Rules are made to be broken. That’s what we’re all taught in our school days. Well, not so much taught, but you pick it up along the way. Raf Simons certainly has. For his autumn/winter 2015 collection, on the first day of Paris’ men’s shows, he once again latched onto youth, his eternal inspiration. Only this season, like the last, felt like it was Simons’ own misbegotten ways. And, in tune with the season as a whole, that necessitated a trip to the archive, and a flick through the garments that defined his aesthetic.
Family is a big deal in Italian fashion. When Donatella Versace, for instance, talks about the Versace DNA, I don’t roll my eyes quite as audibly as I do with other designers. I once asked her what the name “Versace” represented to her. “As a label, or as my family?” was her reply.
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.
The coupling of great clothes and a great show, where neither one outshines the other, is very rare. It’s all the more remarkable, then, that Raf Simons’ formula for his eponymous label seems such a sure-fire hit. I tried to think back to a Simons show that hasn’t worked, gloriously. Then I realised this was his business’ twentieth anniversary. I couldn’t think of a single instance.
Donatella Versace wanted her show to be a celebration of the Versace World. Sounds like a grand statement, but you got it. Versace’s Cuban-tinged collezioni not only felt like a distinct entity from Dolce and Gabbana’s Caprice Espagnole, Neil Barrett’s slick sportswear tinged with Roman classicism, or Stefano Pilati’s serene Ermenegildo Zegna show: it felt a world apart, as did they.
Last night, Christopher Shannon won the inaugural BFC/GQ Designer Fashion Fund – an injection of £150,000 cash with £50,000 in mentoring, the biggest prize in menswear. It’s the bloke’s counterpart to the Vogue Fashion Fund, a stamp of establishment prestige.
In layman’s terms, Christopher Shannon’s receipt of this award is the equivalent of Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision victory, or England winning the World Cup. Namely, the people’s choice. Lest that sound overtly populist, he’s also the critic’s choice. He’s liked and his collections are lauded.
The question of clothing versus fashion fascinates me. Particularly in menswear, where even at the highest level the lines seem blurred. Clothing does what the name suggests. It clothes a body. But what does fashion do? It’s a noun and a verb. Perhaps fashion is about re-fashioning our bodies, or at least our perceptions of them. You could argue that’s what the pourpoint did – the fourteenth-century foundation garment worn beneath plate armour, heavily-padded on the chest to fill out the convex breastplate, which is acknowledged by many as the starting point of true fashion. Namely, when humans began to use the cut of the cloth to radically alter the shape of the human form. It still clothed the body, of course. But it also did something more. And it was worn by men.
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