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Report: Paris Menswear AW13

Header image (left-right): KRISVANASSCHE, Dior Homme, Wooyoungmi (all images: Catwalking.com)

Whether you’re a (srsly) dedicated follower of fashion or a mere dabbler in the medium, there’s one city that is the centre of Fashion with a capital ‘F’: Paris. While London’s creative’s might be first with the ideas, the French catwalks treat fashion as high concept art – there’s less of the glitz of Milan, or the commerciality of NYC – this is Fashion as spectacle. So while we at Notion obvs LOVE London, whenever there’s a chance to hit Paree, Online Editor Seb Law is always the first in the office to wave his passport and jump on the Eurostar; especially when menswear is concerned. Here’s his look at next season’s collections…

Turns out, from a logistical perspective at least, Paris is not all that different from London. Shows are held around the city in various car parks, municipal spaces and galleries that range from the industrial art space of the Palais de Tokyo to the wood-panelled halls of the Mairie du 4eme. In fact bar a language barrier, Paris is pretty much the same as London, aside from the legendary Parisian attitude to timekeeping. It took me a couple of shows of arriving 15 minutes before the time specified on the invite to realise that that time actually meant ‘arrive around then, and the show will start at least half an hour afterwards.’ Once I’d mastered the art of strolling into spaces LITERALLY fashionably late, I hit my stride.

Anyway, Parisians schmarisians – this was all about the clothes. Around the various other activities I was in Paris to do (including an exclusive interview with electro artist Kavinsky – keep your eyes peeled for that this week), I managed to slot in a fair few shows (although missed a fair few as well), my take on the best bits from the AW13 menswear défilés (catwalks, to you and me).

KOLOR (images: Catwalking.com)
This brand is one of those labels that define what Paris is all about. Japanese is origin, Kolor shows here for the cachet of ‘being in Paris’ and being a part of the international circuit. Pleasingly, they totally merit this position: the designers showed a collection that nodded to many of the trends that I’d seen a few weeks before in London, including: orange, quilted leather detailing, a mix of luxe textures and sportswear-inspired finishing touches (this turned out to be possibly THE story from Paris men’s). I particularly liked the subtle ombres on suiting, as well as tiny pops of colour on otherwise sober tailoring hems as well as the inclusion of unusual materials like neoprene. Kolor also showed a series of puffa jackets that built more structure into the tailoring silhouette. I left the show inspired by the way that the designers had woven these details into what they were doing, without ever going overboard.

PAUL & JOE (images: PR)
One of my fave labels, Paul & Joe’s mix of sharp tailoring with goodtime boy fabrics and a real sense of fun keeps it perpetually at the top of my want list. What I particularly like about the brand is that every collection encompasses many different (and often contrasting) things, and that Sophie Albou’s sense of exploration of experimentation is so brilliantly carried off – and always totally wearable. Anyway, this season’s Magritte influences extended beyond the obvious cloud print to take in surrealist touches and a kind of Italian neorealist film vibe: worker caps, looser trousers and gorgeous tweeds made for a great set of outerwear that never loses that aim of being fun.

MAREUNROL’S (images: PR)
The small Latvian label Mareunrol’s (previously winners at the festival d’Hyeres) showed off the main schedule of PFW with a presentation in a 3rd arrondissement gallery. While the clothes were serious and dark, the cutting was playful and sharp, experimenting with form and shape of garments, and mixing some gorgeous metallic fabrics with embossed leather. The impressive, multilayered dioramas as face masks riffed on the idea of travel and exploration, as did the clothes. It was one of those smaller presentations that could easily be missed out, but that showed that Paris isn’t just highfalutin concepts and waiting for Karl Lagerfeld to show up – there are international labels coming from all over the world that bring their unique twist on menswear. Unexpectedly (for I had no expectations, not knowing the brand previously), I loved Mareunrol’s – definitely one to keep an eye out for at boutiques.

On-schedule but shown in the tiniest of spaces in the Marais, Atelier Gustavolins pinpointed a few of the detailing trends that so characterised Paris. Complex darts to the back of jackets were complemented by exquisite velvet puffa jackets in jewel tones (yes, really, OMG, swoon) that added a sense of drama and structure to the tailoring. The presentation was filled with sleex jackets, clean lines and luxe detailing like leather collars and insouciantly-draped scarves that means that this collection kept a fashion-forward feel while also being very masculine.

