PARIS MEN´S S/S´21 DIGITAL
You could, not unironically, draw one conclusion from the first-ever Digital Paris Fashion Week: the most powerful menswear designers in the world have no intentions of abandoning the runway any time soon. Over five days of fashion films, the houses of Paris largely interpreted that format in clips teasing collections to come, in classic moving editorial or in mini documentaries. At Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh set the tone with an inspired animated short film that announced his spring/summer 2021 runway show in Shanghai on 5 August – the live, very real-life kind, that is. The teaser starred a crew of cartoon characters dubbed Zoooom with Friends, who run riot in Paris and end up hiding as stowaways in Louis Vuitton containers, which are shipped off to faraway lands.
In all its cuteness, the film was loaded with Abloh’s messages of diversity and inclusivity, the animated characters a representation of himself and his infiltration of the fashion establishment. Abloh is determined to use his massive Louis Vuitton platform to positively influence his audience, and big shows – like the ones via which he earned his own fashion education, watching them online – are the most effective way to make that impact. You got the feeling Hermès shared a similar sentiment. While Véronique Nichanian’s film for the house included a collection – albeit reduced due to the broken supply chain – the ghost of the runway show was very much present.
Hermès worked with the artist Cyril Teste on a choreographed live production that revolved around “that moment backstage before the show,” as Nichanian explained; “the boys biding their time, some goofing, others in thrall to their phones.” In times of physical constraint, nothing could have romanticised the thrill of the runway show more. Except, perhaps, for the idea of seeing those delectable Hermès garments IRL. There was an effortless lightness and optimism to Nichanian’s collection, which seemed to permeate the Paris internet connection. At Dior, Kim Jones mixed interview footage with moving editorial in a film about his spring/summer 2021 collaboration with the Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo. “It was the time for me to celebrate an African artist like we have American artists, or Japanese artists,” Jones explained. “I wondered, what would Mr Dior be looking at now?”
¨Between clips of Boafo’s work, Jones offered beautiful glimpses of the clothes they had inspired: light and vibrant and so fine-tuned with delicate textures and imagery that you wished for a VR headset, or indeed a real runway experience. If Jones gets the chance, these pieces deserve an outing beyond the borders of cyberspace.¨ – Paris Fashion Week
You could say the same for the explosion of colour that jumped through your screen at Berluti, where Kris Van Assche presented his collaboration with the American ceramic artist Brian Rochefort in a documentary-style film. It had been produced in the same way that the collection had during the lockdown: via Zoom meetings and imagery sent back and forth between Van Assche’s home in Paris and Rochefort’s studio in Los Angeles. The Berluti designer had covered superlight silk shirts with photo prints of Rochefort’s hyper-colourful “slap in the face of traditional ceramic art” sculptures, and woven their textures into larger-than-life knitwear. Soundtracked to audio from one of their Zoom calls, the film showed both creatives at work illustrating their processes and the similarities between their practices for the camera. But, as Van Assche said at the end, “it’s good, it’s interesting, and it’s nice to be able to explain stuff to people. But I will miss emotions. So, as soon as we can go back to fashion shows and storytelling, I will definitely do that.”
For Rick Owens, the digital format also became an opportunity to showcase his process. In a CCTV-style video, the designer captured himself styling each look from his collection on his friend and colleague Tyrone Dylan. Owens titled the collection Phlegethon, “one of the rivers in the inferno described in Dante’s Divine Comedy, not quite the centre of Hell but on the way there,” he quipped. “Romanticising doom has always been an adolescent mood, but it’s a classic way to confront fear and instability – hope for the best but plan for the worst.”
He went on to describe how nearly every element of the collection was either upcycled from previous ideas or indeed recycled materials such as plastic. This was resourcefulness in a time of limitation. Dries Van Noten painted a similar image, albeit with just one look: the model Jonas Glöer pictured at an imaginary set of drums, tapping away while bathed in romantic lights. The designer was behind an early (and very reasonable) lockdown proposal to change the dates of future fashion weeks in order to match up fashion seasons and weather seasons a little bit better. Van Noten’s ambient but restrained proposal for Digital Fashion Week reflected a similarly pragmatic sense of moderation. Come September, we’ll surely be in for the full monty.
¨Over five days of fashion films, the houses of Paris largely interpreted that format in clips teasing collections to come, in classic moving editorial or in mini documentaries.¨ – Charles Daniel McDonald
Meanwhile, Wooyoungmi amped up the digital showmanship. The Korean designer presented her Pina Bausch inspired collection of genderless Seoul-centric tailoring in a choreographed dance production set within the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, which only needed an audience in order to pass for a real-life show. “This year, around the world, we came together in a virtual dance of unity,” Woo wrote in an accompanying text. “Now, we join hands and dance our way into the future, unified by the power of diversity, inclusivity and hope. We are all connected.” With the natural free-for-all that comes with digital fashion week, those words were true on many levels.
If Wooyoungmi activated her garments through movement, Jonathan Anderson made his Loewe collection come to life through the very volume of each piece. In an interview video, the designer personally presented some of the key pieces in his collection, including a top fashioned as a basket, which felt entirely made for bursting out of the computer screen. The sculptural loudness and emphasis on craft – a big theme during the lockdown – were reflected throughout the collection, showcased quietly on spot-lit spinning mannequin.
Lanvin, conversely, broke out of the studio and took a trip to Lyon where Bruno Sialelli captured a look book and a short clip for his spring/summer men’s and resort 2021 collections. The designer chose the Palais Idéal for his backdrop, a trippy structure erected by hand by a postman over three decades in the late 19th century. The single-handed realisation of one individual’s ideal building was an appropriate reference for post-pandemic fashion, where parallels have been drawn to the way in which designers like Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain rebuilt the industry after the war.
Sialelli’s excursion – clad so elegantly in boyish sailor tops, dainty butterscotch coats and a gap year cape adorned with Erté illustrations – was also a resourceful take on the destination shows and resort spectaculars that currently seem like a faint memory in fashion. Like the rest of the digital Paris men’s shows, it was nice to see fashion in motion again and get a glimpse of the glamour that so desperately craves an audience.
Media: Paris Fashion Week
Photography: Each Respective Design House