It is only the second day of Paris Fashion Week Men's, but we've got some of the most influential designers of our time making their fashion cases for the spring/summer 2020 season. For day two of our reviews of the best shows during Paris Fashion Week Men's spring/summer 2020, we will be breaking down the offerings by Off-White, Y/Project, Raf Simons and Undercover.
Virgil Abloh might get some flack among the fashion crowd for his designs, but at a time where luxury brands are eagerly looking for a way to connect with a young audience, it's what he's doing at Off-White that resonates. The man is a living embodiment of the Internet age—a hyper-connected world builder. And his spring/summer 2020 collection for Off-White, is a great example of this.
The show actually began even before the first model walked down the runway. Abloh revealed in an Instagram post that two pairs of Nike Dunks made in collaboration with New York artist Futura, were to make their debut during the show.
Abloh's collaborative effort with Futura didn't end there. Futura's vivid spray strokes and sleek alien Pointman figures also made their way into the collection, in the form of prints on knitted blankets, coats, and suits. But the collection is more than just a canvas for Futura's work—the pieces also drew inspiration from the artist's own clothes. Abloh translated that roughened and weathered look of Futura's workwear attire onto tie-dyed cargo trousers, flannel shirts and knitwear.
While the Off-White's signature technical workwear, tailoring and denim pieces remain core to the collection, Abloh's exploration of knitwear is where we see the biggest growth in his design vocabulary. Think lovely heavy knitted blankets worn as outerwear, a cable knit polo shirt with matching knitted shorts, a lovely gradient pullover and asymmetrical T-shirts.
As the show drew to a close, and The Beatles's 'Blackbird' played, the line "you were only waiting for this moment to arise" felt somewhat fitting: Virgil Abloh and Futura were two men who were on the outside of the art and fashion world looking in, but it's their time now to shine.
And shine they did, together, with this Off-White collection.
For his spring/summer 2020 effort, Glenn Martens of Y/Project brought the fashion congregation to church, more specifically, the Oratoire du Louvre. But the collection wasn't religiously charged; nothing is particularly obvious at the house that Martens help built. Instead, the collection was a sermon on the art of tailoring. But as we said earlier: nothing is what it seems at Y/Project.
The easy way to sum up the collection is that Martens put a literal twist on menswear staples—contorted shirtings, misaligned blousons, oversized jackets that had their shoulders slouched towards the front, and bomber jackets and parkas that looked like they were violently pulled from the side.
But a runway show is more than just the garments a designer sends down the runway. The soundtrack was of an opera classic—Carmen's 'L'amour est un oiseau rebelle' by George Bizet—that at certain points, was performed by Beaker, a Muppet. The effect was visceral, but the intention was one that leaned towards playful; a sense of joy in the chaos.
Now back to the topic on hand: the clothing. Instead of the usual method of shrinking, elongating and enlarging proportions to create a new silhouette, Martens went out of the box in order to propose newness. The collection challenged the idea of how clothes fit the body, and Martens managed to elevate it into a form of art. Our favourite look came in the form of a black asymmetrical single-breasted tailored suit, but had the look and feel of its double-breasted sibling.
The Y/Project spring/summer 2020 men's collection was a testament to how clothes can be translated into sculptures with ingenious pattern-making, impeccable tailoring, and a wicked sense of humour.
Raf Simons' spring/summer 2020 collection retained all the characteristics that put him right at the pinnacle of menswear: the celebration of subcultural contexts, youth and tailoring. Where the collection differed from previous outings, was a firmer focus on Americana. Could it have been a shot at American label Calvin Klein that Simons left behind before realising this collection?
Simons once said: "I don’t want to show clothes, I want to show my attitude, my past, present and future. I use memories and future visions and try to place them in today’s world." But rather than a collection about revenge over his departure from Calvin Klein, it was a tangible expression of his time spent there. First, he began by putting across the slogans of 'STONE(D) AMERICA and 'HOW TO TEXT YOUR TEEN' on Raf Simons staples such as oversized T-shirts and knitwear, tiny shorts and jackets. Simons was also not afraid to explore drug references, interpreting lab coats paired with gloves that looked like they belonged in a Breaking Bad scene.
Other classic Raf Simons staples like oversized jackets and coats also made an appearance on the runway. But where the collection differed was the interpretation of a lengthened cardigan worn as a light summer coat, and rolled up trousers that resembled skirts—a nod to his highly covetable kilts from many seasons back.
The collection was a more horrifying take on Americana than was explored during his tenure at Calvin Klein. But this was not a revenge flick, rather, it's a means of catharsis for him. If you want to know where Simons was at mentally, perhaps the answer is in the collection's last slogan: 'MY OWN PRIVATE ANTWERP'.
How does one capture the notion of fear? In film, an easy way out is by doing it through graphic scenes and jump scares. But the greatest of auteurs work with the anticipation—that feeling of something lurking right under the surface, and the uncertainty of what truly lies beneath and when it will appear. In the fashion world, Jun Takahashi of Undercover is one such auteur. And when it came to expressing the concept of fear for his spring/summer 2020 collection, it was not surprising that he applied a less literal translation.
It began with the rejection of streetwear tropes. Instead, Takahashi opted for classic tailoring—perfectly cut garments that actually fit the way they were supposed to. There was no avant-garde treatment to the silhouettes, just straight up good old suiting in black. In a world where casual wear still reigns supreme, the idea of a simple black suit is somewhat horrifying. But Takahashi didn't stop there, using Nosferatu (the first vampire to hit the silver screen) as a graphic that loomed ominously through tonal appliqués and muted graphics on the front of jackets, coats and boxy camp collar shirt-jackets. The use of a spider-web pleating on a classic black shirt was also brilliant.
While the graphics on the front were subtle, the ones at the back told a different story. Vampires and horrific figures by artist Cindy Sherman were realised in full form. In the space in between those two extremes, there was a sense of tension, where you felt like you'd want to reach out and warn the wearer of the horrors lurking behind. It was a quiet and elegant collection that was violently subversive in today's excessive era in fashion.
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