JUUN J (images: Hommemodel.com)
This was the show for me that was the most successful with structure. Juun J’s oversized jackets and statement puffa jackets gave the whole show a much higher-concept feel than some others, and there was a strong dose of military (as well as a questionable use of eagle crests on the backs of jackets) that made the whole collection feel very argumentative and in-your-face. Metallic coppers and luxe fabrics softened this come-and-have-a-go vibe, but the manga-meets-punk feeling meant a hard as nails outing for Juun J. The silhouette of oversize top and narrow trousers is now a classic in menswear, and by exaggerating these proportions, the designer showed a collection that was full on apocalyptic punk. I rather liked the whole thing: a great example of a strong concept that was both perfectly-executed and cohesively carried off.

KRISVANASSCHE (images: Catwalking.com)
An absolute triumph for me. I’ve been a massive fan of Kris’ work (both at his own label and at Dior Homme: check my interview with Kris from last year here) for years now, and this season I really felt like he was trying to say something pretty exciting about menswear. By cut’n’sew stitching together cotton jersey hoodies and expensive wool suit jackets, van Assche played with the idea of youth and tailoring, musing on the very idea of the suit and its relevance to the kids of today. In my eye, this combination both hit a high note conceptually, and created garments that I would happily wear – a raspberry sweater with a crisp white shirt above the epaulette line? YES PLEASE. Multi-shirt horizontal layers? YES PLEASE. Suits-but-not-suits-with-a-slice-of-varsity-sweaters? YES PLEASE. Van Assche took his own label to places he can’t take Dior: mixing the street/sportswear styling that (for me) comes straight out of London town with absolute masterful detail and perfect execution. This collection embodies the way men approach not only the suit but the whole concept of dressing in 2013: fragmented, atomised and all mixed up, it was a schizophrenic shuffle of garments, about as rock & roll as tailoring can get. In case you were still unsure, I absolutely LOVED it.

While I’d seen all of the Brit designers in London the previous week at LCM, I couldn’t NOT swing by to see them (especially as I was flying the #LCM flag literally on myself – somehow managing to squeeze Qasimi, Baartmans & Siegel, Agi & Sam and Joseph Turvey’s black & glitter AW13 casquette [borrowed from his stand at Capsule] into one outfit). Anyway, outfit aside, seeing all of our homegrown talent in the London Shorooms space in the Marais was almost overwhelming – all the designers had cherrypicked from their AW13 offerings, bringing the best, most exciting and most creative pieces from the most creative of fashion weeks and plonking them down in the middle of Paris. The riot of colour, texture and ideas was a complete sensory overload, and as the Tim Blanks brunch got underway, the Showrooms filled with a festival-like atmosphere. You can check out our LCM reviews elsewhere, but the good vibes and smiling faces here made me think something I never thought I would  in the French capital: I didn’t want to go back onto the Parisian streets.

BORIS BIDJAN SABERI (images: Dan Lecca)
But venture back in the snow I did, for Boris Bidjan Saberi’s show. It couldn’t have been more of a contrast with the Showrooms; literally 90% of the audience were black clad (almost certainly in Saberi’s own designs) in expensive-looking drapery, carefully-grown beards and Rick Owens trainers. The show had more or less happened before it began; assembled guests became the spectacle, as catwalk models and seated guests blurred into one. Once the show got underway, clothes were sculptural, narrow and tapered, with elasticated details, starkly-curved jacket hems and the ever-present beanie hats. Practically everything was black. Very ‘fashion’ (in a Zoolander sense), but not very me.

SONGZIO (images: Fashionising.com)
Another Asian label that shows in Paris, Songzio used a monochrome palette to a much more successful effect. Basing many of the outfits around a treated leather that lost pigment in it creases, I was in awe of not only this fabric technique, but also the sharpness of the tailoring and the cohesiveness of the ideas. The effect was somewhere between aged hide, child’s crayon and a brass rubbing, and it’s something I’ve not seen outside of select Margiela pieces before. Complemented by metallic crepes, crinkly Tyveks and crumpled coats, what this collection lacked in colour variance it made up for in texture. Cuts experimented with form: for example one jacket with horizontal pleats to the waist almost gave a crocodile-like effect, while high collars and oversize knitwear emphasised a play with superstructure. Maroon and brown looks were less successful to my eye, but this collection’s finish and variance of texture and cut made in an excellent showcase for the brand. Brilliant.

