Jul 11, 2020
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Paris Menswear looks east, finding ideas, and Soul from Seoul

Jul 11, 2020

The Paris menswear season was all about Asian influences with a quartet of designers from that continent making dramatic stylistic statements on Saturday, the mid-point of the first ever season for men’s fashion entirely shown online. 


A day where, even if individual designers did not produce volumes of fashion news, many certainly provided a platform for a new gang of youthful filmmakers with novel visions. 
Brilliant black and white graphics at Juun.J, whose hipster pop star combat uniforms looked great marching across the urban jungle of Seoul. Before rush-hour sunsets, the brand’s meeting of ceremonial dress, samurai shapes, dandy construction and heroic attitude made this a standout collection. Shot with a hundred shades of gray, like an early Wim Wenders film, this was the video and show of the day and, in its sobriety, was totally in synch with the wary mood of 2020. No wonder they called the clip "SeoulSoul."

Maison Mihara Yasuhiro has always been a great individualist designer. His online event opened with a puppet waking in a loft bedroom and then going to a fashion show in the Palais de Tokyo. What followed was a standard runway format with great deconstructed knits and grandfather shirts; hand-painted safaris; streaky putty-colored Mackintoshes and graphic logo bowling shirts. Assemblage coed fashion at its most out there and all the better for that.
Li-Ning, China’s single most influential menswear marque, was founded by a legendary gymnast of the same name. He leapt to world fame by winning six gold medals in the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984, the first in which China had participated since it became the People’s Republic. In case you had forgotten, his brand Li-Ning put up a video clip that began with his flawless performance on the rings, and ends with fans waving a huge Chinese five-star flag in the stands. In between we had images of his recent show in Paris; and lots of shots of his mash-up of active sports gear and street style logos.

One can only admire Li Ning’s remarkable sporting skill and success in building a major global brand – and enjoy his sneaker collabs with such greats as Dwyane Wade and Stefano Pilati. However, coming at the end of a week where mainland Chinese communists have imposed a draconian security law in Hong Kong to suffocate democracy and impose authoritarian one-party rule, this flag waving video came across as cheap propaganda. Which is what it was.
Li-Ning’s final tag line was "the past fuels the future." In Hong Kong today it is the past that threatens to steal the future.


From Japan, Teppei Fujita from Sulvam emphasized his poetic style and intricate construction by focusing on pairs of models in a coed show. Each standing, or lying, underneath an urban flyover and highway, with traffic whistling by – in transparent greatcoats, frayed jackets with angled pockets, and camouflage silk military jackets assembled with layers of contrasting chiffon. "Cutting equals pattern making, compile these elements of color and fabrics, makes magic happen," intones Fujita in English, describing his creations aptly. 
The French did play more than a bit role on Saturday, though. 
The day’s big debut was meant to have been the first menswear-only runway show by Isabel Marant, but once this became a digital season, she changed gears like everyone else. In her case, this involved showing a video set inside the Centre National de la Danse, a monumental building recently revamped by two young architects – Antoinette Robain and Claire Guieysse. Beige jumpsuits, rainbow-hued mohair sweaters, ikat bomber jackets and kicky logo tops. The clothes evoked that cool meeting of French style and American optimism that is the DNA of Marant, the most successful new French fashion house of this past decade. 
Also notable was Davi Paris, whose insouciant romp under the white cliffs of Normandy was beautifully shot. Ideal for highlighting a great collection of fresh summer wear – prairie flower shirts, romantic rocker jeans, orchid-print jerkins and clinging knits with twig patterns. All directed skilfully by Van Mossevelde + N, definitely a director to watch.  
Flat-stomached youth around a suburban pool at Swedish-German house Lazoschmidl in a neat little video entitled Margarita from one Johan von Reybekiel, with great music by Carl Hjelm Sandqvist. An ace opening model, in Friesian cow-print swimming togs; micro swimsuits with big butterfly-print fronts; the very occasional sweatshirt, floral shirts and a scrawny youth emerging from the pool in wonderful jeans finished in rose petals, all styled with a neat light touch by Emma Thorstrand.
A classical French house, Francesco Smalto, showed the spirit of tailoring in movement. Chalk stripe pantsuits worn with sneakers and wide-legged, pleated trousers worn on two dancers who soared and slid around a marvelous soaring French salon in a fine city square, or skipped around the side streets of the Palais de Tokyo. Shawl-collar chic along the Seine’s 19th-century Passerelle Debilly, shot by Jason Last with some wonderful dancing courtesy of two dancers and choreographers, Ablaye Diop and étoile Germain Louvet, all with splendid musical accompaniment from Nicolas Leau.

Isabel Marant

Casablanca, the French party label, set its video on a faux seashore, featuring models emoting in windowpane check suits, Miami Vice shirts, great tops with tropical fruit prints or images of high divers and tennis stars. Casablanca’s French-Moroccan founder Charaf Tajer clearly enjoys himself creating and these clothes will be worn to celebrate life. He is the Maghreb’s answer to Tommy Hilfiger, whose cast finished the video by getting into a Porsche Targa with a surfboard on top.
Those who yearn for modernist tailoring should look to Aldo Maria Camillo, even if he used his time slot on the calendar for a black and white indie Nouvelle Vague mini flick. Precious little clothes, but some moody branding, which of course is half of what this whole digital season is all about.
Doublet's contribution starred an urban bear who loves Christmas, with fur made up of colorful crocheted octagons. A bear who was also a fine seamstress, stitching and sewing a whole series of outfits and wrapping them in gold wrapping paper for Yuletide. The cast were the gift recipients, wearing their presents – party clothes and even the outfits for a transgressive wedding, where the bear saved the day by finding the wedding ring. Quite frankly, even at one’s most generous, this was a lame home movie.

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