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It is gratifying in fashion when the good guys do right. Kim Jones has been men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton since 2011, yet he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Maybe it is because he is one of the few designers to commit himself to menswear, unlike those who start women’s to further their fame. Maybe because he is passionately connected to subcultures, and to preserving their legacy — he doesn’t chase easy celebrity. He’s an LVMH designer, and yet isn’t a judge on the annual LVMH Prize jury to reward young talent (even though Jones has a keen eye for the upcoming). Hopefully things will change. They should do. His spring/summer 2016 collection was a stellar fashion show, one that elevated his work and standing.
“It was quite hard to think what to do after the Nemeth thing,” said Jones, the day before the show. He was referring to his autumn/winter 2015 collection, a tribute to the late designer Christopher Nemeth. It has just been delivered to stores, including a pop-up at the important Paris store Colette. For the second day running, there had been queues outside the store front, the length of those for the Apple Watch launch three months earlier. They had sold 120 pieces of ready-to-wear and were reordering more.
Jones has often focused on specific locations. “I’ve been to fifteen countries already this year,” he said. “I like the idea of how tribes develop around the world.” He showed me an image of what looked like a guy in modern day sportswear. “It’s 70 years old, from the hill tribes in Thailand,” he said. It was also in the blue, red and white colours that he has made integral to his work at Vuitton. That top was recreated here in a track, top, zip-up and parka, each with bands of red and white over blue.
Souvenir jackets were intensely embroidered, and reversible with velvet on the underside. A jacket was made from a Kobe cow, and had been indigo dyed. “Kobe leather has to be sun-dried,” said Jones. “It’s been raining a lot this spring so it’s been hard to get. We’ve only been able to make two pieces.” Such are the concerns of the Vuitton world.
The intensity of the work was everywhere. What looked like technical jackets were actually the lightest lamb skin bonded with organza. A triangular shell pattern was recreated by raised handstitching on a top. He tried to explain how some pearls had been indigo dyed, and then put back in their shell to gain their shine. This is a world away from any I know.
A confession: I always go and see Jones the day before, which cuts out any surprise at the show itself. This one was a major fashion moment. The music was special re-edits provided by Nile Rogers of Chic, who took to the microphone to introduce the show. The DJ next to him was Honey Dijon, a close friend of Jones. Suddenly the show had that thing that so many lack: atmosphere.
The clothes looked extraordinary, some of the best of the season. Jones is a designer who loves the feeling that fashion can evoke and the global community that around it swirls.
Rick Owens is another good guy who this season suffered by another’s hand. Let’s look first how his show ought to have been. “It’s about male aggression,” he said afterwards. “It’s the M65 parka, and now it’s a symbol of both war and also the anti-war movement.” He presented clothing in turmoil: sleeves cut off long jackets, tops with the sleeves pushed redundant to the back or turned inside out and upside down. The final pieces had M65 panels attached like they were clinging on for dear life.
There were calmer moments, such as the top with graphics like a hieroglyphic eye, or stone top with a circular cut in the chest, a black-lined cave inside. It reminded me of Anish Kapoor’s vagina sculpture, currently on show at Versailles. “It’s actually something else, but you probably can’t print it.” He told me what it was about. I can’t print it.
The other story. Halfway through, a model walked out carrying a hand written sign on cloth. The message was aggressive, personal and nasty. It gave the show a sudden, awful tension. The protest was the model’s own doing, nothing to do with Owens. “I’m pissed off,” said Owens afterwards.
“Now that’s all the show is going to be about.” He was talking about the inevitable social media onslaught, something Owens experienced last season when a few looks exposed models’ penises. “The show was about male aggression,” said Owens, “and then a model went and did something crazy.”
Much in Paris has been about memory and time. Dries van Noten concocted a clever story by juxtaposing images of Marilyn Monroe with a soundtrack that included “Pretty Vacant” by The Sex Pistols. Monroe had been dead 13 years by the time the Pistols were formed. No time at all, and yet culturally poles apart. Such is how things advance. The show was actually an imagined conversation between Monroe and Salvador Dalí, hence the embroidered lobsters on sweaters and the like. The Monroe pieces were sometimes great (the sweater embroidered with just an eye and a lip) and sometimes too much (a suit of an all over paparazzi image). The bottom line: it was stuffed with pieces that will sell. Good guys do succeed, after all.
For more reports from the Paris shows, go to our fashion weeks page on the FT web app, or visit our AW2015 fashion weeks hub on FT.com