DIOR HOMME (images: Catwalking.com)
For me, this was THE show of the season. For so many reasons, but partly because of the very fact that it’s ‘Dior’: people have heard of it, people want to go and everyone turns up. The #frow was of course a veritable who’s who of fashion (including former Notion coverstars Azari & III who played the Dior party later that night), and when Karl Lagerfeld finally entered, regally parading himself down the catwalk, there was a monetary hush amongst the guests. Suddenly ‘90s rave tunes (Anne Clark’s ‘Our Darkness’) kick in and then everyone jumps as the totally on-point clothes began to defile. Van Assche filtered into the show the exploration of tailoring ideas that he had so liberally shown the day before: suiting was shown with sleek zips and chunky utility belts: there was a distinctly ‘90s sci-fi vibe to the whole collection. As ever, monochrome tailoring proliferated, but every piece was properly twisted, modernified, and reimagined to be a ‘new’ garment. Jackets formed from patent leather and made extra-long, followed slim-cut bumfreezers with elasticated waistbands. For me, the trenches were less exciting, but the contrast sleeves and vertical panelling worked brilliantly, as did Van Assche’s use of navy and aubergine tones. Interspersed between the tailoring were pentagram-adorned pullovers that, combined with the rave tunes, gave a very apocalyptic feeling to proceedings. This show was all about the subtle transformative power of suiting and suiting subtly and powerfully transformed into something resolutely new, and it was a masterpiece.

WOOYOUNGMI (images: Catwalking.com)
This South Korean label is another of my favourites: the designers always seem to mix pattern, cut and fabric in a way that manages to be both fashion-forward yet classic every season. And, of course, this season was no disappointment. Mostly eschewing patterns for full-colour & tonal looks (proper, actual colour: mustards, cobalts, clarets and teals – as a self-confessed lover of colour, I was in heaven), the mastery of the Wooyoungmi cut could be fully appreciated. While much of the collection focused on traditional, modern tailored suits, there were pieces that blew me away: the acid cobalt blouson jacket has gone straight to the top of my want list, as has the luxe teal puffa and the Aztec-inspired embossed raspberry caban. Detail, really is the watchword of Wooyoungmi: all the requisite sportswear nods were present, subtly incorporated into classic shapes. The futuristic clean lines of the garments were streetified by the accessories: nylon backpacks, colourpop belts, mini-clutches and thin-knit beanies all gave an edge to this show’s take on colourful tailoring. The more I look back at the images, the more I love it.

SMALTO (images: Catwalking.com)
Sometimes, perfectly-tailored jackets just aren’t enough. In the pantheon of Parisian fashion houses, Smalto is a bit like Paul Smith, specialising in classic tailoring with a Parisian twist. And while all the suiting was expertly-cut, it was the experience that made the Smalto show stand out. Split into five different dioramas around a rive gauche hotel, models relaxed with a drink while they played cards, had a shave or had their shoes shined, creating a party atmosphere – which was added to by the five different drinks on offer, all of which I tried, naturally. A highpoint for me was the casting of this show – it was fantastic, all the boys were classically handsome and utterly swoonworthy, and seemingly at ease with the spectacle that they were a part of. By playing with the concept of voyeurism, Smalto elevated their sharp tailoring, giving it a shot of sexiness and a dash of smoulder. Just what was needed at 5pm on a snowy Saturday evening…

MIHARAYSUHIRO (images: Catwalking.com)
Just before dashing back to the Eurostar (and only just making it onto the train), I managed to squeeze in a final show: Miharaysuhiro. After the booziness of Smalto, the jovial vibe continued, with guests being provided with blankets for this outside gallery presentation, soundtracked by awesome rhythmic Oriental drumming. The clothes stayed true to the established Miharaysuhiro aesthetic: screenprinted tailoring, gorgeous suede bombers and steel-toecap detailed lace-ups combined to give a sharp, defined, cohesive look. Detailing was superb, with curved collars, slashed trouser pleats and snakeskin puffas complementing the Japanese embroidery on jacket backs. From the sounds of the drumming to the visible breath from the models’ mouths, Miharayasuhiro’s catwalk was an immersive experience that perfectly rounded off my trip.

- Seb Law

With thanks to: Kat @ Mercury Records, Heather @ Coffin on Cake, Joseph Turvey, Jeanne @ HPR, Emmanuele Rene & Francois Scali, Michael Shane

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