“I was looking at Paris,” said Kim Jones, the men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton the day before his show. “I was thinking about Cocteau, thinking about Diaghilev.” He was also thinking about product, the sort of stuff that added together makes for a strong show.
Clothes first. Like many in menswear this season, Mr Jones is moving on from decorated sportiness, which in his case last season was silk varsity jackets. Here what sung were suits, especially those in what he called a Paris grey, as well as purposefully dull browns and blues. “What I like about that brown is it’s a horrible brown,” he said, “but it’s really good as well.” Some of the suits were three button, none of them worn with shirt and tie. I guess the word is insouciance.
Mr Jones continues to play with clothing that spoke on dual levels, like the technical detail zip-ups that to one eye would look club-kid, to another entirely appropriate for a weekending chief executive. A bouclé knee-length cashmere coat was soft and understated, but ramped up when it was styled with a shearling belt.
The bags. Mr Jones had such a hit with last autumn/winter’s Christopher Nemeth tribute, he wanted to push himself to reach similar retail numbers. His answer was a grey-or-black-on-black LV monogram called Eclipse. “Every time I show it to someone, they say, ‘why didn’t they do that already?’,” he said. Also new was a leather zip. What, the teeth are made from leather?
“No. The metal teeth are attached onto leather. Leather would normally just rip off. It’s taken years to develop, and we’ve got it exclusively.”
The bits and bobs. We were stood over trays of trinkets. Mr Jones said that he has long been obsessed with Baron de Redé, the Parisian aesthete. “I was speaking with Jade Jagger about it,” he said. “Her father knew him, and she started bringing stuff to me, so we’ve collaborated on this together. I wanted it to feel like an heirloom rather than something shiny and polished.” There were all sort of charms — matchboxes, whistles, pen — in silver with diamonds. The sort of stuff that will fly.
Mr Jones said he was excited by the new mood in Paris right now, exemplified by Vetements, the label of Demna Gvasalia, who has also been given the creative director title at Balenciaga. The opening look of the last Vetements show was modelled by Gosha Rubchinskiy, the young Russian menswear designer who is the one of the most watched in menswear right now. Mr Rubchinskiy shares a stylist with Vetements — Lotta Volkova, who is also working with Mr Gvasalia at Balenciaga. It is quite a formidable clique.
Mr Gvasalia was in the audience for Gosha Rubchinskiy’s autumn/winter 2016 show, where the focus was great product and neat ideas. His duffels were excellent, as were field jackets. Egg yellow track pants will find their customer (an admittance: probably me). He also experimented, cutting an extra hole in the sleeves of sweatshirts. When the very young models had their hands through the upper hole, the rest of the sleeve banged behind. It was a good angry teenage look.
The show was held at a burnt-out old theatre that still operates called the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. Backstage was actually a basement. “Nice sweater,” Rubchinskiy said. I was wearing one of his. I said that some threads had started to come loose. “Better that way.” I said how much I liked the double sleeve. “Easy,” he said. And so clever.
By the way, Balenciaga’s menswear is said to be excellent for AW16. Mr Gvasalia has not designed it, but apparently his presence is felt. This is what I have been told by buyers. Menswear critics are not allowed to see it, since the label wants the first statement of this new era at Balenciaga to be at the womenswear show in a month: stay tuned.
Here comes that word again: product. Rick Owens showed some excellent things to wear. A long double-breasted black coat. A cropped double-breasted jacket. A quilted coat that looked like a sleeping bag that’s been thrown out of a window. OK, some of it was still Owens in free creative flight. It made for a nice balance.
The Palais Garnier opera house was dark tonight, allowing Dries Van Noten to hold his show on its stage, the audience sat in the wings. What a treat and an honour. The safety curtain was down before the show started, but lifted it revealed both the empty auditorium and the photographers, placed at edge of the stage. They waved, we clapped. Convivial.
The current production is of Capriccio, which has an opera within an opera. The models emerged from an ornate set waiting in the back, their clothes a little heavy, especially the uniform coats. It missed the alluring way Van Noten has with cloth around the male body, but what the heck. At the end, the models came out, lined up, and took a bow. As a show at least, it was a bravura performance.
For more reports from the shows, go to our fashion weeks page on FT.com