) that hits almost on the same level as a pair of black shorts, calf-high boots with stockings peeking through, and finished off with a multi-ringed silver necklace. The same combination is applied to look 22 but the ready-to-wear pieces were instead substituted with a Prince of Wales short suit for something a bit more traditional but not quite so. And for those summer days at the beach, we're gunning for look 36's free-flowing scarf top matched with a pair of silver trousers just for kicks.
Given the current climate, one could mistake Felipe Oliveira Baptista's sophomore collection for Kenzo as nothing more than a response to the pandemic. But there were more to it than riffing on masks and protection. Baptista has been taking a more environmentalist stance at Kenzo, with his latest capsule collection benefitting the World Wildlife Fund's 'TX2' initiative that aims to double the number of tigers (an emblematic figure for Kenzo) in the world. The spring/summer 2021 collection is an extension of his concern for the environment and nature. More than anything, it's a response to the planet's future at large.
"Bees and the beekeepers with their mesmerising clothings and hats that echo so strongly the fragility and distance imposed and needed today," Baptista expresses in the collection's notes. Hence, the quite literal use of beekeeping veils in a few variations—some almost encasing the entire body—as well as floral prints that have been digitally altered to what Baptista refers to as a "crying effect".
Look and feel: The collection worked on the idea of dichotomies. It's apparent in the juxtaposition between lightweight fabrications and hardier constructions of workwear pieces that drew inspiration from gardening and beekeeping—best represented by look 25. Protection was also a key trope that was expanded into the idea of adaptability and being ready for what's to come. This was embodied in pieces that could transform into different state, such as a coat that could we wrapped and turned into a bumbag, and a bag that's designed to take shape as a bigger bag when needed. These were clothes that, while dainty in certain aspects, were built to help one survive.
Favourite looks: Kenzo's iconic poppy flower was reenvisioned into an almost sinister print on a black suit in look 12. It's definitely an edgier interpretation of the Kenzo poppy, and one that one could easily pull off. We're also gravitating towards look 36's blush tones with a jumper that worked as a waist accessory and designed with a functional oversized pocket.