As you hurtle around Paris, there are a multitude of advertisements for Jonathan Anderson’s latest Loewe collection. I began to notice them – with their monumental Meisel images of Raquel Zimmermann awash with pastels – as soon as I left the Eurostar. I’m not sure what they cost, all those hoardings. But they’re doing their job. It made me think a lot about Loewe, about what Anderson is doing there, and how it’s making everything else look old.
Paris Menswear Autumn/Winter 2015: Studious design lessons from Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Loewe, Thom Browne, Hermes
Perhaps it’s all the uniforms cropping up all over the place, or maybe it was Raf Simons’ opening gambit, glorifying his own university years on Wednesday evening, but there’s been a back-to-school feeling at the Paris menswear shows. Many editors share said feeling – bleary-eyed and pale under recently-acquired holiday tans, with shell-shocked expression as they launched into a fully-fledged fashion month barely a week into the new year. Amongst designers, generally, there’s a studious earnestness, to see ideas through, to cross t’s and dot i’s. But, alas, there hasn’t been much deep and meaningful.
London Collections: Men – Machismo, mauve, muddles and messiness, from Alexander McQueen, JW Anderson, Sibling and James Long
There could be few more opposing statements on contemporary menswear than those proposed by JW Anderson and Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton on the third day of London Collections: Men. The former focussed on the floppy, the fey, the snake-hipped gender-blending 1970s; the latter on curled-lip, swagger-shouldered military machismo, last seen circa 1870 when Britannia still rules the waves, and the world. Their men were sufficiently removed from each other to seem to come not merely from different wardrobes, but different species.
If you ascend Paris’ Eiffel tower – say, during a free moment during the spring/summer 2015 menswear shows – you can look out on a vista relatively unchanged from the first day the tower was opened in 1889, of Baron Haussmann’s neoclassical façades and wide avenues. French law ensures that: Second Empire plans are in many cases more or less followed, with “alignement” law still in place to regulates a building’s height according to the width of the streets it borders. It’s fabulous for a sight-seer who gets to step back in time, almost. But many argue it’s choking the development of the city as a whole. Personally, I see a parallel with much of Paris fashion, where tradition can often choke creativity.
JW Anderson’s pre-collections always bear further examination. That’s because he puts so much into them, these interim collections that have often been confined to pure commerce but which have recently expanded into fully-fledged designer statements. he puts a lot in, and reaps the rewards.
The good, the bad, the ugly – fashion shows are sometimes all three, and frequently that’s their strength. That’s because fashion isn’t about just looking pretty, particularly when it’s elevated by a catwalk showcase. Those shows are also not purely about product. They’re aspirational aesthetic proposals, about shifting the goalposts and introducing something fresh and new. A fashion show should question, and provoke, as well as try to hawk us something new off the back of it.
It’s difficult to buy a bag, as a man. Very, very difficult. And it’s not because people aren’t pitching for your cash. Far from it. We featured manbags alongside the glad rags in the men’s fashion special of the Independent Magazine for autumn/winter 2013, because they have grown in visibility and in importance.
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