Oct 4, 2023
Paris had not felt so alive with excitement during a fashion week since the pandemic. The week dedicated to the women’s ready-to-wear collections for Spring/Summer 2024 has been extremely positive, ending with a stimulating last day. Paris Fashion Week was brought to a close by the shows of three emerging labels, Duran Lantink, Avellano and Ujoh, while the day before, John Galliano, iconic designer and fashion grandee for the last three decades, overwhelmed everyone with a stunning collection for Maison Margiela.
Parisian label Maison Margiela, owned by Italian fashion group OTB, presented a dizzying collection on Monday night. A collection that travelled back in time while colliding with the present and the future, painting a picture of today’s fashion as sustainable, inclusive and gender-fluid. It featured the Margiela imprint of course, as well as traces of Christian Dior and John Galliano.
The latter, in charge of style at this iconic avant-garde label since 2014, has managed to achieve an impossible fusion, summarising in one and the same collection everything that has been done, seen and digested in the past, revisiting and recasting it in a new language. Unpretentiously, simply using needle, thread and a pair of scissors, Galliano absolutely ticked all the boxes: models, style, historical references and soundtrack. Not to mention the cinematic, emotional aspect. It was all there.
As it did last winter, Maison Margiela staged the show at its new Parisian headquarters. On the top floor, the enfilade of white-painted rooms lined with mirrors looked like a spaceship’s interiors. Her body swaying, hands deep in the pockets of a heavy overcoat, a young woman strode forward wearing an oversize men’s suit, the shirt unbuttoned, its detachable white collar nonchalantly tied around her neck.
Another model instead paraded in long glamorous gloves, clad in a chic dress made of undulating feathers. The houndstooth handbag, the dresses in satin, tulle and black polka dots, cinched at the waist and unfurling in long pleats, and the Chinese-style hat, inevitably carried strong hints of the New Look by Christian Dior, the label where Galliano worked for 15 years between 1996 and 2011, writing another legendary chapter of the venerable maison’s history.
But everything in this collection was processed through Galliano’s eccentric blender and Margiela’s conceptual brainwaves, using virtuoso couture technique and sophisticated textile treatments. The front of some dresses came loose and dropped down the sides to reveal the garment’s construction, exposing the lining and the petticoat beneath. Glossy fabrics with a strange laminated effect turned mat in places. Stitching was in evidence, though in some cases the neckline remained unstitched and frayed. Elegant conical hats weren’t made of straw, but with cardboard held together by packing tape. The light padding used for some jackets was not concealed, but showed up under the armpits.
Women and men swapped outfits, the difference only apparent in their posture: the girls wiggled their hips, the boys adopted a shifty bad-kid attitude. They also wore gloves and white socks fastened with a black ribbon. They were equally at ease in a suit or a cocktail dress, and sported extra-large gored shorts rolled up several times, as ample as a skirt. Maison Margiela said it wanted to express the idea of clothes in transition, constantly swapped back and forth between generations. Clothes that adapt, evolve and reinvent themselves. It was, very simply, fashion, with a capital F.
Maison Margiela’s was a tough act to follow for emerging designers. Duran Lantink gave it a try, showing for the first time on the official Parisian calendar on Tuesday, to enthusiastic applause. The Dutch designer went for surprise straight off the blocks, adding a touch of humour. His collection, brimming with amusing outfits, brought fresh zest to Paris Fashion Week’s final day, featuring short, rounded clothes seemingly inflated with helium. A denim jacket looked like a balloon, matched with a buoy-like miniskirt, while a pair of tight shorts burgeoned around the waist.
A pool noodle in white and red or blue stripes replaced a bikini’s bra. Two inflatable rings acted as handles in a basket tote incorporated on the back of a dress and a swimsuit. Another ring was the bottom hem of a t-shirt, as though it had been folded and rolled up to the chest. Using flesh-coloured tulle to prop up unexpected shapes and textile patterns, Lantink created garments with amusing twists, infusing his designs with a quirky vein.
A dress was shaped like a black whale, its tail fin covering the chest and the body plunging downwards to emerge on the buttocks. Elsewhere, a diagonal swathe of transparent tulle cut across the torso in a gilet worn over a shirt, showing the flesh beneath. With the same effect, this time at thigh level, the upper part of a pair of trousers seemed to separate from the lower, the legs staying miraculously upright.
Some boys showed off their biceps, clad in body-suit t-shirts with voluminous shoulders. The shirts too were three-dimensional, worn unbuttoned and cropped well above the navel. All the sleeved items, whether mini sweaters, shirts or jackets, featured oversize shoulders reminiscent of American football uniforms. A pop vibe permeated the collection, evident in the bright red, heart-shaped dress.
Lantink, an artist and designer based in Amsterdam, shared the 2023 Andam special prize with Ester Manas in June, and was noted for his commitment to sustainability. Tired of overconsumption, obsessed with recycling and the art of collage, since his career’s early days Lantink has been stockpiling unsold items and the excess inventory of luxury labels, using them to make unique creations. He produced his first collection in 2016.
The register was different at Avellano, with more of a red-carpet atmosphere. Bolstered by the Pierre Bergé prize – the Andam’s emerging label award- which Arthur Avellano won this year in the same session as Duran Lantink, the designer has pushed his experimentation with latex even further this season, creating a spectacular collection based on his favourite material.
He introduced a spate of new techniques generating innovative effects, like the moire latex which could be mistaken for Astrakhan fur, employed by Avellano to fashion dark suits, shirts and denim-style jackets. He daringly used 100% natural latex to create transparent body-hugging dresses, as well as plain trousers and bras that brazenly revealed the breasts. The label also worked extensively on colours, introducing materials in shades of golden bronze and platinum to make mermaid train gowns, and tops with puckered sleeves.
Avellano has moved away from the Matrix-inspired style predominant in recent collections, to focus more on glam outfits. After a week of fitting sessions with Kim Kardashian, who has ordered seven looks, and a year-long project with the Opéra de Paris ballet corps, Avellano has tweaked his volumes to further enhance the silhouette, accenting the body’s curves with long dresses fitting tightly around the thighs. He also strived to streamline his thick material as much as possible, opting for lighter weights and flowing, airy outfits, which can hardly be identified as being made of latex.
For next summer, Ujoh has designed a new wardrobe with a minimalistic, masculine feel. Suits have been redesigned with wool and cotton in shades of sky blue and pink. Double-breasted blazers, enhanced with flaps and with their sleeves removed, morphed into gilets with oversize pockets. The label used pinstripe fabrics to create bustier jumpsuits, dresses and airy maxi skirts.
Japanese designer Mitsuru Nishizaki liberated the shoulders and upper body, while the lower section appeared to retain more substance, with fabric layers superimposed on skirts, and often on trousers too. He played with laces and drawstrings to gather the hems of some corsets, and the gaps opened on the sides of some of his summer dresses. Using nylon, he created stiff, luminous jackets.
Ujoh is well-known in Japan, and in the last few years it has expanded internationally. It is available at some 15 retailers in Germany, the UK, China and South Korea. Ujoh’s founder Nishizaki worked as a model-maker for Yohji Yamamoto for seven years, before setting up his own label in 2009. His pared-down lines and couture approach make him totally in step with the quiet luxury trend.
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