From menswear, to couture – via Lanvin, Thom Browne, Saint Laurent and Versace

Alexander Fury
thom browne 300x300 From menswear, to couture   via Lanvin, Thom Browne, Saint Laurent and Versace

Looks from the spring 2014 Thom Browne show in Paris

Yesterday were the final menswear shows from Paris. I wrote about them as uniform. Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver lifting from sportswear and utility, as well as the business-suit, for a Lanvin show that, while lacking a single definitive voice, offered a multitude of choice for their customers. It was commercially suave, but managed to avoid being boring to the press. That’s a tough balancing act. The glittering metallics seemed a bit old-news, but the oversized layers looked interesting, the bubbly volume feeling new.

New isn’t a word I’d use to describe Thom Browne’s show. However, it was quite extraordinary: I wonder if we’ll look back on these moments as defining seismic shifts in fashion’s landscape. Browne played with proportions, and with the idea of military uniform as a kind of costume – a drag costume. So despite the bulging biceps branded with sailor tattoos and the frogged and braided military coats, Browne’s corps marched out in court shoes with frilled ankle-socks, and a lick of red lipstick. The clothes were entirely irrelevant to the modern wardrobe, even more so than usual, with trousers eschewed for Erich von Stroheim-style jodhpurs and jackets generally flaring princess-line, with intricate corset-lacing up the back. It’s striking that we’ve seen designers creeping towards femininity on other catwalks, but this felt like a frog-march. A terrifying one at that.

Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent is terrifying for many. There’s its terrifying focus on youth, on skinniness, on the indefinable, inestimable quality of coolness. That riles up many of the fashion press, honestly. Maybe because it’s something they’re not supposed to like. After all, there’s very few of them under the age of twenty, the legions who adore Slimane’s clothes and buy them religiously. I remember it being very much the same during his time at Dior Homme – somehow, those barely-twenty somethings have the cash (or credit) to shell out on Slimane’s skinny, sequinned blazers and skinnier PVC jeans. Generally, if you try to buy something in Saint Laurent, it’ll be sold out – the smallest sizes are the most scarce. That’s enlightening as to who Slimane’s customers are. The doubters seem to be coming round, too. The handbags are doing brisk trade. Retailers are happy.

It feels odd to talk about sales as we slide into couture though. As Naomi Campbell pounded the runway like a panther to both open and close the Atelier Versace show last night, she prowled through the halls of the Chambre de Commerce et d’ industrie de Paris. I don’t think anyone noticed though. Couture isn’t about selling. Its power is in simply being. Especially on a supermodel in front of a baying pack of photographers.

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